Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Value of Life

I hate the idea of war. I have no problem with truly bad people being killed, but the reality of war is that many innocents are killed as well. Add to that the inevitable physical destruction caused by bullets, bombs, mines, etc., and when it's all over, it is easy to wonder whether the price paid for the exercise was worth the cost of the damage that has to be repaired.

I hate thugs. Not just the bully who lives down the street from all of us, wherever we might live, but the sociopath who is ultimately responsible for the deaths of thousands or millions of people by the pogroms and wars they initiate.

I hate the sycophants who make it possible for petty tyrants to be so powerful. Without the minions, the bullies would get nowhere.

No, I'm not really the sort of guy who walks around seething with anger and hatred, waiting for any excuse to pop my cork and go 'postal.' Still, there have been any number of human miscreants in Earth's brutal history, to whom I could have (I think) calmly and dispassionately delivered a 'coup-de-grace' and slept easy afterwards, knowing that the world would be a better place.

I value human life, so I don't make the above pronouncement easily. I believe fervently in the Libertarian position that we all have the right to live our lives in peace, doing what we please, as long as our actions do not infringe on the similar rights of others. I want to be left alone. I want to leave others alone. Laissez faire, not just in commerce but in human interaction as well.

But what about those people who can't and won't leave us alone? Those who, in following an ideology not readily accepted by others, are prepared to enslave us and force us to live in the sort of world they want? The upcoming election in the United States draws inevitable scrutiny of the two main candidates and, frankly, I think neither should be president. I think Bush is probably a good guy, overall, but he is far too statist for my liking. Kerry is someone who I wouldn't even allow into my home. He is even more statist than Bush and he is repellent on so many levels that I won't waste my time trying to enumerate them all.

Both Bush and Kerry, whatever their shortcomings, are mere amateurs, so far at least, at the task of enslaving the citizenry. Consider the villains of the past 100 years: Stalin, Hitler, Mao, are the worst of a long list of thugs who collectively were responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people and the misery of hundreds of millions more.

Yes, I hate war and I hate thugs. Most of all, I hate blind adherence to any ideology that subjugates the individual will to the collective. Any political philosophy, which on implementation attempts to force uniformity of thought, restricts interaction and commerce, robs Peter to pay Paul, is evil. The few so-called 'free' nations that remain on earth are free only in a relative sense. Are we truly free in the United States and Canada? I don't think any rational person would make that claim. Yes, we are more free than we would be in most other nations in the world, but again, it is a relative thing.

Let's make this very personal. I was born in Germany at the end of World War II. Before I was born, my mother and father each lost a brother in the fighting. I never met my uncles Leo and Gustav. I lost two brothers. I never met Albert and Erwin who died as children while fleeing with my mother and sister from the Russian army which was advancing from the east. I did get to know two other uncles, one from each side of the family, and discovered in conversations with them the life-long emotional scars that each endured.

What was the point of it all? I have read my history and have heard all the reasons (and excuses) for World War II. One thing is certain: Hitler needed to be stopped. My question has always been: why wasn't he stopped earlier, before over ten million people died as a result of his megalomaniacal drive to set up his Fourth Reich? At many stages in his rise to power, Hitler could have been stopped.

What about something more current, like the war in Iraq? Was it truly necessary to invade Iraq and depose Saddam? He was a thug. He killed thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of his own people. He was a brute who ruled every facet of every life in Iraq. Were these justifications enough to destroy much of Iraq and to impose a huge financial burden on the citizens of the United States?

I don't know. I am inclined to think that Iran is much more of a threat than was Iraq. Even the military might of the United States can't be everywhere, so it has to be used prudently. What is going to happen if (or when) Iran starts flexing its muscles? Or North Korea? Or when mainland China inevitably attempts to seize total control of Taiwan?

I don't know.

I do know this: It may be time for everyone to accept the fact that the past is the past. Whatever foolishness happened yesterday, in the last decade or even hundreds of years ago is over. Stop all the hatred. Stop all the blame. Stop bemoaning the loss of what once was. Start building on what is. Do it now!

I mourn the loss of my brothers daily. I will never know them and have never had the pleasure that I might have had by having two older brothers to grow up with. They never had the chance to mature, to get married, to have children of their own, to build careers. They never had the chance to offer comfort and support to their parents, they who suffered and endured so much.

How many other stories like this are there in the world? How much misery is there because people can't let go of the past? Or because they insist that their way is the best or only way, then cause the wars that perpetuate the same nonsense over and over again, generation after generation?

I don't know.


  1. I've read this blog four times now, wondering how to respond. I hear the pain when you express the tragedy which played such an important part in your early life, and still erodes your spirit daily. There is nothing anyone can say or do that can diminish the hurt. But your advice to forget the past and concentrate on the present is well stated. I selected the link which brought up the pictures of your uncles. Then I opened the Pedde album and saw the wonderful portrait of your beautiful wife and handsome son. You have much to be happy about. And let me add myself to your list of people who cherish your friendship, and interest.

  2. All that I can offer is this
    Sara Grace born on 10/1/2004 at 12:47 PM.

  3. Did you have anything to contribute (like DNA) to that lovely little miracle, Pope?

  4. I sure did Sieg. In fact the folks here at work said that I shrunk myself down. Now whether looking like her daddy will be a curse in life or blessing remains to be seen.

  5. She has a daddy who thinks. That means that maybe she will follow suit and be a thinker as well. The world needs more thinkers. Good luck with your new baby. It's a thrilling time... enjoy it!