Books by Amalie Rush Hill

What Is My Name?

What Is My Name?

It occurs to me more and more that there is not much to separate what we usually call good and evil, or to determine the difference. If it is who we are, then the issue is simple: them and us. If it is what we do, then it becomes more complicated.
If I kill in the name of God, the only determinant is what name I call God. If I kill to protect, then the invader is wrong. If I kill to simply dominate, then I am wrong to force my will on others. If I kill because I can, then there is no excuse.
If I kill in the name of God – then the right or wrong of it only depends on the side you are on. My God is Banana and yours is Peel, so it is obvious that your god is wrong. The hero of the piece is determined by which altar he kneels to and who takes the day.
If I kill to protect, then the invader is an open target. If I kill to protect and the invaders are stronger then I am called a rebel. If I kill to protect and the invader is a foreign government or a distant government that only seeks power and land and riches, then I am a revolutionary or terrorist.
If I kill to dominate then I am a tyrant or I am Alexander or I am Hitler or George Custer, or Agamemnon, or any other of a legion of men with power in their sites.
If I kill because I can – then I am a monster. Unless I am killing for the name of God or rights or causes or because I say it is manifest destiny.
People all over the world have used these tactics at one time or another. People all over the world have been the victims of these tactics. Now we believe ourselves to be better than the invaders, murderers, and so on, those from the past. But if our actions are what label us then at what point do we become that which we fight? If I murder innocents in the name of right or god or power or glory, I am still a murderer in the eyes of the victims. If I use the tactics used by conquerors but my goal is not domination, to the conquered, how am I different from any other tyrant?
Slip any name into any slot. Name Allah as the god I kill for and in the eyes of the West, I am a terrorist. Name Jesus Christ as the god I fight for and in the Holy Lands of the Crusades, I am an invader and an infidel. If my God is Mammon, then to the poor I am a monster. If I am an American, fighting to achieve my independence from England, then I am a Patriot. If I am a Shiite Moslem, fighting in Iraq, I am a terrorist or insurgent. If I am protecting my homeland, I am a hero at home but a criminal to the invader. If I am Alexander and I am conquering lands to raise them up and educate them, to bring them into the civilized world, then I am doing a favor to those I conquer. If I am a conquered man, sold into slavery simply because I am the spoils of war, then the conqueror has not helped me.
There are no absolutes. There are only sides, opinions, names and ideals. As long as we, any we, or they, try to impose on me a life that I did not choose, then it is an injustice. If I am a murderer trying to live within a system that says I am not supposed to murder, then I shall be punished by that system. That is individual treatment. To punish a whole society for acting upon their beliefs is tyranny.
I ask the question again: using the tactics of war or invasion or torture, or any kind of mistreatment, how I am I different than any other torturer, invader or murderer? If I use the same weapons, but call them a different name, how am I better? If my actions are intended to harm any other person, but I do so in the name of my good, how I am different? If the enemy is ruthless and cruel, and I resort to the same tactics to overcome him, how am I different?
I have no answer to the question. I suspect that until we learn new ways of being and acting toward others, the wheel will continue to turn. We have to break out of the cycle. And we are programmed to say that innocent people will die if we do nothing. Innocent people are dying as we are doing something. Innocent people are being imprisoned, tortured, starved, enslaved and murdered every day because they are where the fighting is. Not because of their beliefs but because they are believed to be disposable.
I believe that what I do comes back to me. I may not be able to see it or understand it when it does, but I can be pretty sure that what goes out comes back to me. Therefore, I lay down my saber even if it means that I am cut down. I stop being a soldier, stop fighting. I can use my words as a means of change not a sword.
I will be who I am, not another version of a butcher in the name of my good, my god or my ideals.

March 2006

« Previous post
Next post »

Leave a Reply