Why Bother? (Drone Strikes and Child Labor and Factory Farms, Oh My!)

Chickens Stuffed into Battery Cages

Sunday, I had someone ask me what I was trying to accomplish.  She was specifically talking about boycotting factory farmed meat and eggs, but I suppose the same could be said of several of my “causes,” including: Voting for a third party candidate in protest of the two major party candidates use of, and approval of, continuing drone strikes that kill hundreds of Pakistani civilians. Boycotting Hershey’s chocolate until they institute a plan to stop using cocoa farmed using forced child labor. Or, to go way back, making sure the diamond on my wife’s engagement ring was not a conflict (“blood”) diamond.

And I stuttered.  I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer.

What I finally came up with was this (and I hope I can phrase it more eloquently here than I did then).  Many of the evils we encounter in this day and age are systemic.  They are clearly above our pay grade, above the area of influence we have any power over.  And I’m talking real evil here, not policy differences (the argument whether the current welfare system helps or entraps the poor is not “good versus evil.”  Both sides have concerns for those who need assistance, they just don’t agree on how it’s done.  That’s not what I’m talking about).

When I encounter such an evil, when I become aware of it, I have a choice.  I can ignore it, pretend I didn’t see it, and by doing so, give it my support.  Or I can do something, even something small, to push back against it.

So what am I trying to accomplish here?  I want to preserve whatever shreds of my integrity still exist by not being blindly complicit with known evils.  I want to let the people around me know that these things are going on, that people (and animals) are suffering terribly.  I want to let people know that our disposable consumer culture comes with consequences, often for the weakest and most vulnerable.

And most of all, I want to remind myself.

Ayn Rand was wrong about a lot of things, but she was right about at least one.  If you can do nothing else, call evil evil.  Say it.  If you have no power to do anything else, name cruelty.  Name theft.  Name murder.  There is power in just saying the truth.

 

An Open Letter to President Obama and Governor Romney

Mural of Picasso's Guernica

Mural of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica

President Obama,

I appreciate your concern for the poor and marginalized Americans.  I appreciate your hope, your ability to inspire America with your speeches and ideas.  I thank you for ending the previous administration’s use of torture.

Governor Romney,

I admire your business acumen and your ability to work with both parties.  I admire the health care program you instituted in Massachusetts, and look forward to your ideas for national-level reforms.

But I worry about both of your souls.  President Obama, you have instituted an undeclared drone war against Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that has left as many as 168 children and teens dead.  Drones have attacked funerals, private homes and even markets.

Predator Drone launching Hellfire MissileAnd the definition of “militant” used in publicity about the strikes – anyone of military age who was in the area of the strike – is frankly deceitful.

The people of these villages live in fear, suffering death, destruction, poverty, terror, and amputation, and for what?  For every real militant these drone strikes kill, we’re certainly driving someone else into the arms of the Taliban.

This is unconscionable, and I frankly shudder to think that any professing Christian could so coldly terrorize towns and villages.  We’re exposing them to their own little 9/11’s, day after day.  And I tremble to think that my tax dollars fund this horror.

President Obama, Governor Romney, one of you will be President of the United States for the next four years.  One of you will make the decision to continue this unconscionable practice or end it.

I will not be voting for anybody who supports this barbarism.  President Obama, if you stop this and promise to never do it again, I will vote for you.  Governor Romney, if you reverse your position and promise to stop these strikes, I will vote for you.

Otherwise, I will vote for a third party candidate who comes out against these atrocities or refrain from voting, as a protest.

Meanwhile, I will pray for both of you, that God may grant you wisdom and compassion, and that he may show you more mercy than you have shown others.