Sunday, March 12, 2006

Waiting to Exhale/Some notes on the death of Milosevic…

Almost immediately after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the media were abuzz with talk of President Bush repealing the ban on assassination in order to deal with (seek revenge on) bin Laden. I, in my pre-post-political state, wrote to the White House expressing concern that justice could not ever be conferred by such an act. Could we not, I asked in my best rhetorical fashion, instead use the Milosevic model and bring bin Laden before a court of law? I’m sure the administration got more than a few chuckles out of my letter. [Or maybe, they took me too seriously and just let the sonofabitch go.]

Is the death of Milosevic justice or just justice deferred? If all men are mortal—as any mediocre logic student can recite—then isn’t there some justice in the expiration of one of the truly evil men? [But, of course, one man does not cause a war: there is an entire system of power and control that articulated this madman’s vision. Are those individuals not somehow just as culpable?] Can we not, he asks again in gorgeous rhetorical fashion, enjoy the built-in justice dispensed by the universe with the death of each individual? There may be multitudes of evil, but they too will breathe their last breaths. To me, that seems much more just than any paltry form of revenge doled out by the earth-bound (so-called) liberal democracies. I mean, rarely—if ever—does the grid of justice line up with the judicial code anyway, so why not just let nature run its course?

All these things might be of some importance to me if I still retained a single political bone in my body. But I’ve renounced all politics and political leanings in this political shantytown of Amerika. I too shall one day breathe my last, and I don’t want to be thinking about such mundane things when I do.


  1. Don't you think though, that you would then have to view death itself as a punishment? No doubt many people do, but I do not believe that death is the worst thing that could happen to me. There are times that I wish I could get on board with the whole "lake-of-fire-gnashing-of-teeth" hell-thing on a case-by-case basis for individuals such as Milosevic, but with the real possibility that he is just dead, and not currently experiencing any substantive agony for his crimes, I am just grateful for the simple fact that he is no longer drawing breath here.


  2. You raise some very good points--unfortunately points that I hadn't even considered while writing, being so far removed from the whole neo-Zoroastrian (Christian) point of reference as I am. I never meant to imply that death would be some form of punishment. God! wouldn't that make me a Republican?!?! Or worse, a Christian? [I guess here I should insert an excerpt from the letter I wrote to our administration concerning the death penalty and the execution (state murder) of Timothy McVeigh for "the bloodiest terrorist act committed on American soil." Funny (as in not) how quickly that statement/declaration/manifesto became an anachronism.] I merely meant to suggest that death, in its irreducible equality, trumps all merely human evil: you can kill a billion people on earth but your own death will be just as meaningless, precisely because there is no heaven or hell.

    A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I co-founded PETE--People for the Ethical Treatment of Eternity. We went around burning down churches and mosques and Republican party headquarters for defaming eternity and their misuse of the conception of death as either punishment or glory. What a glorious vision of paradise on earth!

  3. I hate it when I'm haunted by hermeneutic ghosts! I forget how deeply ingrained some ideas are, and how I'm still sometimes influenced by them (I still need to tell you about my confab with my mother about heaven). When I was a kid I had to memorize John Donne's poem, "Death By Not Proud", and it usually pops back around whenever I ponder such subjects. Donne was a a minister (Anglican, I think) and speaks of God's redemption providing ultimate victory over Death. The annihiliationist in me scoffs, particularly as I derive no sense of comfort from the idea of living eternally, even in a place of bliss. The thought of an ultimate ending is for me, much more satisfying.

    That being said, I must confess to some abivilence here. It just isn't enough that he died, even if death does trump evil, as you say. I'm struggling with the idea that he shares anything in death, meaning or meaningless with his victims. I prefer the idea of him burning in hell. And perhaps that is the idea of its construction--to appease that need for ultimate retribution.

    Every time I see the photo of another dead 19 year-old Marine, or of an Iraqui mother sobbing over the dismembered corpose of her child, I feel grief and such rage! Rage that there is a real possibility GWB will never experience retribution for the suffering and chaos he has wrought in the lives of so many people. But then, neither will the people responsible for American Idol.

    So it is obvious I have some unresolved issues about all of this. I cannot possibly think about it anymore without a glass of wine.