Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How To Avoid Kneeling Before Zod

It's a cliche in any comic book inspired superhero movie (or other mythic hero vehicle) for there to come a point when the nefarious villain grasps that the exploitable weakness of the otherwise formidable protagonist lies in that chartacer's soft-spot for the innocent lives of the hoi polloi.

This opening was utilized with particular cunning by General Zod and his cohorts in Superman II, though Lex Luthor never shied away from a little leveraging of mass civilian death to compel Superman to act as desired. Other examples abound in the realm of geekdom.

In an interesting twist on this oft-repeated motif, Grim at Black Five attempts to extricate "truth, justice and the American way" from the messy entanglements that arise when an otherwise heroic United States becomes overly concerned with the loss of innocent life. Actually, Grim is talking in particular about the lives of children - and not just of our enemy, but our own as well.

His argument has something to do with the notion that our concern for the lives of children makes them useful as targets and human shields, the value of which would decrease if we cared less for them and that in the long run, this might make them less susceptible to die in armed conflict. Or so it goes.

On the other hand, one could easily imagine how callous disregard for the lives of children could also lead a combatant to, unsurprisingly, care little about killing the children of his enemy for any reason or none. At the very least, they represent potential future combatants that could be preemptively elimiated. And, after all, who cares about a couple thousand dead children anyway?

Not to mention the fact that Grim's particular formula would only really work if both sides agreed to jetison their quaint and overly sentimental attachments to children. If one side in the equation persisted in caring for children, their utility would be preserved.

Nevertheless, here is a relevant excerpt from his imaginary dialogue with a "gentle peaceful soul."

"If we did not care if our children died, they would not be targets. There would be no reason to target them, because we would not be moved by their deaths.

"If we did not care if their children died," I add, "there would be no reason to clutter military emplacements with their presence. If it were not that we are horrified by the deaths of children, the enemy's children would be clear of all places of battle -- because they are, except for the fact that we love them, a hindrance." [...]

..."Here: That we pursue war without thought of the children. That we do not turn aside from the death of the innocent, but push on to the conclusion, through all fearful fire. If we do that, the children will lose their value as hostages, and as targets: if we love them, we must harden our hearts against their loss. Ours and theirs."

"We can only do," I must warn her, and you. "We can only do, and pray, that when we are done we may be forgiven."

Holy up-ended morality Batman!

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