Of war, blood sacrifice, and Cindy Sheehan

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Of war, blood sacrifice, and Cindy Sheehan

Postby starroute » Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:19 pm

I've been kicking some thoughts around, and though they're still pretty half-baked, I think they're developed enough to toss out into the general conversation.<br><br>Premise #1: Sacrifice works. Even on a day-to-day level, we assume that we have to give certain things up to get other things in return. ("No pain, no gain.") Deaths in particular, can be strongly empowering to the survivors -- and this is and always has been most true of a willing death in a worthy cause.<br><br>Premise #2: The power-hungry among us never see any source of power without wanting to harness it for their own benefit. For thousands of years, the powerful have been attempting to harness the psychic power of sacrifice. But the catch is that those people aren't psychologically capable of giving *anything* up. So a long time ago, they adopted the practice of "sacrificing" things and people they didn't really care about -- such as the cow they were going to eat for dinner anyway, or enemy prisoners, or criminals, or the children of the poor. (This is what anthropologists call "acquisitive sacrifice.")<br><br>Premise #3: For a variety of philosophical and political reasons, the public practice of blood sacrifice was given up in the West a long time ago. But sacrifice itself is still very much a part of the social dynamic -- and so is the struggle over who will reap the benefits of sacrifice.<br><br>War is the most obvious form of blood sacrifice remaining in our society. Forget all the supposed political causes of wars -- for the moment at least, let's assume that the only real cause of wars is as a convenient excuse for sacrifice. The crucial question then becomes: Who does that sacrifice empower?<br><br>The standard version in our history books is that "good" wars empower the people who willingly fight and die in them. All that old stuff about the tree of liberty being nurtured by the blood of patriots, or however it goes. Wars for freedom. Wars for democracy.<br><br>That might even be true, at least to a degree. But it's equally true that the "bad" wars can be seen as nothing but a form of acquisitive sacrifice on the part of the elite. And since 1950, we've had nothing but bad wars -- which we've had to keep pretending were good wars, so that we won't notice our children are merely being fed into the maw of Moloch.<br><br>But here's the joker -- along comes Cindy Sheehan and threatens to blow the racket wide open. She wants to know for what purpose her innocent, altar-boy son had to die. And that's the last question Bush and his cronies are capable of answering.<br><br>However, there's more to it than embarrassing questions. The crucial fact is that Cindy Sheehan has quite literally been empowered by Casey's sacrifice. That is how she gets the psychic strength to do what she is doing and why she attracts the attention she is attracting. And the forces arrayed against her will do anything to take that power back -- for example, by claiming that Cindy's family does not support her, or that Casey would not have approved.<br><br>But it goes beyond one mother and one soldier. Consider the whole business with the crosses in ritual terms. The protesters at Camp Casey are using those crosses in an attempt to reclaim the sacrificial power of *all* the soldiers who died in Iraq. And the forces against them are trying to prevent that, by means ranging from physical desecration to having a few pro-war parents show up and demand "their" crosses back.<br><br>I personally don't know whether magic is objectively "real" or merely an aspect of human psychology. But no matter what "magic" ultimately means, what has been going on at Camp Casey has been a magical conflict in every sense of the word.<br><br>And it isn't over yet.<br> <p></p><i></i>
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