Monday, November 16, 2015

Love is Harder Than Hate

Foreign policy and terrorism are weighing on my mind this morning.  Might as well get these thoughts out of my head so I can move on with my day.  I like violent sports - football and boxing - not because of the gamesmanship and skill of many of the participants.  I could care less about any of that pretty boy crap I never had.  I like contact sports specifically for the violence.  In fact, I don't have much use for a sport where you can't make up for at least some lack of skill by imposing your will - with determination and putting your hands on the other guy to rough him up.  

I have no problem with being as aggressive as you possibly can be within the rules, and I don't even empathize if someone gets hurt short of something really serious and life-altering like paralysis.  I never wanted any empathy towards me, either.  It runs both ways.  If you’re a willing participant, know what you’re signing up for or stay home.  There’s no crying in… you get the idea.

Didn’t I start by saying I was thinking about foreign policy?  Why did I even bring sports into the discussion?  What does football have to do with ISIS or ISIL or whatever the hell it’s called?  I’ll tell you exactly what.  I’m tired of watching everyone from the media, politicians, world leaders, and just regular people sitting at home on their couches equate things that really matter with games we play and watch for fun; or in my case, as an outlet for some really excessive bloodlust I might need medicated to control! 

Sports are so damned pervasive in our society, we confuse them with real life.  We call quarterbacks “field generals” and discuss game strategy like it’s war.  Some player gets carted off the field and we’re more concerned about how his absence impacts our stupid fantasy football team than about the man’s well being.  We’re immune to the violence.  The tough guy sports rhetoric is tempting when we witness incomprehensible acts of terrorism - people willing to strap bombs to their backs and die just to kill innocent people they’ve never met.  

“They’re all bat shit crazy; let’s add a little heat and turn all that sand to glass!”  

That sounds great as you thump your chest and bellow like an enraged silverback gorilla.  Or does it?  Maybe you really sound like a moron - someone who can’t distinguish between radicalism and religion; someone incapable of nuanced thought or consideration of real world consequences.

We might like to make the choice black and white - an eye for an eye like our Hollywood action heroes.  Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, and John Wayne standing shoulder to shoulder and snuffing out the bad guys.  I missed much of the party on comic books, but throw in Captain America, too.  He wears the good ole red, white, and blue proudly across his broad chest!

Whenever violence is suggested as the answer to violence - right about the time I feel my excitement rise and I'm on the verge of blurting out "Hell yes!" - some voice deep inside stops me and tells me that more violence is not the answer.  Maybe this voice comes from my upbringing in a small town church that had monthly fellowship dinners where everyone brought a casserole to share.  Regardless, this isn’t some game where force meets force and winner and loser both walk, or limp, off the field to go home to their families in the end.  

People die here.  And not just the bad guys who harbor a death wish anyway.  Innocent people die, too - just regular folks who understand the business of international politics about as well as me and give it even less thought.  They’re too busy trying to eek out a living and raise their families in harsh landscapes and economically depressed societies to think much about foreign policy.  But many of them will die simply because they happen to live in the wrong place at the wrong time and get lumped in with all the other crazy towel heads or sand monkeys or whatever derogatory term we’re throwing around.

I don’t have any answers.  Maybe we do need to stand with our allies and retaliate in some way.  I just worry when I see the motivation being more about revenge or “showing the world who America really is” than about making a life and death decision that really might make us safe or help lead to peace in the end.  Who are we, exactly?  We should think long and hard about that.

I was going to just post this in my newsfeed.  It’d probably get more reads there, since that’s one less click.  I decided it should really go in my seldom-written-in Ruby blog, because in the end most of my thoughts now are shaped in some way by memories of my daughter.  What would I tell her?  What values would I want to pass on to her?

I’ll try not to be too much of a hypocrite.  Bringing the church I grew up in into the discussion was probably a low blow.  I don’t even attend church anymore and have forgotten much of what it teaches.  I’ll steal instead from where I really draw my inspiration these days - watching post-apocalypse survivors hack up zombies and each other on The Walking Dead.  Staff-wielding Morgan’s new code says it better than I can.

All life is valuable, even the lives of those we want to hate.  

The Martian gets it across pretty well, too, for those of you who don’t like the sight of all that rotting flesh.  The whole world draws together to pull for a single astronaut’s life.  Why?  

Because one life matters.  

Amen, brother.  Oh, what wouldn't I give for just one life back?  A movie might seem trivial in the context of international terrorism, but I see value in offering its beautiful perspective in juxtaposition to the hate that surrounds us.

One more.  This one is all too real.  Remember those South Carolina church goers a few months ago who were murdered in cold blood and their families prayed for the attackers and offered them forgiveness?  Now there’s some extraordinary heroism and courage for you.  I probably couldn’t do that myself, but it’s the lesson I’d want to pass on to Ruby.  

She was so much better than me.  She could do it.  She, and all children, give me hope for a world where we love each other no matter what.  Whatever we do, let’s not kill any more of them as we muddle through.