My Litmus Test for Decency

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear.
A decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity;
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 31, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

My Litmus Test for Decency

Yesterday, we talked about violence – and fear. I even let myself get carried away by my own fears about those who thrive on perpetrating violence around our world. In today’s chapter, Lao Tzu identifies weapons as the tools of both violence and fear. That is why my own litmus test for decency is that our would-be leaders detest them, and avoid them, except in direst necessity; and then, only to use them with the utmost restraint once compelled.

Peace should be our highest value; and if the peace has been shattered, we should not be content. The image of our soon to be elected president clapping her hands excitedly while expressing her giddiness over the brutal killing of Muammar Ghaddafi is something so etched in my mind, I don’t think I will ever be able to get over it. Our enemies are not demons. They are human beings just like us. What? Am I supposed to exempt Hillary from that basic requirement for being a decent human being. Why wish fellow human beings personal harm? Why rejoice in victory? How could she, how could we, delight in the slaughter of men (and women, and children). Or, is it okie dokey if we, or our surrogates, do it?

A decent person would enter a battle gravely. Yes, sometimes there are battles we have to enter. Direst necessity has compelled us to enter. Not imperialistic dreams. Not profit. Sorrow and great compassion accompany us as we enter these places of death and dismemberment. Decent people know how to behave at a funeral; and especially so, when it is they who have participated in bringing about the death and destruction.

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