I just came from the hospital. Our technology is amazing. There’s hardly anything cutting-edge about laparoscopic surgery, but even that is amazing. With a tiny little incision, the doc puts a hose into your belly with air so she can insert a little camera, a scalpel and a vacuum cleaner (with a fancier name and price tag). Like cleaning up after a tornado, everything gets chopped into little pieces, but instead of loading it on a truck, it gets sucked out through that little tube. When the area is clean, the doc pulls the tube and closes the holes. (But, she keeps you strapped to the gurney so you don’t fly around the Operating Room like a deflating balloon!) In about three hours, you go home because the dishes are still dirty and the grass needs cutting.
Sometimes the doc isn’t even in the room. Instead, someone else inserts robotic arms, and from the room next door (or from Minneapolis or London), as if she’s playing a video game, she watches the monitor and takes out your gallbladder. In her pajamas. (All of that is actually happening, maybe except for the pajamas.) Like I said, it’s amazing!
And we’re replacing people’s hearts and providing prosthetic arms with hands that move like the rest of ours, just by thinking “I’m thirsty; I think I’ll have a Coke,” and we’re fighting AIDs and ALS and Ebola with inconceivable technologies, and we’re fighting Islamic madmen with sticks and stones.
They are bigger than sticks and stones, of course, much more lethal, but the effect is the same. You hit me. I hit you back. The cavemen started it, but they had brains the size of chimpanzees, which were not much more fully developed, ethically. So, maybe we can understand their simple mentality. Today, we’re mind-bogglingly better at treating wounds, but just as un-thinking, as were our un-thinking ancestors, in the way we treat our grievances.
And that’s amazing, too.
Monday night our TV programs were interrupted by breaking news: “The US has begun an intensive campaign of air strikes over Syria, significantly heightening the stakes in our engagement in the Middle East.” The knot in my stomach returned, the same feeling I’d had 11 years ago when we started what was to be an easy campaign of “shock and awe” over Baghdad, the same
feeling I’d had 11 years ago when we started what was to be an easy campaign of “shock and awe” over Baghdad, the same feeling I’d had 24 years ago when someone came into Crescent Hill Baptist Church and said, “We’re at war!” There was an audible gasp across that room, filled mostly with people who were old enough to know what that meant.
Yes, ISIS is frightening, but if the terror they have been trying to instill has returned us to the cave of eye-for-eye retribution, yet again, then they have already won. Where is the “American exceptionalism” our leaders so often celebrate?
Today, I’m praying that our desire to wound will no longer match our amazing ability to heal. Unfortunately, it looks like our President has again set us on a path providing too much practice at both.