Monday, January 11, 2010

Getting What's Owed

Originally, I was going to tap out a short piece about several recent murders (and suspected murders) of people for their money. A music producer, a lottery winner, a mentally ill scientist - in recent days, their stories had come across the virtual pages of the local newspaper, and I had been thinking to speculate about what drives a person to kill someone else, to enrich themselves at that person's expense. But while I was walking this evening, I was listening to a BBC radio documentary: "Death to America," that I'd first downloaded some time ago. While at first, the two topics seemed completely unrelated, as I walked on, I realized that in a strange way, they did meet in the middle.

In the end, why people murder someone for their money is simple. They feel some sense of entitlement to what they other person has, for any number of reasons - they've worked hard all of their lives with little to show for it, the other person came into their money illegitimately, theirs is the greater need, they'll make better use of it - the list goes on and on, but at the bottom of it all, it's all the same thing - this should be mine - I'm owed.

In the same way, many people throughout the world are very upset with the way that the United States has conducted itself (or still does conduct itself) internationally. And, to the surprise and anger of many Americans, this is only to be expected. After all, despite all of the high-minded rhetoric and lofty ideals, the United States behaves on the international stage in much the same way that any other country does - in a way that protects its own interests. And somewhere along the way, we have come to understand that we are entitled to the success of our interests. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrate this, to a degree. To oversimplify things, the Bush Administration launched both invasions basically because here were two foreign governments that wouldn't prove that they were on our side - even though there was little to no real domestic benefit to them doing so. Now, that same drumbeat has been started (mostly from the political Right) about Yemen - there are already suggestions that President Obama should be prepared to send in troops if the Yemeni government doesn't police it's own people to our satisfaction. Because we're entitled to peace and security.

But in the end, peace and security are like money - or any other resource. No-one, really, is entitled to them. Some obtain them will little to no effort, while others spend their whole lives toiling, and come away with nothing to show for it. Taking shortcuts in its pursuit brings grief to all involved.

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