Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Tribute Vice Pays to Virtue

A former co-worker of mine likes to post garbage on Facebook, alternating between moist devotional memes about God's goodness, celebrations of the Confederate battle rag, defenses of gun ownership, and attacks on Musims and liberals, especially President Obama.  I've given up trying to reason with her, and now simply attack her, though still in less vitriolic terms than the junk she posts.  She never replies -- in fact, like many people I know, she rarely writes anything herself, preferring to let the makers of memes do the talking -- but now and then someone else she knows replies to my comments, though he also relies on scattershot slogans and soundbytes.  He never actually addresses what I've said.  (It's the same tactic used by liberal Democrats when Obama is criticized, though they plug in different epithets.)

So, a few days ago this guy replied, "You sure like the beheading of children, don't you, Duncan?" to a comment I wrote on a meme celebrating the killing of Muslims by American snipers.  In a way, his riposte was successful, because I wasn't sure how to respond to it: What can you say to something that stupid?

What I don't get is what a right-wing American Christian patriot has against beheading: beheading was a traditional method of execution in the Christian West (not to mention the rest of the world) until the 18th and 19th centuries; the last time in Great Britain was in 1817; in France the guillotine was used until 1977Our good friends the Saudis still behead criminals.  True, beheading in the West has succumbed to political correctness -- we in America now prefer to kill people with botched lethal injections -- but my co-worker and her defender despise political correctness and favor the death penalty for those they believe deserve it.

The other form of violence that has American patriots righteously indignant is burning people alive, though again, I don't see why.  Executing people by burning is another traditional Christian practice.  The United States has never used it as an official method of execution, but unofficially it has been popular among tradition-minded white Christian Americans well into the twentieth century.  That's only here in America, of course.  The US pioneered the use of firebombing civilian populations in World War II, adding the use of napalm in Korea and Vietnam, and now burns people alive with Hellfire missiles fired from drones.  Teenagers who should have picked "far more responsible" parents, for example, but nine-year-old children too.

That little girl survived, unlike many beneficiaries of this well-intentioned but pitiful and helpless giant.

The accusation that critics of US violence "like" the atrocities of our enemies is a familiar one.  I'm not going to say that my co-worker and her buddy necessarily like the atrocities committed by our country, though probably they do in many cases, where the victims are black or brown or Muslim or otherwise safely Other.  Still, like most Americans they prefer not to know too many details, and to cheer for the horrors from a safe distance, getting indignant only when their grubby noses are rubbed in reality.  And in this they are no different from Obama fans, who don't want to be reminded of his crimes either.  Patriotism is the opiate of the people.