One of my daughters has a very nice photograph of a tiny flower growing in the crack of a large slab of lifeless, stifling asphalt. The image of life seeking and finding even the most limited setting in which to flourish, should foster a sense of optimism as to the future. Political systems resort to the most savage forms of violence because their adversary is not “terrorism” or some other contrived bogeyman, but life itself. Life expresses itself in individualized, spontaneous, self-directed behavior. By contrast, political systems – all of which are grounded in collectivism – demand the uniform, standardized, lockstep conduct of fungible men and women; what the politically-driven contemptuously regard as “human resources.”
A couple weeks ago, I watched live television coverage of the University of Nebraska football program’s annual “spring game.” Those who believe that there is a “separation of church and state” in America, have never been to a Nebraska football game. The spring game – which is an intra-squad contest played at the close of spring practice – manages to bring out some 60,000 fans eager to preview the fall season.
As this game came down to the closing minutes, the “Red” team brought in a new running back: Jack Hoffman, a seven-year-old boy suffering from brain cancer, and who was adopted by the team last year. In what otherwise appeared to be a regular play, Jack was given the ball and raced for a 69-yard touchdown, as 60,000 fans cheered him. His touchdown became part of the final score, and the yardage he gained made him – officially – the leading rusher for the day.
Why did this one play attract so much attention, and why has it been replayed millions of times on YouTube? Is it just that there is something “cute” about a young boy playing football with a bunch of college-aged men? Is it the fact that he is engaged in a life-and-death battle with cancer, years before most people have to face this threat? I don’t presume to know the mindsets of others, and may only be projecting my own sentiments onto others. But I do wonder if the response of so many to Jack’s feat might reflect an unconscious discomfort with the ongoing institutional war against children and, implicitly, the war against life itself. The millions of unborn babies intentionally aborted, including late-term abortions and allegations that some doctors have killed babies born live, represent the more apparent examples of this war. School systems routinely crush the energized spirit, spontaneity, and curiosity that is so natural to children and, in the process, condition youngsters in the statist virtue of obedience to authority. Students are also indoctrinated in the importance of such questionable values as “patriotism,” “honor,” and “duty,” in order to help prepare them for their destruction in the war-machine.
Nor can we overlook the mass killing of children carried out in the name of “national defense.” Madeleine Albright’s acceptance of the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children in furtherance of her government’s boycott, along with Janet Reno’s more modest gassing, machine-gunning, and burning to death of twenty-one children at Waco, represent moral low-points in the federal government’s disregard for those persons least capable of protecting themselves.
Add to these atrocities the tens of thousands of children – many of them infants – who, innocent of any wrongdoing against Americans, have nonetheless been killed or maimed by American ground-troops, bombers, and drones. This disdain for the lives of children – particularly when they are abstractly dismissed in collective terms as “collateral damage” – has reached deeper into the human spirit than most of us realize. I suspect that such contempt is contributing to the increased suicides among soldiers and former soldiers that now number an average of one every twenty-two hours. Perhaps an unconscious awareness of the ugliness of America’s politically-dominated culture against children has caused millions of people to become teary-eyed watching a young boy doing what it is in the nature of all free-spirited children to do: run.
As I watched reruns of Jack’s accomplishment, my mind kept racing back to a 2006 dystopian film, Children of Men. This very dark film takes place in the year 2027. Because of humanity’s well-organized war against life, women had been rendered sterile, and no human baby had been born for eighteen years. When a young woman is found to be pregnant, a number of people – desirous of saving mankind from extinction – work to get her out of the war-ravaged country in which she lives, and to a setting in which she can give birth to her baby. There are no identifiable “good guys” and “bad guys” in this war. It is just a variant on Orwell’s Oceania and Eurasia being constantly at war in a system in which war and society have become indistinguishable.
The bombing at the Boston Marathon occurred nine days after Jack’s touchdown run. As was to be expected, planeloads of politicians, members of the media, and celebrities from the entertainment world, began descending on Boston to exploit the atrocity for their narrow ends. Feigning moral outrage at these bombings – all the while continuing to conduct or support the bombings that produce far more numerous innocent victims in the Middle East – helped maintain the climate of fear and anger necessary to any war-system. While pretending to oppose “terrorism,” these establishment mouthpieces engaged in their own forms of terror by keeping people in the same frightened state we experienced as children scaring one another with unseen bogeymen. Forgetting the admonitions of Thoreau, Francis Bacon, Montaigne, and even FDR that “nothing is so much to be feared as fear,” many Bostonians wrapped themselves in the security blanket of the American flag and sought collective comfort at a baseball game.
The modern-day war whoopers remind us of Charles Montague’s observation that “war hath no fury like a non-combatant.” These drawing room field marshals – who have never heard a gunshot fired in anger – rage on, their safety assured by their distance from the frontlines. They judge the propriety of their actions by no higher standard than the results of public opinion polls, the content of which has been their purpose – aided by media lickspittles – to generate. They are like modern drone-operators, the joy-stick warriors who use modern technologies to bomb and kill innocents half a planet away, retiring at day’s end to dinner parties in Georgetown or play on the Las Vegas strip.
The collective ugliness that has dominated the media these past two weeks was briefly interrupted by an expression of a different voice. Heather Abbott, the lovely young woman who lost the lower part of a leg in the bombing, held a televised press conference at the hospital in which she is recuperating. In contrast with uninjured spewers of fear, anger, and hate, Ms. Abbott was the optimistic spirit that attends the life force. Her focus was on the rehabilitation awaiting her; being “overwhelmed” by the “support” and “caring” she has received from “people I don’t even know.” “I am still happy,” she stated, and while her situation was something “I wouldn’t wish upon myself or anyone else, . . . “it’s really not as bad as I thought it could have been.”
As I listened to her speak, I was reminded of the scene in the movie V for Vendetta, in which the heroine, Evey Hammond, had been tortured by the hero, V, without revealing the information sought by her inquisitor. She was then informed that she would be executed. She went to what she thought would be the place of execution only to be met by V. After raging her anger against V for what he had done to her, Evey is told that she had been rendered free, by having overcome her fears.
There is an important message that finds expression in these two events: in helping to celebrate a seven-year-old boy’s high-spirited, joyful run for a touchdown, and watching a young woman tell us that her plight is not going to destroy her zest for life, perhaps we can overcome the fears that have seduced us into abandoning our own life-pursuits. Both Jack and Heather have extended periods of medical care before them and, perhaps, this helps to give immediate focus to the demands of life when facing uncertainties.
These two persons are like the flowers that insist on blooming in the cracks that inevitably occur in the most rigid settings. I suspect they will each handle their difficulties with the self-directed energy that attends all life. The rest of us have much to learn from their examples. We can, of course, continue our habit of cowering at the feet of those who maintain power over us by raising the specter of abstract bogeymen, or we can learn to walk – or run – from the vicious schemes that war against life!
May 2, 2013
More Butler Shaffer
- ‘The Extremists Are Coming; The Extremists Are Coming!’
- Boundaries of Order Private Property as a Social System
- Just Shut Up or Die