The murdered cannot forgive. Their blood won’t be washed.
There is something eerily fascinating about cold-blooded murderers - a staple of Hollywood thrillers and crime dramas—killing without emotion or remorse. Ordinary humans, afflicted with guilt for minor, not even criminal transgressions, can’t conceive of pulling the trigger and then sitting down for dinner. In real life, the number of people who can is glancingly small. Even for those few, actions have consequences. The blood never washes away.
“Live and let live,” is, in American mythology, a benevolent and almost uniquely American attitude. We destroyed Japan and Germany in World War II and then helped rebuild them. Live and let live goes down well with the living, the winners. However, it’s often nothing more than balm for an uneasy conscience, hand sanitizer for bloodstained hands. A century and a half later, many Southerners lack this “unique” American attitude towards their conquerers in the War of Northern Aggression.
The war on terror has laid waste to large swaths of the Middle East and Northern Africa. Cities, towns, and villages have been reduced to smoking, bombed-out rubble, chaos reigns, the carnage is ubiquitous. The US military keeps count of its own personnel wounded and killed, a number in the thousands. Civilian casualties —or collateral damage as the military calls it—across Chaostan (Richard Maybury’s apt coinage) are in the millions, as are the number of people displaced (an estimated 11 million in Syria alone).
Imagine the American fury and media sensationalism if a small US town was carpet-bombed by a foreign power. YouTube’s servers would melt from the overflow of viewers watching videos of parents pulling their dead children from collapsed homes.
The war on terror’s refugee flows threaten to upend civic order and submerge the cultures of the countries receiving them. It’s a vicious act of intellectual corruption to maintain that the war on terror does not create terrorists, that those killed, wounded, or displaced have no friends or family who will exact what they consider justified vengeance. The terrorism we see now is lava trickling from a volcano of hatred that has boiled, bubbled, and occasionally erupted for centuries, and will continue to do so. There will be no live and let live. Blood will have blood, not banalities.
Macbeth was a dramatic psychological study of two murderers. They screwed their courage to the sticking place, but they couldn’t turn themselves into killers without conscience. In Mafioso parlance, “button men” are hit men. Figuratively they “push a button,” literally they murder. With the US government, the figurative and literal have merged. Someone pushes a button on a drone, missile, or bomb control and murder is done in furtherance of never-ending American war. It’s as disassociated, remote, and cold-blooded as murder gets. Nevertheless, neither the murderers nor the public from which they try to hide reality will have any more success eluding the psychological turmoil and toll than the Thane of Cawdor and his lady.
During the entirety of President Obama’s terms and most of President Bush’s, the US has been fighting one or more wars. Odds are there will be no peace during Trump’s tenure either. What does it do to a government, and the people in it, when collateral damage, a bloodless term that now applies to millions of bloody deaths, wounds, and lives upended, prompts no remorse or reappraisal, and only occasionally half-hearted apologies to meet the exigencies of diplomacy and public relations?
How does evil become banal? Practice, practice, practice. Killing becomes the routine, what the government does. Like many bloodthirsty, tyrannical regimes the US government has warmed up on foreigners. However, the functionaries and politicians who now push the Kill the Enemy button also push the Domestic Surveillance button. They will not hesitate to push the Enemies of the State, Mass Detention, Concentration Camp, and Execution buttons when the time is right. Rotten government, like rotten fruit, gets more rotten, until it’s finally tossed in the trash.
Try as it might, the government cannot entirely shield its constituents from the knowledge and consequences of its murderous ways. Having learned its lesson in Vietnam, it can keep its media puppies docilely distant from much of the killing, but the Internet has proven not entirely controllable. And although most people don’t make the connection, institutionalized murder is responsible for an appreciable part of the government’s $20 trillion debt and $200 trillion in unfunded promises, as well as its cronyism and corruption, loads under which the economy now strains and will finally collapse.
Any American who travels abroad is liable to run into a forthright foreigner who will tell them that the US government is the most hated institution on the planet. That sentiment is increasingly directed at the US population at large, who’ve tolerated these homicidal megalomaniacs for so long. Aside from its fellow travelers in other governments, multilateral fronts for world government, useless NGOs, universities, corporations, and the media, the world’s peoples would little mourn the overthrow of the US government by an enraged citizenry.
But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Executioners have a short ‘life’. They get tired of the work. The soul sickens of it. After ten, twenty, a hundred death-rattles, the human being, however sub-human he may be, acquires, perhaps by a process of osmosis with death itself, a germ of death which enters his body and eats into him like a canker. Melancholy and drink take him, and a dreadful lassitude which brings a glaze to the eyes and slows up the movements and destroys accuracy. When the employer sees these signs he has no alternative but to execute the executioner and find another one.
-From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming
Killing them is killing us. Does any phrase more aptly characterize the US population than “dreadful lassitude”? The US government murders in their name. They accept its rationalizations, bread, and circuses, avert their eyes, and sink into technological and pharmacological oblivion. Despite these dubious efforts the knowledge seeps in, drop by drop, like rainwater under leaky sills during a hard storm. The government has its buttons for those few who protest and resist, but even the most oppressive regimes can’t seal off their people entirely.
Red, white, and blue are no more; it’s bureaucratic gray and charnel-rubble carmine. Americans grow “tired of the work” and soul sickness spreads. Birnam Wood advances and the empire crumbles. A somnambulant Lady can’t wash away the blood; her Thane can’t sleep.
America cannot wash its hands…or know an innocent’s slumber.