A recent Sunday school lesson discussed Lot’s situation in Sodom and the pickle he was in when the men of Sodom came by with hostile intentions. I have always faulted Lot for offering his daughters to the attackers, but his actions became more understandable, however inexcusable, once I understood that in the culture of the day, one protected one’s guest even if it went against the best interests of one’s family. They would no more cough up a guest to an attacker than we would...well, offer our daughters to them for sex to save our own skins.
Innocent people died on 9/11, and I was among those who were calling for Muslim blood. When, after the invasion of Afghanistan, Jeff Katz, a local talk-radio host, defended the carnage at a wrongly identified wedding party by saying, “You know what? Our lives are more valuable than theirs are,” the only response I could muster was a feeble “I’m not so sure.” And when Don Imus’ morning radio program ridiculed the Afghan resistance, I was chuckling right along with him. After all, those damned Afghans were hiding Osama bin Laden. They deserved what they got.
There was another side to the story, I have since been told, and it would appear that the Taliban was acting more honorably than Uncle Sam. Imagine Uncle Sam as the men of Sodom—look at the covers of the magazines and tabloids at your local grocery store, or watch TV or listen to radio on random channels for an hour and you won’t think that’s such a far-fetched idea—and the Taliban as Lot (whose character was as far off the straight and narrow in one direction as the Taliban’s is in the other). Uncle Sam comes to the Taliban and demands—Uncle Sam never requests, as you know if you’ve been audited by the IRS—that the Taliban turn Osama over to him. Apparently the Taliban offered to see that the situation was mediated, but they would not simply turn him over, as Uncle Sam demanded.
Remember, the US, from Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the servant girl grinding grain was out for blood. What kind of host would turn over a guest to a mob that angry? We wouldn’t respect any jailor who turned his prisoner over to a mob, even if all knew his prisoner was guilty but would be released on a technicality. But we’re “better than they are.” Yeah, right.
So instead of agreeing to having the accused meet his accusers in a neutral court, we invaded. We didn’t even follow the Constitution’s mechanism of letters of marque and reprisal. We didn’t send in a few dozen special ops guys to find Osama and bring him to justice, even to a kangaroo court. Instead, we launched a full-scale invasion, killed thousands of innocent people, and turned already woefully impoverished communities to rubble. And after almost nine years, the US military still there and the stated objective of the original invasion has not been realized: Osama has not been found.
My atheist libertarian friends are often characterized as libertines because they believe that people should be free to choose what they read, what pictures they look at, and what substances they put in their bodies. They’re considered irresponsible because they don’t consider the secondary effects of legal narcotics, pornography, and the like.
Their response—our response, since I agree with them totally—is that it’s my responsibility as a parent to keep my kids from drugs and pornography just as much as it is my responsibility to stay away from these things myself. I’ve said before that I’ve made some stupid decisions in my life, but I can’t blame the purveyors of vice for them. Secretly lacing a free sample of pomegranate juice with cocaine is criminal, and those who do so need to make restitution (not go to jail); advertising hot babes on a Web site or magazine cover isn’t. The newsstand has an exit, the Web browser has a close button, and I can walk past the heroin, cocaine, and marijuana shelves in the grocery store. And if I don’t take advantage of these means of escape and teach my children to do the same, I have only myself to blame and my own resources to draw on to undo the damage.
But the folks in Afghanistan can’t just walk away from the war. They have no choice about living with the consequences, and if things go horribly wrong, they can’t look to the supporters of the war here at home to help them. The folks who support the war don’t have to pay for the damage. If the war doesn’t accomplish its stated ends, they don’t suffer. They’re only out their taxes. (Everyone who opposed the war is out their taxes, too, but the supporters don’t have to pay them back.) And speaking of the wars on vice, those who lock purveyors up are blissfully free of responsibility for the butt rape and other forms of assault and indignities that are an integral part of prison life, though of course, being decent people, they wouldn’t inflict those injuries themselves.
If that isn’t libertinism, I don’t know what is.