Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Thou shall not murder

We’ve a little side discussion going with our Conservative friend, Free Agency Rules, about murder and self defense, and I would like to open the discussion up a bit.

Conservatives, especially Christian Conservatives like to use the term “Culture of Life” and use that term to support their opposition to abortion, birth control, assisted suicide, keeping Terry Schiavo on life support etc. People who are not Christian Conservatives like to point out some of the inconsistencies in their general positions relative to the death penalty, support for aid to poor people, support for aid to the starving or sick (e.g. AIDS in Africa) people around the world, the general culture of militarism in this country, etc.

Being unencumbered by religious doctrine of any kind, but having been raised a Christian with a Christian ethos along with a Democrat’s pathos, I definitely have sympathy for those who are truly Pro-Life. The Quakers and Mother Teresa types are consistent in their expressed views and actions. On the other hand, I am not one of those people. I know that evil exists in the world. I have no problem sending a truly evil person to their death, given that I knew for sure that person was evil and had committed evil acts.

One of the new “Talking Points” that I have noticed Religious Conservatives resorting to recently is in reference to the Fifth Commandment, which occurs in most bibles I have ever seen as “Thou shall not kill”. Well apparently the new translation of that commandment is “You shall not murder” which is OK by me because I never thought it meant anything different. I never heard anyone who thought it referring to a cow or a carrot.

Ultimately the question is, what do you mean by murder. If a government sanctions the killing, as in war, is this or is this not murder? Tell me what is the difference between the two situations – You are an Israeli pilot in a war and you are told to drop a nuke on Tehran. You know it will kill everybody in the city indiscriminately – every man, woman, child, cow, and carrot. How is that different than if you are a foot soldier, fighting house to house in the same city and your orders are to individually kill every man, woman, and child you come into contact with, and you know that your accompanying army of 50,000 soldiers has been told to do the same thing as you?

Is bayoneting a baby in the context of a military action murder before the eyes of the Christian God? If it is, why would dropping a nuke, which has the same effect, not be murder?

This question of murder or not murder is a slippery slope. Many, many, many crimes and killings (murders) have been committed with the justification that the killing is not only just before the eyes of God, but was actually sanctioned by God (think Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, etc.) And of course, Christians have had no monopoly on killing for God. As we all know, Osama Bin Laden kills for God also.

Murder, which has a legal definition, will always be defined by those who hold the reins of power. If a king killed a peasant it isn’t murder. When Hitler killed six million Jews that wasn’t murder to him. It was justified killing of a group of humans he personally thought shouldn’t exist. When US soldiers shoot up the car of an Iraqi family killing the whole family or kill and Italian Security Agent trying to get a released kidnap victim to the Baghdad airport that is not murder – only because the US Army is in power and protects its own. It is certainly murder to the victims and the victims loved ones.

That is the reason why I don’t understand this parsing of the word murder for in order to justify the right of our government to kill people. Let’s stop the murder. Let’s stop killing people as societal revenge for evil acts. Let’s stop killing people half way around the globe under the pretense that it makes our country safer. Let’s stop killing people as much as we can. Let’s also stop pretending that questions of ethics and morals are easy with clear right and wrong answers.