Oct 2001 posts

Honor those who died by respecting all lives

 

Little did I know that Afganistan was only the beginning….

October, 2001

I am a vegan. While “vegetarian” refers to someone whose daily diet does not include the flesh of other animals, “vegan” refers to an entire lifestyle. As a vegan I seek to avoid flesh, dairy, eggs, leather, zoos, anything that depends upon the suffering, killing, or exploitation of animals. As a vegan the organizing principles of my life are to respect life and to try to cause the least amount of harm.

I became a vegan because one day I asked myself whether I truly had the right to take the lives of other sentient creatures simply because they tasted good, or whether I wasn’t merely using the “might makes right” justification. Since September 11th, I have again been asking myself questions, such as “What does it mean to be patriotic?”, and “What does ‘justice’ mean?”.

What it your definition of “patriotic”?

Lately I hear people using the word “justice” when they really seem to mean “revenge”. I sense a desire for blood, for more killing. Will it be enough to kill the perpetrators, or will we only win when we have killed enough civilians to equal our own losses? Will it be enough if we demolish a poverty stricken, oppressed country? I hear a lot of talk of religion being a justification for killing on both sides of the issue. Yet I have not heard much talk about morality. Do we really have any more right to kill civilians than the terrorists did? Are we sure we have the right to take even *one* life, even a “guilty” life? Is this what it means to be an American or patriotic? To seek revenge? To “win”? To beat the “other guy” no matter the costs? Do we think that human rights apply only to Americans?

Isn’t it possible that being an American means standing by our values and laws, not just on paper, but even in the face of a terrible tragedy? I suggest that being an American means striving to leave the “us vs. them” mentality behind, whether that refers to sexism, racism, homophobia, speciesism, ethnicism. We’re not there yet, but Americans have been progressing towards a goal of acknowledging differences without attaching value judgments. Americans can be proud of moving away from lynch mobs and vigilante behavior and towards the principle of due process, of striving for fair, unbiased, and equal treatment.

I feel great pride in being American when I remember the people I met in line to give blood, when I see TV images of the tireless rescue workers, when I read of the veterinarians who volunteered their time to care for the search dogs overwhelmed by smoke. But I feel fear and disappointment when I hear “patriotism” used to refer to excited, gang-mentality talk of more killing, of violence on civilians, of revenge on “them”, of Christianity supporting “an eye for an eye”, and no thought seemingly given to what might be the moral way to approach our problem.

Honor those who died by respecting life

I think we should exhibit our pride, not by blindly destroying that which has hurt us, but by showing the world that we believe in the foundations of our justice system, in our professed regard for life. Couldn’t “winning”, couldn’t “American”, mean doing the right thing in the right way? Couldn’t “American” mean finally looking at the big picture and seeking to address worldwide problems rather than seeking angry revenge on the symptoms that have only now affected *us*? Couldn’t “American” mean being intelligent and compassionate enough to see beyond black and white? Couldn’t “American” mean leaving tribalism behind and joining the world?

Many lives were lost or forever affected by the events of September 11th. I fervently hope that our actions will show that we do value life – by not assuming our Muslim neighbor is also a terrorist, by looking at the big picture of this situation (including how U.S. actions have affected the lives of people in other countries), and by apprehending the criminals according to our own moral and legal codes. Let’s not be so arrogant as to assume that innocent Afgani lives are less important than our own. Let us try to do the least harm possible. Let us seek justice, not revenge. Let us honor those who have died by showing that we truly do respect life.

Don’t confuse patriotism with conformity.

Support Links

http://www.vegsource.com/

http://www.vegsource.com/jo/qa/qaprioritize.htm

http://www.veganstreet.com/

http://earthsave.org/
 

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