Paul Andersen: Fair Game
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“The first time (you kill someone), you’re not even sure you can do it. But I’m not over there looking at these people as people.”
Congratulations, Pentagon! With that statement, quoted from Time magazine, Navy Seal and decorated sniper Chris Kyle reveals his complete desensitization. Kyle regards himself as good and just for dehumanizing, demonizing and vaporizing his fellow man. A question lingers: What is the moral bearing of a society that teaches young men like Kyle to do that?
The answer was given 45 years ago in 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City by Dr. Martin Luther King. In a subdued monotone, as if delivering a eulogy, King stripped America bare and revealed its sociopathic militarism. King is venerated for civil rights, but he felt his deepest anguish as champion of the poor, crusader for economic justice and preacher for peace.
Despite King’s role as the conscience of America more than four decades ago, Chris Kyle is today lionized for disavowing the humanity he lines up in the crosshairs of his rifle scope (160 confirmed kills, but who’s keeping score?). King was likewise seen in the crosshairs by a sniper who stopped the great voice from warning that militaristic violence had poisoned our nation’s moral character.
Kyle is honest in accepting his role, unlike the feckless populace of the U.S. that discreetly cheers his killing acumen and turns a blind eye from the mayhem he exerts with the pull of a trigger.
“For the most part the public is very soft,” Kyle told Time. “You live in a dreamworld. You have no idea what goes on, on the other side of the world, the harsh realities of what these people are doing to themselves and our guys, and there are certain things that need to be done to take care of them.”
King saw America’s war addiction as the symptom of a deeper malady that would, in his dark prophecy, spread American aggression around the globe. That’s why King ventured beyond the boundaries of civil rights into human rights, though he was criticized for going too far.
“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos,” he said, “without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.”
This came at a time when the news media revealed from Vietnam the technological achievements of killing and the psychological depredation of the killers. King regarded the nightmarish horrors that were brought into our homes as harbingers for a national loss of soul.
“This business of burning human beings with napalm,” he said, “of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
In his Riverside speech, King deferred to an American official, saying, “It seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution,” a revolution asserting the rights of man instead of corrupting man with brutal military power and capitalist greed.
“I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such,” King said in defense of his activism. “I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.” King then spoke a powerful truth that now rings strangely hollow: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”
Silence today is regarded as patriotic. Anyone who dares question the actions of “our troops” is branded not as a responsible citizen but as a traitor. In this era of mute acceptance, fear is the coercive force supporting America’s military predominance.
King, in his “I Have a Dream” speech on the National Mall in 1963, said, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
It is at our moral peril, individually and as a nation, if we remain silent and therefore in betrayal of this most crucial message.
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