08 July 2009

Amidst the Loveliness

We have a week of amazing weather – sunny, dry, warm but not hot, clear air and fresh breezes. This is what West Michiganders endure abundant winters and relentless gray skies to get and we have it. Amen.

But the rest of life continues, including the death of Robert McNamara for whom there will be no memorial spectacle or ‘continuing coverage,’ although it is likely he had more impact on our lives than the ‘gloved one’ ever had or will.

I mention him because the obituary I read had a telling comment in it,

“What makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?” he asked. The times writer adds, "He found the question impossible to answer.”

Because war is never moral.

I am not a pacifist, but I do believe war can never be called good. It may be inevitable, even necessary but never good. Every war, even those that meet the criteria of ‘just’ does violence to people and society and that violence can never be called good.

What we need is a doctrine of political atonement, one that requires those who engage us in war to make some ritual recognition of their sin of violence, even if it was absolutely unavoidable.

During the Pesach seder, celebrants ritually pour out ten drops of wine for each of the plagues on Egypt, consciously sacrificing some of their joy for the suffering endured by their oppressors. We need something like this a ritual required of those who led us into war, politicians I am thinking, who should be required to make ritual atonement to those who suffered, at home or abroad.

And the nation should atone even for its victory by doing some tikkun olam, repair of the world we damaged. Part of our price as a nation must be to restore something of what we did to those we harmed, even our enemies.

Maybe if we did that, if our leaders knew that they would have to atone even for the victories, and we would have to repair the damage we do, we and they would be more reluctant to wage wars in the first place.

1 comment:

Darla said...

Like turning Vietnam into a mall years after dropping megatonnage on them? Now they are Americans! Tikkan olam at its best?
BTW Fred, have you read The Living and The Dead by Paul Hendrickson? It's a rending study of McNamara and tells the (true) stories of 5 people caught up in his wake. The prologue alone is worth the book.