(Image from Business Insider)
As an American, I take pride in the values that our country historically stands for. We like to see ourselves as defenders of Justice across the globe. It is a romantic notion that we are Good people, doing Good as often as we can. I still believe that America as a people, is full of Good people doing their best to make the world a better place.
But then we get the reports from Afghanistan (USA Today), and we look at the current context of the vision of America in the world. Current Stories: (1) Americans urinate on dead corpses (2) Korans burned by military (3) 16 dead, killed in sleep by American Soldier – he walked from house to house shooting civilians!
I don’t know how this breakdown has occurred. It is obvious that the military has a mission of building up relations in Afghanistan, and have actually done so much good. The problem – one evil act by one person, and America is brought back down into the mud.
In communal cultures, with tribes and patriarchs, a group (or nation) is only as good as its representatives and the actions that they do when in contact with the other group. I call this the “David and Goliath” effect. Americans like to think of themselves as Individuals to be judged according to their own good deeds. That’s great, but we all still belong to a larger group with certain values and institutions that glue us and contract us together.
When David steps out for the Israelites, he represents them all. When Goliath steps out for the Philistines, he is all Philistines and embodies the hope of all the people. When David won against Goliath, all Israelites took hope and felt the providence of God. When Goliath, the military giant, fell to the ground, all Philistines experienced defeat. (See the book of 1 Samuel for the whole story of young David during the reign of King Saul over Israel).
So now Americans are in a bad situation because individuals are making bad decisions. To be honest, they are evil decisions, which maim the people of Afghanistan, destroy relations and hopes for peace, and give our Military’s mission of Peace fatal blows each time. All of America are tainted because the evil acts of one person. How many decades will the stories go out in the oral culture of the Afghanistan tribes, telling of American atrocities? How will Justice be served and peace be restored when the perception is that our Nation cannot control the impulses of our individuals.
The fact is – when evil happens by a member of your society, it becomes your problem. For years I’ve heard people telling me that morally, we all can choose how we want to act. I’ll do good according to my own principles and you do yours. In the meantime, we have lost any notion of a national pride in a common set of values all people are held to. In this morally ambiguous climate, in a secularizing society, in a world where politic is being set apart from the religious foundation that once glued our people together – how do we judge what happened and agree how to move forward?
We can all agree that what was done was evil, but can we agree that the balance of Justice has been skewed. Blood has been spilled innocently on the ground because of a member of our own society – how do we own this evil and how do we as a people make it right to the “other” who has been harmed?
I am in awe at how horrible this act, done by one person, has destroyed the moral imperative of America in a foreign land. I hope that our leaders will respond with repentance, though I doubt it will help the Afghanis mourn their dead. I hope that the “doer of violence” will be brought to justice, because it is obvious that this was not done as part of a mission or for any rational reason. It was an evil act. I hope that each of us search our own hearts and find ways to purge the evil from our own hearts. And for myself, I will be asking God for a path to Justice that will bring peace rather than more war.