Belated Memorial Day Post
"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country...He won it by making the other poor bastard die for his country." -General G. S. Patton
Our President has led the emphasis in a “culture of life” for sometime now, and that phrase is only starting to pick up steam. Many (be it paranoid liberals or conservative zealots) think this only applies to sexual issues, family policies, living wills, or other strictly religious issues. The President has never limited his rhetoric to only those issues and (seems to) believe that this is a fundamental philosophy that guides the War on Terror, our information age culture, and free trade. On these matters, the Catholic Church has loudly agreed with him.
On September 11th, 2001 twelve men decided to sacrifice their lives in order to kill upwards of 3000 Westerners. Their hatred of our life was disgusting, but something our security measures can deal with. It is their own willingness to sacrifice their life (and the well being of their country in retaliatory strikes) that made it so scary. This has applied to terrorism in Jerusalem, actors that cannot be deterred by our military capability like Al-Qaeda and North Korea, and many other flash points in the War on Terror.
A “culture of life” as opposed to a “culture of death” (our President’s words) values the lives of others ideally - but first want you to value your own life and hopes you fit into society and keep yourself alive. Once you are full of so much hate, and value your life so little, you can do a great deal of damage. The War on Terror cannot be won until at the very least people value their own lives enough to stop this bloody type of warfare.
It is a profoundly utilitarian solution. Not utilitarian in what people usually think: of cold calculation, and of disregarding moral codes when they don’t fit the situation. But in terms of using people’s own drive for utility, for life, for happiness as the key to victory. A culture of life is one that wants to maximize utility, and put less emphasis on other silly things. Like anarchic freedom for simply the sake of freedom, or honor-obsessed zealots. Neil and I may disagree with the Catholic Church about what utility is and how it is maximized, but the underlying theme of elevating “life” above all other concerns is a cause that should join us together.
Unfortunately we do have a “culture of death”, and I feel our President contributes to that. People point to the death penalty, or lack of health care, or capitalistic emphasis on money and consumer pleasures. But I fear the worst aspects of the “culture of death” in the other side (a willingness to sacrifice your own life to kill others), we inculcate in our own people.
On Memorial Day, we celebrate and mourn those who went overseas, defended our nation, and gave their lives in doing so. Sacrificing your life so others may live is the noblest choice a human being can make, and I am eternally grateful for that. But sacrificing your life so that you can kill the enemy is a very different thing, and we need to stop encouraging that. That attitude is the “culture of death”, that is what stands opposed to the “culture of life”. There may be many merits to honor and national defense and pre-emptive strikes, but they are not to be found in the culture of life.
It is said that people go into the front line forces of our military for two reasons: to get a job that pays low-skilled people and provides a scholarship, and to fight foreigners. Think about that. Isn’t that what the culture of death is all about? People not valuing their lives and opportunities enough to keep themselves safe, and people fearing the Other so much that they are eager to combat it.
In the meantime, enemy terrorists provide bigger threats. Democracy and economic development are the profoundly utilitarian solutions that will improve the third world enough that they do not wish to sacrifice their well-being in order to harm us, no matter their hate. And better lives will give them less reason to fear or hate us. But the “culture of life” must be supported at home as well.