Friday, January 16, 2009

Counting Dead People

I am putting aside my series for the moment to write something more important, I think.

I have grown weary of hearing people put causes and ideologies before human persons. What I mean here, concretely, is the use of casualty reports to attempt to justify one side or the other in Gaza. On Facebook there is a growing trend for Israel supporters to post how many people (especially children) have been killed by rockets and, for Palestinian supporters (or people who do not sympathize with Israel) on the other hand, to post how many people have been killed in the recent warfare by Israeli forces. The same tactic exists when anti-war types tote Iraq War death counts to stand down the war supporters who tally up the dead at 9-11. Or the people who oppose capital punishment who cite the number of dead executees against the dead people murdered by criminals noted by capital punishment supporters. And, then, you have the reproductive rights supporters who cite the dead girls trying to get illegal abortions against the dead babies legally aborted who are brought up by anti-abortion advocates.

Counting dead people, it seems to me, is to treat those persons -- those mothers and fathers and children and brothers and sisters and babies and 5 year olds and 79 year olds -- as objects, numbers. This numerical objectification attempts to argue that certain collections of human life are somehow more important or to be mourned more so or less so than others. I know there are cogent arguments for this kind of thing (e.g. innocent life is more valuable than criminal life). Nonetheless, I think we ought to do less counting of dead people as a means to advancing the causes we claim to be fighting for. We should pause -- even stop -- to remember, over and over again, that these are human persons! Real, bleeding, breathing, fearing, sweating, loving, and beautiful human subjects who do not die to be counted and listed as casualties of some cause we support or oppose.

Nothing can become more important than this. All life is sacred and all death is sad. Justice, desert, politics and its subsidiaries must be humbled by the raw existential angst and beauty of life and death. They should yield and become sobered by it.

Right now, I fear, we are drunk.

1 comment:

angcopp said...

People get too caught up in being "right" about where they stand on an issue and forget about the well meaning people on the other side of the fence who they endlessly alienate.

Let's focus on making the world a happier place for each person, not using numbers or time to quantify every thing we do.