The Green, Green Grass of Home
By Robert Levin
Summer is barely over, and though winter feels like it’s only a mile or two away, there’s still enough time to walk barefooted along the narrow ridge that joins the evergreen and the bitterroot. Depending on where I stand, or the direction I look, I can see for what seems like a thousand miles, my vision corralled only by the weakness of my eyes and the strength of the sunlight’s glare. Nevertheless, with the lush green valley before me, the expansive blue sky above me, and the rich smell of pine cones and wild flowers to fill the air, I know that where I am is second to no other place on earth.
As a boy, sure-footed and swift, I took for granted the splendor of my surroundings and the games I played within. Freedom was not an issue, the pursuit of happiness was achieved everyday it didn’t rain, and my life was protected under a sovereignty of justice.
As an adult I’ve naturally changed. My movement is slower, more deliberate. I now take stock in splendor wherever I can find it, and games are generally played when I have the time, money and inclination. Freedom, however, still is not an issue, the pursuit of happiness, as always, is a worthier endeavor when skies are sunny, and my life remains protected under a sovereignty of justice.
At what cost, however, has this sovereignty of justice, this backdrop of peace and democracy, this stage where the sum of our rights are absolute, and we, as a people, remain exempt from restraint of thought and movement, come?
The casualties lost in the many wars fought embody the answer to that question far better than the handful of words I could ever come up with. Suffice it to say we would not celebrate our history as a nation but for the immeasurable sacrifices made by the men and women who have gone before us. Nor would our country have ever positioned itself as leader of the free world. Perhaps the better question entails the cost Americans will endure in order that our liberties endure.
We stand at a time in history when the face of mankind is scarred by the filth of terrorism – when the sanctity of life is marred by man’s inhumanity to man – when prayer is worshipped by followers of hatred and deceit – when leadership is defined by utter madness – and, when the eve of destruction is but a holy war away.
Holy war. The world dangles from its tightening noose and I, for one, don’t even know what it is. I can make sense of the Holy Bible, Holy Communion, Holy Cross, Holy Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Grail, Holy City, Holy Bread, Holy Water, Holy Land and Holy Day. Come to think of it, I can even make sense out of Holy Moses, Holy Roller, Holy Cow, Holy Smoke and Holy Mackerel. I just can’t get a grip on holy war. To tell you the truth, if I had to put my best holy-war-foot-forward, I’d probably describe it as the quintessential contradiction in terms and let it go at that.
Let’s be honest – if holy encompasses that which is sacred and spiritually pure then it must be untainted by evil and sin. War, on the other hand, is the venom of evil and sin. Therefore, it is difficult, and if it were not so pathetic, comical as well, to think of holy war as sacred evil, or spiritually pure sin.
Now consider the term, holy shit, or, as the case may be, the discharge of spiritually pure excrement. I ask you, how can something so spiritually pure smell so sinfully awful? In my mind, it cannot. Moreover, because the purity in each instance is comprised of adulterating matter, I think it’s fair to say that there is a conceptual similarity between the two – one that spawns the argument that holy war and holy shit are cut from the same holy cloth. In other words, the declaration of holy war is, in reality, the act of taking a holy shit.
That said, I also don’t understand the quest for martyrdom; what has become a much ballyhooed byproduct of holy war. Does not martyrdom assume the state of self-sacrifice in the face of compromising principles and beliefs? Is it not the acceptance of fate and pain before the deprivation of faith and cause? And if so, how does that translate into murdering innocent people? How does driving a bus into a group of school children, blowing up a house of worship, crashing a jetliner into a building, or, frankly, setting off a bomb wherever and whenever possible, regardless of the lives at stake – how is that the acceptance of fate and pain before the deprivation of faith and cause, when, in fact, the only pain suffered is by the family of the murdered victims, and the only deprivation has been of the innocent lives taken?
Perhaps the answer lies in the premise… there are no innocent victims in the throes of holy war. Holy war is waged in the name of god against anyone who does not subscribe to that particular brand of holiness. Therefore, those who die are supposed to. Of course, for this to occur we have to believe that god both decrees and condones the taking of human life. It’s either that, in which case the god some of us have believed in all these years is a little more screwed up than we previously thought, or, there’s another god roaming the heavens out there. Unfortunately, that turns the situation into a, my god is better than your god scenario. Need I say more?
Actually it’s not a proposition in need of a response, for terrorism is not about god. It’s about repudiating capitalism, even though terrorists are the first to use capitalistic tools to fund their heinous acts. It’s about obliterating the spirit of democracy, celebrating instead, a repugnant form of government, one replete with all the oppression, corruption and bloodshed of a typically uneducated and contemptible nazi state. It’s about denying the same basic human rights that our country seeks to provide and protect, both at home and abroad. It’s about killing the sanctity of America’s freedom and her cherished way of life.
And now, as I continue to walk barefooted along the narrow ridge that joins the evergreen and the bitterroot, the insidious face of terrorism trying to block my view, I momentarily close my eyes – opening them, only to scan the rolling green fields that stretch from my feet to the arms of the Rocky Mountains. It is then when I hear the song, America the Beautiful, whistling through the crisp autumn air.
author: Robert Edward Levin