Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sometimes a finger is just a finger.

" So long as the Arabs fight tribe against tribe, so long will they be a little people, a silly people - greedy, barbarous, and cruel,"

Who knows what T.E. Lawrence really said, but Peter O'Toole delivered that line in the eponymous movie.  I can't help recalling it when listening to the God Damned Republicans trying to blame the situation in the Crimea on President Obama and trying to make sure it all goes badly for everyone so that Americans will come to their senses and elect some silly, greedy and barbarous puppet to represent crackpot religion and klepto-Capitalism. Why not? We're already silly, greedy, barbarous and cruel: a little people with big rhetoric, a cruel people with small minds and big guns.

It's not because of Republicans -- it's because of us, because of who and what we are and it shows in everything we do, well-intentioned or not.  It shows in how we latch onto theories and justify them with good intentions and use them to make things worse.  It shows in how we alienate allies by making good causes less about goodness than about rhetorical conformity, it shows in how we make facts bow to theory and let the theories we obey make things worse.

So how do you make schools safer?  Does it help to reduce tensions, make students feel less alienated and helpless and marginalized to expel one for pointing a finger at another student?  Of course not, but "we have a rule" against even pretending to be using a weapon and so because a student could conceivably think of his finger as a gun barrel, pointing it at someone is, in some mystical way punishable. A thought -- a presumed thought is magically identical with action.

We may laugh at the assertion that minimum wage laws stifle job creation because the State with the highest has the highest rate of job creation. We fail to laugh at our attempt to reduce school violence by insisting that a hug is assault, a kiss is rape and a finger is attempted murder. Silly, barbarous and cruel.

When an aspirin is "drugs;" when a nail clipper is a "weapon" -- when punishments explore the far reaches of what is reasonable and effective and meaningful and are defended with all the passion of a Spanish inquisitor without any  reference to the consequences --  so long as we continue to marginalize the reasonable for not adhering to formulas and incantations -- as long as we continue to marginalize decent, ordinary, well-intentioned people for saying the wrong word or pointing the wrong finger we will continue to be a little people: silly, greedy, barbarous and cruel.

Can I lay the foundation of this at the feet of a religion which equates "sinful" thought with sinful action?  Or is it just the nature of the self-righteous beast?  Perhaps the Devil makes us do it but I don't think it matters.  The enemy is us.

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