Notes on the Atrocities Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...
Monday, March 31, 2003
War and Rage Pure pacifism is a philosophy few people embrace. There’s something about the image of armed soldiers massing on the border that will impel most folks to take up arms—even if it means death. But there’s a simple logic to the pacifist argument that stops the majority from dismissing it altogether: that the violence of war necessarily produces hatred and violence, not peace and reconciliation.
Say what you will about pacifism, but this much is true: the war’s been magnificent for creating anger. I know I’ve sunk into a kind of torpid rage—something like being sleep-deprived but simultaneously jittery from too much coffee. Last week I pored over the news, ostensibly trying to “stay informed,” but aware that I was looking for evidence to support my growing hatred over the arrogance and stupidity of our administration’s actions. Without projecting too much, I believe I can say I saw clear evidence that others were equally falling prey to their anger.
The problem is that as my hatred grows, my certainty over its cause does, too. As the week wore on, I realized I wasn’t able to contemplate the possibility that the administration had ever had a noble motivation: every bit of information I took in enraged me, and my rage encouraged me to believe the worst. And those who support the war were either violent imperialists or stooges.
The moment I realized how far gone I was came with the report of the Iraqi suicide bomber. Suffice it to say that the thoughts I had weren’t human: they were vile and twisted.
If I could offer up one great wish for the outcome of this war, it’s that we find a way to locate each other’s humanity and to forgive ourselves for acting and speaking (and even thinking) out of our fear and suspicion. I know that everyone’s anger comes from the same kind of fear and sense of helplessness I experience. We react from that emotion in ways most of us probably later regret. But there is some hope there: we can also more easily understand why we do and say the things we do and say during these extreme times.
So I’m going to take a week off from blogging. I’m going to skip the news updates and where possible, avoid basting myself in the acid of my own bile. With any luck, the next time I hear about some horror that happened in Iraq, I’ll react with the kind of normal human compassion I actually feel for the Iraqis and US soldiers trapped in this inhuman situation.