Posted by: quiscus | January 15, 2011

January 15, 2011

The Banality of Killing

“The standard explanations for the Arizona killings are now being set forth, such as widespread violence in America and right-wing extremism. I’d like to weigh in with another possible factor, one that I can’t prove but one that I think Americans ought to at least consider: the fact that killing has now become an accepted, essential, normal, and permanent part of American life.

No, I’m not referring to the widespread gun violence in America that liberals point to as part of their gun-control agenda. I’m not even referring to the widespread violence that accompanies the decades-long drug war, especially in Mexico. I’m instead referring to the U.S. government’s regular killing of people thousands of miles away in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing that has now gone on regularly for some 10 years and that has become a fairly hum-drum part of our daily lives.

Why don’t those killings get front-page coverage?

One, the killings have become commonplace. They’re now just considered normal. Massive death on a massive scale, but normal. We just put all the deaths at the back of our minds.

Two, our public officials say that we’re at war and that people are always killed in war. Never mind that what we have in Afghanistan and Iraq are military occupations, not war. The idea is that a military occupation is a sort of war and, therefore, we shouldn’t let the daily killings affect our consciences. Moreover, since we’ve been told that the war on terrorism is considered permanent, we just have to get used to the fact that the weekly killings will be a normal and regular part of our lives for as long as we live.

Third, we are told that the people being killed are terrorists, enemy combatants, or unfortunate collateral damage. Never mind that our public officials have had 10 years to kill terrorists and enemy combatants to their hearts’ content but apparently still haven’t gotten them all. Never mind that the terrorists and enemy combatants might well now consist primarily of people who are simply trying to oust their country of a foreign occupier, like people did when it was the Soviet Union that was doing the occupying.

In the process, life is cheapened — well, the lives of Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis. The weekly killings of adults and children from those three countries are relegated to page 14 of the newspaper because they’re just Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis. It’s not as if they’re Americans, after all, people who place a much higher value on human life than others.

How much value is placed on the lives of people, including children, who are sacrificed for the greater good of society? Not much value at all. Life is supposed to be sancrosanct. But then again, don’t forget that those are only Iraqi people we’re talking about.

Did the normalization and trivialization of killing and the denigration and devaluation of life in Afghanistan and Iraq trigger something inside the apparently disturbed mind of the accused Arizona killer? I don’t know. But how can such actions not have a horrible long-term adverse effect on people whose government is permanently engaged in such evil? “


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