Educated, economically advantaged liberals like myself are fond of idealistically looking for the good in every person. We easily see human greed and closed-mindedness as standing in the way of a utopia in which everyone’s basic needs are looked after, and we can all pursue that which is meaningful to us.
Too often, though, we let that vision blind us to the reality that we live in, in which people do not always express the goodness we fervently believe is inherently inside them. Too often, therefore, we must resort to less-than-utopic ways of responding to such expressions of human frailty, including violent means.
This is due, at least in part, to an insecurity with the notion that violence can be moral, a notion that runs counter to the logic dictating that pacifism is the moral route, as most wars are so brutally immoral. It is this insecurity that is so beautifully rendered in the film A Few Good Men, a moral issue that receives way too little attention in this era, where the line between war-time and peace-time continues to be blurred.
In a worldview that valorizes Gandhi and Martin Luther King, I have difficulty with the notion that power, wielded too often at immense costs to the innocent weak, can also be used to protect those same people. I do not doubt that Guantanamo (the site of A Few Good Men) is an instance of abuse of power, but I am troubled by the idea that a prison like it might be necessary to contain one’s violent enemies. I am troubled by the continued use of anti-Semitic rhetoric that makes sense of much of the ‘security’ talk of the Israeli establishment (as peace talks resume in DC). What is it that divides an ideal in which people truly want peace — not just for themselves or their communities, but for all people — from the ‘real world’ in which the cynic in me sees little more than a grab for power behind almost any political action?