Thursday, May 5, 2011

A List (Naughty Bits Omitted)

  • Finally! We can feel free to mock, ridicule, and belittle the Americans who fought in World War I because the last American veteran of that conflict has died at 110. Doing some quick back-of-the-envelope math and adjusting for increases in medical know-how, I calculate that we'll be similarly free to mock, ridicule, and belittle American veterans of today's war by the year never.

  • What happens when glass is heated to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit? Can it be stretched like taffy and made into all kinds of improbable shapes? Does it cause terrible burns and cuts if you aren't careful with it? Yes and yes. The image at the top is Tacoma's Museum of Glass as seen from the outside, where they routinely do things like this taffy-stretching seen at the right. It's quite a thing to see.

  • I hold out the possibility that I am underthinking, but I accuse Pamela Gerloff of overthinking things:
    Plenty of people will argue that Osama Bin Laden did not respect the sanctity of others' lives. To that I would ask, "What relevance does that have to our own actions?" One aspect of being human is our ability to choose our own behavior; more specifically, our capacity to return good for evil, love for hate, dignity for indignity. While Osama Bin Laden was widely considered to be the personification of evil, he was nonetheless a human being. A more peaceable response to his killing would be to mourn the many tragedies that led up to his violent death and the thousands of violent deaths that occurred in the attempt to eliminate him from the face of the Earth; and to feel compassion for anyone who, because of their role in the military or government, American or otherwise, has had to play a role in killing another.
    As for AOL Keyword "sanctity," the example of Osama Bin Laden is a tidy illustration the limitations of the "sanctity" or (another AOL Keyword) "dignity" of human life. I have no quarrel with recognizing that Bin Laden was a human being -- he was; nor do I have anything to say against mourning the massive suffering and death associated with the layered conflicts that culminated in his death a few days ago.

    Loaded words like "dignity" and "sanctity" do not cover it. We are obligated to draw distinctions that are more finely-tuned than the presence or absence of human DNA. The unavoidable truth is that some individuals act in ways that forfeit any rightful claim to go on living, and in my judgment, Osama Bin Laden deserved to die. This is to say his death, even his violent and ignoble death, is a gain for human civilization -- that a properly measured reverence for humankind calls for a just and merited reaction, which is not necessarily "the most peaceable" reaction.

    What Bin Laden's death means in terms of "closure" I will leave to the fanciers of that loaded AOL Keyword except to say it sounds a little too much like people are taking this too personally. Perhaps it sounds odd given what I said above, but I don't think so: this is not personal.
  • Notwithstanding my first bullet point, I have nothing against the veterans of WWI except to say they're comically old.


    Laura said...

    Sorry, I have to agree with PG on this. The fist pumping jubilee makes Americans look like Muslims looked in the aftermath of 9/11. I find it smacks of an-eye-for-an-eye mentality and is insulting to humanity in general because it does nothing to open up a dialog between cultures that desperately need to find a way to live in peace on this planet. There's no victory in perpetuating a problem.

    Dale said...

    Laura, I am maybe shaving the walrus a little too closely here -- that's a thing, right? shaving the walrus? -- but I draw a distinction between seeing the justice in killing OBL versus loudly and loutishly celebrating it. A thing can be just without being a cause for celebration.

    I agree the fist-pumping has been obscene. I have nothing good to say about the dancing in the streets.

    That's a trivialization of what's going on here -- this is a life-or-death struggle that doesn't need to exist, and wouldn't exist in a saner, better world. (And I do NOT mean to say all the evil falls to one side. It doesn't.)

    Laura said...

    I especially appreciate your last comment, "I do NOT mean to say all the evil falls to one side. It doesn't." This should probably be the next thing we, as a nation, address if we truly care about human rights. As for shaving the walrus too closely, I say shave it all off and let's see how that looks!