Sunday, December 31, 2006

So, Did'ja Hear?!

While I was at work, one of the other members of the staff was working nearby and, apparently bursting with this bit of info, asked, "Hey! Did'ja hear they hanged Saddam Hussein!! Good Riddance, huh!"

Now, I am no great fan of Saddam Hussein... or at least of the Saddam Hussein that I have constructed in my mind, made up of all the bits and pieces and tidbits of data that I somehow accumulated about him over the past few years.

Come to think of it, there isn't really all that much that I know about him that is honest, first-hand information at all.

Almost everything I know (or think I know) about him is second-hand... whatever I have happened to hear or read in the news.

I let the news of his execution roll around in my mind for a few moments, and, surprisingly... or, perhaps not so surprisingly... I found that I took no great joy in the news that he was led to a gallows, had a rope fastened around his neck, and dropped from a height great enough to break his neck and kill him. If I allow myself to empathize to the point of imagining what it must have felt like being him in those last desperate moments, I find that the thoughts and feelings are very disturbing to me.

Naturally, when I voiced my thoughts in answer to my co-workers question; that I wasn't really happy to hear that he (Saddam Hussein) had been killed, everyone within earshot was incredulous. Perhaps some were outraged. How could I defend a tyrant who was so brutal and vicious??!

Well... I went on to explain that it isn't the death of a tyrant that saddens me. This was a matter of justice, and I would not be so arrogant as to countermand or question the wheels of justice. It isn't my place. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced. It is my assumption that there was more than enough evidence to prove his guilt. His end, therefore, was rightly deserved.

But this isn't what saddens me.

What I find disturbing is that some time ago, a baby was born... a fat, wriggling infant with the entire world set out before it, and an entire lifetime to experience whatever came its way. This child was apparently in a position to become the leader of a country... a country that has one of the oldest civilizations in history.

Here was a man who was in a position to do great works. He could have been a kind and just leader, much loved by his people. There was so much suffering and need in that part of the world that one would think he had his work plainly cut out for him.

Instead, he allowed a dark wind to blow through his soul at some point in his life, and rather than use his position of leadership to help his people, and improve their lot, he instead focused on grasping, taking, accumulating wealth and power. Instead of taking joy in the simple things such as the love of his wife (wives?), children, and friends... he took what they had, took their lives... destroyed their livlihoods... tortured, maimed, and injured.

Rather than realizing that he was capable of exercising love, compassion and kindness as the leader of his country, he instead attempted to take everything that existed within the realm of his knowledge.... even the poor miserable lives of the lowliest of his subjects - and in so doing he made their lot even more difficult and burdensome than it ever needed be.

So. A lifetime that could have been instrumental in the improvement of the lives of so many people, a lifetime that could have brought joy, happiness, prosperity, and kindness was instead wasted and ended abruptly with the snap of a rope.

All that is left is a country in ruins, countless shattered lives, and who knows how many years of painstaking work simply to get back to where they all were years ago.

The breaking of Saddam Hussein's neck ended a life, but I seriously doubt that it changed anything; other than taking him out of this world that he so grievously injured, and so apparently despised.

I am not saddened at that fact that justice was executed upon him for his acts of oppression and murder.

I am saddened that that infant, who had such an opportunity to do so very much good in the world let it all go to waste.

Even Saddam Hussein was a child of god. His life was still a life. I guess it is my thought that killing him simply adds one more sad, hopeless, wasted life to the great pile of sad, hopeless, wasted lives that he wrought through his acts of cruelty.

It just strikes me as being kind of sad, I guess.

When I had stopped speaking, I could see that I must have caused many of the folks listening to confront a number of issues that had never occurred to them before this.. I don't think that they had ever stopped to think of Mr. Hussein as a person - an honest-to-god, flesh and blood, real life human being who had actually had all of the power and influence that he had had, and who had chosen to do what he had done rather than do good things. I am sure than many also must have wondered, as I have, whether any of us would have done better, or whether that dark wind would have blown through our souls, as it had, apparently, through his... and perhaps whether we would have done the same, or worse.

Some of the folks who had been listening to me when I was speaking later told me that they were bothered by the thought of all of the pain that he had caused, and that this hanging did nothing to ameliorate that suffering, or to change anything about it....

We were all disturbed by the fact that he had never apparently shown the slightest bit of remorse for his actions.

One by one, they each approached me throughout the night and said that they thought that what I had said made a great deal of sense. Some mentioned that even in smaller, less influential and powerful lives, such as our own... that same dark wind can cause some of us to do things that perhaps we would not otherwise do...

I wonder if any of us will be able to learn anything useful from the mistakes of Mr. Hussein, and perhaps avoid the same pitfalls that entrapped him and led him to such a terrible end to what could have been such an illustrious life??

I don't think that most will even give it a second thought. But, I know that he is most likely no better and no worse than I am. He was once a baby, just like I was, and at the height of his power, he was just a man, like I am. He was just a man with more stuff, and that somehow endowed him in the eyes of those around him with the power of life and death over others. In taking those lives, he gave away his own.

That is the inescapable fact of the universe. Balance is sought and achieved througout the universe... its the way things work. And when we take an action, we set a course of events in motion that also changes us in some way and that takes its toll on us for ill or for good.

What I wonder is whether Saddam Hussein knew he was doing wrong or whether he somehow convinced himself that his actions were justified. If so, then I am just as guilty as he is at some level, because, in retrospect, this is a mistake that I, too, have often made.

Is it any different for any one of us?


Anonymous said...

Well said, and well thought. Both you and Marcheline are waxing philosophically today , and surprisingly it's hitting chords with me. I enjoy both of your blogs and always look forward to your sharing of progress on the road of life.
At 62 I too am still a seeker, and I try many things to quiet my mind, soften my heart, and make me a better human being in this world.
I'm of Irish descent (2nd generation American), old Roman Catholic up bringing and schooling, but still a seeker.
It's not about the money, as one can always survive, it's about the good and the caring we owe this world and it's peoples, that we so often gloss over in what is aptly called "the rat race"
Look forward to a great new year.

sergei said...

"that same dark wind can cause some of us to do things that perhaps we would not otherwise do"

"perhaps avoid the same pitfalls that entrapped him and led him to such a terrible end"

"He was just a man with more stuff, and that somehow endowed him in the eyes of those around him with the power of life and death over others"

Do you really see this man, who didn't deny killing and torturing the people he killed, but rather claimed the right to behave that way, as passively born along by circumstance? I am interpreting what you have written as an attempt on your part to extend compassion towards the man, but to me compassion does not mean finding a way to discount the choices he knowingly made, nor does it mean the shallow empathy of implying that any of us might behave the same way under the same circumstances. Compassion is to me an acknowledgment of suffering; an attempt to identify it for what it is, and a personal effort to aleviate it where we can. Was the man Hussein became born out of suffering? I imagine so, in that I cannot conceive of something so bloodthirsty growing out of anything else. But compassion doesn't require me to equate his suffering with anyone else's: not his victims', not yours, and not mine. Many of us have done wrong while convinced our actions were justified, and many more have reaped the benefits from others doing so on our behalf. But thankfully only a very few of us have murdered and tortured thousands when behaving this way.

In that respect, Hussein was very different for most of us.

Nukie said...

Great post Bear. I didn't see that point of view coming at all. Thought provoking as most of your posts are.