Violence is part of human nature. Anybody who says different has never left a three-year-old and a six-year-old together in the same room with one ladybug change purse. The hair-pulling, biting, and scratching was brutal. And my God, it was worth it. I'd never seen anything as beautiful as that pleathery black and red thing, and I was gonna keep it no matter what the cost.
I'm not an uninhibited, feral three-year-old anymore, and haven't bitten anybody in years. Though when I go upstate, I wage a relentless war against mice. I plug holes when I can, set traps when I have to. I'm incredibly relieved every time I hear that particular dull snap that means something's been caught, and hopefully killed, and there's one less mouse that's gonna scratch a hole in the wall, burst out, and crawl around on my face.
If I avoid poison, though, it's not because it causes the mouse more suffering, but because I'm afraid an owl or eagle might eat the rodent and die. Or a road-kill-eating chipmunk, which my girlfriend adores. Or it might fall into the creek and end up in the New York City water supply. You never can tell how little acts of violence ripple outwards. Even I feel myself getting a little more jaded with every tiny corpse I dump at the end of the path. It doesn't matter that they disappear, and I know some other animal is at least getting a meal.
I try to avoid violence and believe most is unnecessary, though I accept the idea that individuals and nations have the right to defend themselves, and understand how the desire to meet violence with violence after September 11, along with strategic reasons, led to the war in Afghanistan. Though there was no reason at all to attack Iraq. And plenty not to.
You'd think after all these days we'd have learned that violence propagates itself, dives underground. But we play with it like fire, encourage little kids to sing songs about killing queers. Are surprised when thousands of them are attacked, dozens killed. Last year, 30 LGBT people were murdered in the United States of America because of who they were. These figures don't include the suicides of young queer kids, but should, because it's still our society giving them the weapon and encouraging them to use it. Because homos are an assault on our American values, tear the fabric of society, even bring down large towers. We've got to protect ourselves!
There's always a reason for violence. So often it's preserving America. Last week, the New York Times published a chilling article, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama's Principles and Will,” lionizing Obama for making the hard decisions himself, taking on the moral weight of ordering hits on presumed terrorists and their entourages, who may or may not have done anything yet. They've only committed what Orwell called thought crimes. Nevertheless, Obama's gonna send his unmanned, imprecise drones to save us.
For them, no warrants, extradition orders, and the like. Because those require proof of actual crimes. Which we're not that interested in, or Rumsfeld and Bush and Alberto Gonzales would be behind bars for organizing actual murders, coordinating real live torture.
Obama's progress on LGBT issues isn't enough to excuse murder, even if I celebrated Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic speech declaring LGBT rights are human rights. Ditto for when Obama admitted his own newfound support for marriage equality.
In the long term, every gain of the LGBT movement is dependent on democracy and civil liberties. Shred the Constitution, encourage assholes to go rogue, and we're lost. And in that regard, Obama has gone beyond Bush, beyond rendition and military tribunals and indefinite detention, straight to murder. “While scores of suspects have been killed under Mr. Obama, only one has been taken into American custody, and the president has balked at adding new prisoners to Guantánamo.”
Sitting in front of a PowerPoint presentation, he is the judge and jury, God's own jurist taking on the sins of the world. I can't imagine the hubris, sitting in his Oval Office, signing off on drone strikes, imagining that if he acts with the best of intentions, guided by a brilliant mind, there will be no unmanageable consequences. No major bleed-over from the battlegrounds of the War on Terror — where no one's a civilian — into our daily lives.
This is what I am afraid of. That his example reinforces the idea that the wheels of justice turn too slow. That prison is too good for some people. That a faulty democracy is not enough when murder's so easy. The rule of law isn't for everybody. A crime is defined by the victim. And Justice with her scales should not be blind.