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On the tram to the C gates for my flight this afternoon, some woman said “They’ve started the ground war already.” There was a smile on her face and a gleam in her eye looking like ‘Oh goodie! Now the fun begins.’ It was her theory that this was the reason for the extra security at the airport today. I didn’t notice any difference. I replied to her cheerful announcement with “I guess that son-of-a-bitch Bush couldn’t wait for his own deadline, could he.” Boy, who knows how to piss in the party punch like I do? There were shocked stares and plenty of glares my way, but it was silent in the tram to the C gates for the rest of the trip.
On Sunday I went to a prayer vigil for peace. There were about two-hundred of us gathered around a dry fountain in front of the Federal Court House at 7:00 that night. We held candles. We sang songs. We heard prayers from Catholics, from Episcopalians, from Native American Shamans, Jews, Moslems, and even an Atheist offered up some happy thoughts. I couldn’t help but think this is hopeless—he’s going to do it anyway. One heckler came by in the middle of the one of the prayers and started shouting something about a “preemptive strike.” We drowned him out with a rousing course of We Shall Overcome. We showed him. But George launched his war anyway.
After the prayers and songs, the heckling and overcoming, we moved from the fountain to form a line on the sidewalk facing Las Vegas Boulevard—the idea being that people driving the famed strip needed to be aware of our “non-violent action.” One person at the rally objected on the grounds that this action was a vigil, not a demonstration. It seems to me that all public prayer is a demonstration of one thing or another; think of George Bush somberly bowing his head in church on the Sunday before he ordered the bombing of Iraq.
The anti-war organizations in Las Vegas plan on meeting in front of New York New York at 6:00 on the day the war breaks out. I guess that’s today. I wanted to be there, but I’m on a flight to Reno right now and will not be available to protest war. It can’t be helped; I have to help open a bowling stadium there. One has to have priorities.
During the last Bush administration, when he had his war with Saddam, I was a student at Notre Dame. Not a lot of students there were in opposition to that war either, but those of us who were protested anyway. On the day when old George launched his Iraqi war I took to wearing a black arm band. I wore it every day until the end of the war. I was known on campus as “the guy protesting the war.” Occasionally people asked me questions, I would respond. It was a small thing, but something I could do. At that time, as I recall, 75 or 80 percent of the American public were supportive of the first Bush war. Now it’s only 65%. I supposed that there is some consolation in knowing that the ranks of the sane have increased over the last twelve years.
I had a lovely dinner tonight with my boss and two of my colleagues. I had the triple cut lamb chops and the spinach salad. I eschewed the red potatoes and homemade peasant bread as I’m on the Atkins diet. But it was a celebration of the successful opening of the bowling stadium so I did taste the sorbet and had a glass of the ninety dollar bottle of wine we shared. What was it the abbot used to say on feast days in the monastery? Oh yea, I remember: “Too bad about the poor!” Too bad about the bombing in Iraq today. Yes, well that nasty Saddam is going to get what he deservers! So true. What did he do again? I’m not sure, pass the bonbons please.
Smart bombs minimize collateral damage. Stupid presidents and a wool covered public maximize it, however. Who thought of that term anyway? Collateral Damage. I guess it’s easier for Tom Brokaw to say than something like “Women and children blown to bits.” Likewise, it flows better than “Elderly couple buried alive under the rubble of their home for three days before they finally died.” Of course, the phrase “Four year old boy’s leg amputated without anesthesia” will damage the ratings of any six o’clock news broadcast. And it’s tough to sing God Bless America when there’s a picture of the rotting corpse of someone’s seventeen year old son on TV—even if he was someone’s Iraqi son. Thank heaven the news media and the public relations department of the military keep us protected from these things.
I guess we can call the death of innocent people collateral damage while eating triple cut lamb chops because in point of fact, on the shores of this country, we’ve never really faced the horrors of war. I wonder if we had ever suffered the same level of death and destruction the French did in WWII would we be so quick to dismiss them as obstructionist, or would we be more like the British with 80% of us standing in opposition to out-of-touch leadership? Well we’re not like the British at all! We’ll order Freedom Fries rather than French Fries at McDonalds and that’ll show those Frogs!
I bought my first country western music the other day—something by the Dixie Chicks. I don’t know what it is, I haven’t listened to it. I still can’t tolerate country western music. But anyone who pisses off the whole state of Texas deserves a twenty dollar contribution from me. I agree with the Dixie Chicks; I’m ashamed of George Bush. But unlike them—I’m not sorry I’ve said it.
“WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION” Said enough times it justifies everything. The logic we’ve been convinced of is that any country that may have WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION and that we feel may possibly threaten us in the future we are justified in “preemptively” striking to disarm and overthrow. I’m wondering if the French, knowing that we have WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION, and considering that George Bush has all but said that they are no longer our allies, might feel threatened by us and thus justified in preemptively striking Washington DC and removing Bush from power. I for one might feel liberated if they did.
The war might last a week, a month, maybe three. It doesn’t make much difference. No one doubts the outcome. It’s only the aftermath that comes into question. But right now in these first few hours of Iraq’s suffering, it’s the arguments we used to justify it that are important. There is little room for ambiguity on the matter—one is supportive of it, or one is opposed; very little grey here. Personally, I can only come back to the theological ground in which my Christian faith is rooted and ask does this meet the test of a “Just War”? Clearly, the answer is no. But “Just War” is a theory of theologians and philosophers. The real question a Christian has to ask is ‘what would Jesus say?’
In one of his Tales of The City books, Armisted Maupin tells the story of Mary Ann Singleton, heroin and budding reporter, who was assigned to cover the Holy Week story of Jesus Tortilla. It seemed that an apparition of Christ had been discovered in a tortilla by a pious Mexican lady in the East Bay area. A slow news day, the media’s hunger for an Easter story with a novel twist, and poor Mary Ann’s low seniority in the reporter pool landed her the choice assignment. Hours of work trying to back light the edible savior in order to film it, nearly failed. A spokesman for the church wouldn’t return her calls. A TV priest wouldn’t comment. And the discoverer of the sacred pan doesn’t speak English. In the end, for all of her hard work, Mary Ann’s story ends up as the last 30 seconds of a San Francisco local news cast—no one pays attention, an amusing footnote at the end of a slow news day.
What would Jesus say? We don’t care. We will pay more attention if he shows up in a tortilla than in the faces of the innocent dead.
BRICE ABEL lives can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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