I Understand Now

I grew up reading Robert Anton Wilson, and one of the deepest lessons I learned from him was to try and be agnostic (or zetetic, if you prefer) about my perspective. In this world we call Real there is very rarely one 'right' way to look at anything, and having the ability to alter your perspective on an issue can be damn useful.

One perspective I was never able to wrap my head around, though, was that of the Zealot, perhaps because it was intuitively antithetical to RAW's multi-perspective approach. The Zealot does believe that they see things the One Right Way, after all. I've just never understood how, for instance, an anti-abortion Zealot professing to want to protect life could get themselves to a place where it made sense to them to kill a doctor.

I understand now.

Which is not to say I'm about to go all Weatherman and blow up some CIA offices. But as the torture "debate" has continued I've found I have no patience for those willing to jettison morality for perceived expediency, or for those who can't or won't see how what was done wasn't just illegal but depraved, and how it violates everything America is supposed to stand for.

It's that last point that is proving to have the strongest impact on my psyche. Perhaps it's because I'm an American who has never lived as an adult in the country of his birth, and thus sees it more clearly in the abstract, but I find this assault upon the very idea of America far scarier than almost any assault upon the physical America ever could be, 9/11 included.

America was created as a refuge from tyranny. It has, time and again, publicly championed the causes of freedom and liberty (regardless of what it was actually doing behind the scenes) and has, over the centuries, become synonymous with those virtues. And now, in a crisis no worse than any other we've faced, cowards who unfortunately wound up with their hands on the tiller have resorted to embracing the very tools of tyranny America was supposed to stand against.

This country can survive the loss of its buildings and citizens and even, Goddess forbid, its cities. It can't survive the loss of its reason for existing.

And so, weirdly enough, I've come to a place where I understand Zealotry. I can't see shades of gray on this one. Torture is monstrous, and there is no justification for its use. But in understanding Zealotry I've also come to understand Patriotism too.

If Patriotism is the willingness to lay down your life for your country, I'm ready to do just that. The very thing that makes America worth defending is under siege, and I find myself wondering what I can do to protect it. I've considered all sorts of crazy things -- for instance, a 24/7 live streaming hunger strike, preferably in DC within sight of the White House, that I maintain until a Truth Commission is initiated or a special prosecutor appointed (or I'm too weak to stop someone from administering medical care, of course, which is the usual fate of hunger strikers). After all, whatever voluntary discomfort I went through as I starved myself wouldn't hold a candle to the involuntary torment that was inflicted on other human beings, in my name, by my government, supposedly to protect me.

Quite frankly, while I value my life fairly highly, it isn't worth that much. I'm supposed to be willing to die for my country, not the other way around. My country isn't supposed to die to save me.

For now, I'm giving the president the benefit of the doubt that he will let justice be served, and that his current apparent heel-dragging is simply a maneuver to allow a public consensus to build. As such I should be looking for ways to help move public opinion, and build that consensus, rather than engage in online flame wars with immoral tools.

To borrow a phrase from Sam Jackson, I'm trying real hard to be the shepherd. And not the Zealot.

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