Thursday, March 22, 2007

Places forget people

Places have a way of forgetting people.

As of today the place we have called “our home” now belongs to someone else. Place we inhabit become a subconscious part of our identity.

Places, however, have no memory. This house will not remember Joy and me or the happy years we spent here. To the people who bought 310 Union St it is just an empty space for them to use, just as it was for us when we moved in. As I was cleaning the basement I came across old writing in cement:

“DEC. 5, 1977 LAURA

I had seen the scrawled letters before, but as I am packed to leave I became curious about this person who had lived in my home, writing her name in the drying cement almost 30 years ago –just a few weeks before I was born. I wonder where Laura is now, or even if she is still living. Had she been a girl she would still likely be in her 40's now. If she was an adult at the time she could be quite elderly now. I wonder how her life turned out. I wonder if she remembers scrawling her name in wet concrete of this basement three decades ago?

The impersonal nature of the world always feels cruel to relational creatures such as ourselves. We want the physical world to remember us, to hold some evidence of our lives. Perhaps this relational nature even more than superstition makes us imagine ghosts of people who lived in our spaces long ago still inhabit them. This is the reason we leave monuments bearing our names throughout the world? Of course, none of this matters. People in the future will look back on our names as dull and empty symbols.

No object or place can maintain a relationship. We all eventually move on. A few hundred years from now and no one will know that any of us ever existed. Those who are remembered only can only hope to become lifeless notes in historical records –a historical figure: the exact opposite of a person, who lives, and loves, and hopes. Even still we hold on tightly...

I marked on the pavement beside Laura's inscription:

“JOHN & JOY: 2004-2007”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Politics

Almost a year ago I mentioned the Consistent Life Movement as a idea that intrigued me. I've thought about it a good bit and I am fairly certain now I have converted to Consistent Life Politics:

My ideas about politics and policy have been changing. While this shift in my thinking began long before I discovered the Consistent Life website, it has been comforting to realize that others are arriving at the same place. At this point the main focus of my voting and civic involvement is changing ours to a society that does not kill.

Unfortunately most social/political dialog in our nation appears to be mostly on economics (Capitalism vs. Socialism) or citizen rights and responsibilities (Conservativism vs. Liberalism). While economics and rights are important, I believe we lose sight of more central values. All these popular ideologies seem to assume that intentionally destroying other human beings (in one form or another) is necessary for achieving social good. Looking at a history of civilization there are a few bloodthirsty madmen, but many more have been killed by people with good motives believing a better world would be created by removing certain others.

“We would be safer if we kill those who might attack us in the future... Our lives would be better if we have the right to kill a fetus... We would be upholding justice by killing a murderer... We can be kind to a suffering or disabled patient by killing them... Think of all the cures we might get from killing unwanted embryos... The world would be a good place if we could just get rid of the Jews, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Capitalists, Communists, Homosexuals, Muslims, Christians, Atheists, etc.”

Before you know it creating a better world ends up making the world much worse. More than any Right vs. Left political allegiance, I have begun wish we could change into a society that agreed to kill no other human being no matter how insignificant or bad that person might be.

In the post about Hussein's execution Chris McCartney asked “But was it Just?” Yes, as a Christian I have to acknowledge the justice of “the wages of sin is death.” My entire hope for redemption is based on an execution/sacrifice. (Although, the fact that Scripture teaches that all who ever sin deserve death makes me wonder how such just killing could every be accomplished by any society) Morality is different from policy, although they should be related. Recognition that greed, gluttony, smoking, or adultery are wrong does not necessitate that it is good for our society to make them crimes. Similarly believing that a despicable person or group of people deserves do die is quite different from claiming we should kill them. Similarly, it may be true that it would be “better” for many people if we killed an inconvenient minority. Any benefit (real or imagined) or removal of threat no matter how great does not justify the crimes we commit against those few. If we could cure poverty by eliminating the poor, could we really imagine we had done any real good for our society?

At this point the only justification I could imagine for killing another human would be self-defense (in the face immediately attack: not preemptively or retroactively) and even then, as Chris pointed out, we should be "saddened by death even if it is justified," rather than celebrating such violence.

As a convert to Consistent Life politics, I am no Utopian who imagines that somehow making these changes in our policy would suddenly create a society of perfect harmony and happiness. The human condition will always be deeply flawed, and humans will still suffer and someday die. I also recognize that spiritual redemption is far more valuable physical life. These policy changes, however, could be attainable if the political will existed. If it is the duty of a citizen to improve his government, then spreading and supporting Consistent Life is what I will do for my country.

I don't know if I yet have a great argument that would convince others that it is good policy for our government and society to abstain from all killing. (I realize that a majority of my argument above is “slippery slope”) I still ask myself how much of my shift towards supporting total non-violence is based on personal emotion. Over the recent years I have seen a lot of people die, which has no doubt affected me. I also wonder how my feelings on lethal force might be now if the war in Iraq had gone as smoothly and Iraq were now stable? I wonder if my own fear of losing the person I love the most (my wife) and the prospect of having children of my own have lessened my ability to accept the sacrifice of any life? Emotion does play a role in my change of mind, but in whose mind is emotion not a part of understanding truth?

While I still have a lot of contemplation on this subject to do, I feel certain enough to declare that these are my politics. As far as I know I am in a very small minority, and I must give up on finding any home in Democratic or Republican Parties. But several hundred years ago those who opposed slavery were a similarly small minority, and now the almost the whole world has accepted their policies.