Tuesday, February 26, 2013


"…we belong to a nation which prides itself on being free, and which relates this freedom at least implicitly to its source in Christian theology. Our freedom rests on respect for the rights of the human person, and though our society is not officially Christian, this democratic respect for the person can be traced to the Christian concept that every man is to be regarded as Christ, and treated as Christ.

Briefly, then: we justify our policies, whether national or international, by the implicit postulate that we are supremely concerned with the human person and his rights. We do this because our ancestors regarded every man as Christ, wished to treat him as Christ, or at least believed this to be the right way to act, even though they did not always follow this belief.

Now if we advance this claim, and base our decisions and choices upon it, we must not be surprised if the claim itself comes under judgment. If we assert that we are the guardians of peace, freedom, and the rights of the person, we may expect other people to question, this, demanding, from time to time, some evidence that we mean what we say. Commonly they will look for that evidence in our actions. And if our actions do not fit our words, they will assume that we are either fools deceiving ourselves, or liars attempting to deceive others.

Our claims to high minded love of freedom and our supposed defense of Christian and personalist ideals are going to be judged we believe, not only by other men, but above all by God. At times we are perhaps rashly inclined to find this distinction reassuring. We say to ourselves: God at least knows our sincerity. He does not suspect us as our enemies do. He sees the reality of our good intentions. I am sure He sees whatever reality is there. But are absolutely certain that he judges our intentions exactly as we do?

Let me cite an example. Our defense policies and the gigantic arms race which they require are all based on the supposition that we seek peace and freedom, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. We claim to possess the only effective and basically sincere formula for world peace because we alone are truly honest in our claim to respect the human person. For us, the person and his freedom with his basic rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, come absolutely first. Therefore the sincerity and truth of all our asserted aims, at home and abroad, in defense and civil affairs is going to be judged by the reality of our respect for persons and for their rights. The rest of the world knows this very well. We seem not to have realized this as well as they.

We fail to notice that the plans we have devised for defending the human person and his freedom involve the destruction of millions of human person in a few minutes, not because the great majority of these person are themselves hostile to us, or a threat to us, but because by destroying them we hope to destroy a system which is hostile to us and which in addition, is tyrannizing over them, reducing them to abject servitude, and generally destroying their rights and dignities as human persons. Their oppressors have taken away their rights—but we will compound the injury by also taking away their lives and this in the name of the “person” and of “freedom”!

At the same time, even those who believe that such a war could conceivably be “won,” admit that we ourselves, the prospective victors, would necessarily have to live for many years under a military dictatorship while undergoing reconstruction.” Thomas Merton in Seeds of Destruction.

I realize this is a long quote. But, Thomas Merton is hard to paraphrase. He makes his arguments. Then he sets the hook and reels you in. Merton was writing these essays or letters between 1961 and 1964. As the arms race heated up and before the Viet Nam war was barely a blip on the horizon. I can only imagine his reaction to the phrase “we had to destroy the village to save it.” Just change the names and nothing has changed. Substitute Al Qaeda, Taliban, terrorists. You name it. “We saved you from the _______ terribly sorry we had to kill you to do it, I’m sure you understand it was for the greater good.” How much have we sacrificed over the centuries for what we call the “greater good.” Goddess you can justify damn near anything that way.

More later. I’m sufficiently depressed right now. 

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