Two Israeli Soldiers
Two die so thousands must. See the comment left on the post below: an angry Israeli performs a late-night scan over the blogosphere for pro-Lebanon posts, tacks up a plaintive cry for those two lives, for justice at any cost. What does it mean, I wonder, to make that argument for two lives over the millions of blogs of the world, every night over a fortnight? What do those two lives mean? Who will read the comment with sympathy? Why is it so confusing to us?
In the twentieth century, we lost the understanding of scale. Every human has always been delicate to even the loss of a single life close to them. A mystic would say that numbers belong to God alone, that the number of days of a human's life, the number of humans that have died or will die can only be owned by God.
But the imbalances of the last decade have been staggering, in part because the meaninglessness of numbers has been used to justify all sorts of horror.
Two thousand dead in the World Trade Center: an argument for hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Iraqi lives. Two dead soldiers in Lebanon: an argument for thousands of Lebanese deaths at Israeli hands.
God surely weeps for every single one of these deaths, and God just as recoils in a terrible confusion at the justification of such unequal numbers.
What mental distortion invites us to play such deadly games? The twentieth century taught us how. The deaths of millions by starvation every week in foreign countries. The starving millions in our own countries. We don't know how to measure those numbers, only the sickness and death of a single individual close to us. So we have calculated an occult mathematics that justifies the preservation of those one or two known to us against the millions unknown, the millions taht signify the meaninglessness and insignificance and selfish horror of our own lives.
Remember: how many German lives -- however the story went that they had been or might be lost -- for six million Jews? We are not allowed to play games with numbers. We must develop our sense of scale along with our sense of justice.
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