In the week after the United States government started bombing Afghanistan in October of 2001, a small group of Quakers started a weekly peace vigil every Thursday from noon to 1PM in front of the Federal Building on Golden Gate Avenue. They have been there ever since. After the horrible bombings in London yesterday, it seemed like a good place to hang out.
I believe that the murder, torture or maiming of another human being is wrong, no matter who is doing it, for whatever reason. But we still live in a world where there is "good" murder (it's called war) and "good" torture (I still haven't figured that one out even with the guidance of the helpful Alan Dershowitz).
We will be getting plenty of bulletins in the weeks ahead about exactly how many unfortunate people died and were wounded in London, but I'm curious. How many people have been murdered by the British and United States forces (along with their contracted mercenaries) in Afghanistan and Iraq over, say, the month of June? Even though it's being done in our names and with our tax dollars, we'll probably never know.
There's another disturbing factor which I hesitate to bring up, which is the fact that I don't believe a word my own government says anymore about anything, which is stupid because SOME of it must be true. There's always been plenty of lying from the seat of imperial power in Washington, D.C. (LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin, the scary Nixon years, for example), but with the current administration, lying about everything seems to be a reflexive habit.
And they seem to have a Cult of Death going on that is genuinely creepy. Our vile Secretary of State, Ms. Rice, went to the British Embassy yesterday and wrote in a book of condolences. (Thank you to one of my favorite blogs, Princess Sparkle Pony's Photoblog for the heads up, and photographer Larry Downing for the pic.) She writes "They will not have died in vain" which is essentially a threat of more institutional violence and horror.
I've been reading more Voltaire, who seemed to hate all organized religions with the exception of Confucians and the Quakers. A couple of paragraphs from an essay called "End, Final Causes" from his "Philosophical Dictionary" seem appropriate for the moment.
Sheep, undoubtedly, were not made expressly to be roasted and eaten, since many nations abstain from this horror. Mankind are not created essentially to massacre one another, since the Brahmins and Quakers kill no one. But the clay out of which we are kneaded frequently produces massacres, as it produces calumnies, vanities, persecutions, and impertinences. It is not precisely that the formation of man is the final cause of our madnesses and follies, for a final cause is universal, and invariable in every age and place; the horrors and absurdities of the human race are nevertheless part of the eternal order of the things. When we thresh our corn, the flail is the final cause of the separation of the grain. But if that flail, while threshing my grain, crushes to death a thousand insects, that occurs not by the determination of my will, nor, on the other hand, is it by mere chance; the insects were, on this occasion, actually under my flail, and had to be there.
It is a consequence of the nature of things that man should be ambitious; that he should sometimes discipline a number of other men; that he should be a conquereror, or that he should be defeated; but never can it be said: Man was created by God to be killed in war.