Code of Hammurabi and Sledgehammer

I was reading a Kurt Vonnegut book today called If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?  Here are a few snippets from an address to Agnes Scott College, which is a women’s college.  The piece is entitled Advice to Graduating Women (That All Men Should Know). 

I am so smart I know what is wrong with our world.  Everybody asks during and after our wars, and the continuing terrorist attacks all over the globe, “What’s gone wrong?”

What has gone wrong is that too many people, including high school kids and heads of state, are obeying the Code of Hammurabi,  a King of Babylonia who lived nearly four thousand years ago.  And you can find his code echoed in the Old Testament, too.  Are you ready for this?

“And eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

A categorical imperative for all who live in obedience to the Code of Hammurabi,  which includes heroes of every cowboy show and gangster show you ever saw, is this: Every injury,  real or imagined, shall be avenged.  Somebody’s going to be real sorry. 

Bombs away – or whatever.

When Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross, he said, ” Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.”  What kind of a man was that?  Any real man, obeying the Code of Hammurabi,  would have said, “Kill them, Dad, and all of their friends and relatives, and make their deaths painful.”

And later…

Revenge provokes revenge which provokes revenge which provokes revenge – forming an unbroken chain of death and destruction linking nations today to barbarous tribes of thousands and thousands of years ago. 

We may never dissuade leaders of our nation or any other nation from responding vengefully,  violently,  to every insult or injury.  In this, the Age of Television,  they will continue to find irresistible the temptation to become entertainers,  to compete with movies by blowing up bridges and police stations and factories and so on.

Fires, explosions.  Come look.  Oh my gosh – hey wow.

To quote the late Irving Berlin: “There’s no business like show business.”

It seems that not only in our response to slights, not only do we not take the high road,  but our responses create the unbroken chain of violence that Mr. Vonnegut speaks of.  One only has to look at the Iraq War and now the emergence of ISIS.   It also seems as if our response is always disproportionate to the original slight. 

I was reminded today, while reading this, of a show I used to watch as a kid.  It was called Sledgehammer,  and it was a spoof of the kind of over the top Dirty Harry character that always uses excessive force.  I think the link to the video is a good metaphor for our foreign policy.  In the clip the police are being shot at by a sniper.  Rather than simply take the bad guy out, Sledgehammer pulls out a bazooka and blows up the entire building in which the sniper has his nest. 

Oh my gosh – hey wow.

The Destroyer of Dreams

The arctic

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives
Where are they now?
With loves and hates and passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
I want to cry

Cemetry Gates – The Smiths

I was reading the Hampton Sides book In the Kingdom of Ice this morning.  I came upon the following paragraph (They are talking about exploring the Arctic at a time when it had not been fully explored yet):

In 1869, in fact, a French expedition, to be commanded by a scientist named Gustave Lambert, had planned to try for the pole via the Bering Strait, but that expedition had been called off because of the Franco-Prussian War.  Two years later, during the siege of Paris, Lambert was killed in battle, and the expedition was never undertaken.  

At this time preparing for an expedition like that was an absolutely tremendous undertaking.  Lambert must have been dreaming of this expedition for some time.  

We must stand up for peace and against war whenever possible.  It is not only the destroyer of men and nature, but the destroyer of dreams.  

Tour Poetry Day 4: Los Alamos

Living amongst the ghosts
Of mankind’s worst creation
People still blossom
Like flowers pushing their way through concrete
Parents take their children for snow cones
A gay couple celebrates their marriage
Teenage girls dance without self consciousness
And young lovers hold hands and swoon
All have gathered to hear music
Despite a heavy unyielding rain
Small acts of love and kindness
Are the ultimate acts of defiance
Against the gods of war

Los Alamos 2/8/14

Israel is Not My Birthright

Israel is not my birthright http://www.salon.com/2014/07/26/israel_is_not_my_birthright/ via @Salon

A great article by a Jewish writer on the Israel/Palestine situation.  When you criticize Israel you are not being anti-semitic; You are criticizing a foreign country and their political position.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently. 

Tom Hayden on Iraq

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-hayden/behind-the-madness-in-ira_b_5493758.html

This is a good piece over at Huffington Post by Tom Hayden about what is going on in Iraq now and why we need to stay out.  The predictions of those that took us there have now been proven wrong a billion times over.  There has been so much death and destruction for no reason.  It might be easy in hindsight to say that we simply got it wrong, but many of us knew Iraq was a mistake and didn’t think we should go into that country in the first place.  My parents were part of a peace march BEFORE the initial invasion.  

Often when people have racist or ignorant views in the past it is typical for someone to say that they shouldn’t be blamed because they were just holding views “of their time”.  However, when one looks deeper into history you will often see that many people knew better and that this argument doesn’t usually hold water.  Don’t let anyone tell you that we didn’t know better before we went into Iraq.  That was a war of choice, plain and simple.  

Military Leaders Warn Climate Change Will Cause Instability

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/14/climate-change-national-security_n_5323148.html

The above article is from Huffington Post and it is about how Military leaders are acknowledging the threat that climate change poses to our national security.  The idea that climate change will cause instability around the world is nothing new, but this report is just one more reason that we need to get serious about this subject.