Absent skepticism, terror of faith
By Jordan Carroll
terror of faith
In recompense for the death of thousands, we have slaughtered thousands more Afghanistani civilians. Our thirst is not for justice, but for vengeance. The retribution is meted out to the innocent as often as to the culprits and, generations from now, our scatter bombs will still be buried in their fields. Their deaths, and the deaths of their children, are blood money. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children. The sins of the dictators are visited upon the people. The death of terrorists is only a side effect of a greater slaughter.
Almost every murder is another sacrifice. They form an economy of death stretching back thousands of years. The Hebrews poured their sins into their lambs. The Mesoamericans paid their gods in excoriation. Dying gods, perishing in unclean hands, number in the dozens. Instead of punishing the criminals, we search for another to take the blame. We stain our altars with foreign blood and find ourselves born anew, justified for our crimes.
We are not alone, however. Another nation, another ideology practices the exchange of crime and souls. The Shiite Muslim terrorists also wish to clean the world with blood. They kill themselves, taking others with them, so as to erase the crimes of the Great Satan. We loathe the men who died for this cause, yet we applaud those who explode children for similar reasons.
Though our means are different, and though they struck first, they are just one side of a trade we have entered into. Almost all Americans believe that human life is sacred. Few, however, see the contradiction and the hypocrisy. Though we claim to value life and peace, we are killing and waging war. The justification is defense, but we are not fighting the terrorists, we are fighting nations. We are fighting peasants and squatters. Are the lives of Afghanistani civilians somehow less valuable than those of Americans? Perhaps it is because of their swarthy skin, or because they lack cell phones and pagers. Is it their religion? What makes them subhuman? What makes them fodder and not people of our own nation?
The value of life lessens when the value of insubstantial coin, the idea of sacrifice, increases. With each new image and each new sacrifice, life becomes a marker, a poker chip in a larger game. We are asked to kill ourselves. Why? For our nation. For the people. For God. And, once those answers become satisfactory, life’s worth grows smaller. With those answers comes terrible assurance, which is far worse than any other evil because it permits all things. Absence of skepticism has killed more than any other condition. It is this terrible faith that allows the terrorists to bomb. It created the Holocaust, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, the Soviet gulags and pogroms, the torture of Christians.
We have hollowed out Afghanistan in search of revenge and, now that we are done, we continue our rampage. Now that we have fed Moloch all those Afghanistani lives, we move on to a new nation, Iraq. Hussein represents an old villain to us, one we should have defeated before, and his death will surely boost the morale of our neurotic America. Yet Hussein is one of many, chosen not because of his awful misdeeds (which are many), but because we want more. Hussein is a new dog to kick. Saddam Hussein or, more appropriately, Hussein’s people, will be our next Jesus Christ. Will we find satisfaction in this one?
Sometime, perhaps in the future, we will scan what is left and look to each other, clubs hanging from knotted hands, and wonder which one will die first. We will wonder if their balance of lost lives is one life greater than ours.