If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence.
“They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas,” explains the narrator in Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” adding:
Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child’s abominable misery.
A people aware, complicit, of the necessity to sacrifice a child—but this isn’t just some fantastic allegory of the ends justifying the means, utilitarianism.
This is the U.S., now.
Last night, between my wife and me in bed, my nearly three-year-old granddaughter lay restlessly asleep, burning up with a fever. My 6-month-old grandson was home with my daughter suffering his first infection.
As I worry about these children closest in my life: Teacher, boy die when husband opens fire in California class.
And we may add “again.”
Or “while the country continues not to give a good goddamn.”
Or “[but] [t]hey all know that it has to be there.”
Or “in the wake of political leaders of multiple countries killing children while pretending to be distraught over the slaughter of children.”
Or “while Syrian children are sacrificed and children in Detroit are just callously ignored.”
We are a disappointing and awful people. Squandering our potential through selfishness and greed. We have no moral authority or purpose.
We cannot justify our violence. A hand raised, a gun, a bomb. Violence is the lowest act of any human. It is always failure.
A people is defined by how they prioritize the weakest among them, children.
“But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else,” Le Guin’s narrator warns.
By that metric, we are a disappointing and awful people.