Sunday, March 6, 2011

building the IED's

On the peace-picket line yesterday, one woman said she would be off to Afghanistan soon. The cheapest flight was from the U.S. to Moscow to Bahrain to Kabul. In Afghanistan, she planned to stand with Afghans who have organized a peace effort there. "It's an Afghan-led effort," she said.

Standing on our peaceful corner outside the courthouse in a small, largely lily-white U.S. city, I could not help but think of the three letters that have filled graves and hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan -- IED ... the improvised explosive devices used by 'insurgents' to maim and kill those who disagree with them. Death to those who disagree is very much an option in some parts of the world. But it is not a presumption on our casual corner outside the courthouse. Even among the counter-demonstrators nearby -- the red-white-and-blue Tea Party patriots standing further down the block ... the willingness to employ violence may be more apparent, but the presumption of death is distant. Heartfelt words and placards and banners and white-whining are the order of the day as traffic flows by on Main Street. Death is not on the table, so to speak ... or if it is, it is on the table at a distance, in places where IED's are commonplace. Death is not on the table ... yet.

Another woman who showed up yesterday thumbed through the peace protest signs provided in a large, black nylon tote bag. The signs range from rough-hewn, hand-made topics to printing-press neat. Medicare, war dollars, mercenaries, Afghanistan, Iraq ... there are a lot of approaches to a lot of galling subjects. But this particular woman grew frustrated. "Where is Wisconsin?" she asked. "I came for Wisconsin." And the truth was that a weeks-old push-back against the Wisconsin governor's proposal to gut union rights for public-sector employees had not yet made it into the tote bag. Afghanistan and Iraq were there, but Wisconsin was not. Not yet Wisconsin and not yet death. Not yet.

I don't know, but I can't imagine that building IED's is exactly rocket science. These are devices improvised, like peace-picket signs, by ordinary people, people who, for the most part, do not have the advantage of a college education. I don't know, but I can't imagine that it is that hard -- making an IED with which to state your point of view. And I wonder where the materials came from -- the explosives, the ball bearings, the nails, the timing devices ... who made all this stuff and who provided them? I can't imagine the U.S. made all of them, but I certainly can imagine it made some and I can imagine that red-white-and-blue Americans are making money from the sale of these manufactured goods.

In Washington, if I judge by news reports, people who like our peace picket line see death at a distance wrestle and posture over the economic hard times that Wall Street and a variety of banking institutions inflicted on the world. Many if not most seem pleased to see Tea Party working stiffs at odds with wimpy peace pickets ... go get 'em tiger! The more the working stiffs decry the deficit or proclaim the robberies that have gone unpunished, the less anyone in a position to do much about it need to do anything about it. As long as the IED's don't start exploding on their maple-lined streets ... well, just keep on selling ... it's good for the economy and they can keep on claiming to care without examining the cost of their care.

But what occurred to me this morning is that the bought-and-paid-for politicians and the manufacturers who paid both for them and for the elements that go into IED's are building IED's of their own -- IED's that are likely to come back and blow the legs out from under the comforts and distances they currently enjoy. It really won't do to imagine that IED's are someone else's problem or responsibility when the C-4 and the ball bearings and the rusty nails and the timers are sitting on your own work bench.

Failure to take responsibility builds the IED's of this life. It happens in a personal sense and it happens in a social sense. Wailing and conniving and posturing to evade that responsibility doesn't pan out.

Or, as Aeschylus put it:

So, in the Libyan fable it is told
That once an eagle, stricken with a dart,
Said, when he saw the fashion of the shaft,
"With our own feathers, not by others' hand
Are we now smitten."
 It is not enough to weep and wail when an IED shreds those within its reach, raining an unconsidered death at an imagined distance. It is enough to stop building our own IED's.

1 comment:

  1. The only mass demonstration I ever attended was when George W. Bush made his first state visit to Ottawa. I went carrying a home-made sign with a picture of the twin towers burning and the red-white-and-blue slogan "United You Stand - Divided They Fall!". Don't know if I'd have the guts to carry that around today.

    The sign I drew for my buddy was even better: "LICK BUSH IN 2002" :)