Monday, November 27, 2006

Still Paving the Road to Hell

I wrote this at First Draft, in response to this post by Athenae. As usual, once I got started, the whole thing got out of hand. My subconscious is tricky that way. So I decided to finish it here:

Let us recast the cliche: "The road to Hell is paved with honorable intentions."

Because here's the rub:

I do get it: It's not wrong to want the best. But it is selfish and small and downright immoral to allow your wanting the best to put others in danger when you know your delusions are just that. You have the right to pretend. You don't have the right to ask someone to die for your puppet show. You don't have the right to keep thinking it'll get better, not when you know it won't.
It's never even this simple. "It's not wrong to want the best." Except when "the best" means what's best for me, at the expense of you. And when does that not happen, except in a situation of absolute humility, engaged in This is precisely why Jesus taught that in the kingdom of heaven, the first are last and the last first. This is precisely why Christianity is supposed to preach a "race to the bottom" where we all struggle, not to exert power over one another in the name of peace or freedom or even God, but to be servants to each other. Servants don't have time to think about grand theories and large systems that if just finally and perfectly established, will guarantee peace for everyone everywhere for ever and ever, Amen. Servants just know they have to serve others. That is as much as they can do, and as much as they need to do. Blessed are the meek; they shall inherit the earth.

It is just as selfish and immoral to allow your wantings to put others in danger even if you don't realize you are delusional. This isn't a matter of will, it's a question of consequence. Will just makes it worse, and who among us really doubt that Bush and Cheney and Rummy don't give a wet snap for consequences that don't directly affect them? As Nora Ephron pointed out, Rummy could sleep well at night reflecting on the chaos he unleashed in Iraq, the torture he authorized. What upset him was being fired.

It's simpler than this, but never seen as this simple: you dont' have the right to ask someone else to die. Period. And you don't have the right to keep thinking "it" will get better. Period.

You make it better. Not some system, some ideology, some theory of governance or ethics or belief. You. Period. "Lord, when did we see you?", is the only question that matters. And the right answer won't be: "But Lord, we established a more just social system!" Close only counts in horsehoes and hand grenades. It's what you did for others that counts; not what your "honorable intentions" were supposed to do.

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