by Susan Soric
The following Call to Confession comes from a service that Rev. Loren McGrail and I did at our home church of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ. This Confession became the inspiration for the name of our blog Awake to Drones. I invite you to be in touch with how the use of robotic warfare is affecting you. Trust your gut instincts.
|Hear My Cry|
A few months back, when our daughter was a little over a year old, we were watching an extremely innocuous, usually very comforting and quaint little British children’s show called Postman Pat. It was about an ordinary and uncomplicated man named Pat who loved his job in the village, loved his wife and son, and was truly very happy. But one episode contained an unusual character. Postman Pat was overwhelmed with all the packages he was delivering and wanted to find a way to get some help, so he created a robot, which he was demonstrating for Mrs. Goggins in the post office one day. When our little girl saw the boxy, bug-eyed, gangly can of metal lurching and flailing, smashing windows and knocking things over; she started to panic. Aaaah aaah! AAAAH! She cried, and of course I stopped the show very quickly.
I have pondered that moment, taking to heart the terror in her voice, her innocence, her lack of understanding of the world and of human creations; and yet for all that innocence there was something primal, maybe even instinctual, something real and deeply human in the fear she expressed at that lifeless, yet moving, machine. My theological mind turned immediately to the lack of humanity in the robot: the absence of something familiar, reassuring, comforting. Inhumanity, non-humanity. Disembodiment. Perhaps she was expressing the lack of connection one feels to something that is not of you.....not your kin.....But why did I not feel that way about the robot? Yes, I’m old and jaded, but maybe I also wasn’t tuning in to a place within myself that our daughter could touch immediately. What was happening in that place deep in side me that numbed me to the horror of a lifeless imitation of humanity?
And that brings me to our focus for today. Robots of death. Death by drone. Killing by remote control. Since taking office, President Obama has been undertaking a personally-directed, CIA-administered, high-tech assassination campaign in Western Asia (particularly in Yemen and Pakistan), using drone technology to target what he describes as terrorists. Some reports estimate that Obama has personally ordered hundreds of assassinations by drone since he took office, striking out at supposed Al Qaida targets while also killing innocent children and adults. Technology is not always bad. It can be life-saving, but in the hands of the powerful, it can also be an abomination.
Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich warns us that the executive power of the presidency is now unleashed, and our system of justice is being radically altered. “I feel that we have had a kind of psychic dismemberment from our foundational causes of nation,” says Kucinich. “How did the nation, that was founded under such egalitarian principles, find itself running a killing bureaucracy? How did that happen? How did we make that journey? This is clearly a story of a nation that is losing its way in the world to a mixture of fear and hubris,” Kucinich said.
I believe that fear is a natural instinct, and sometimes we do need to protect ourselves from trauma. But our faith also reminds us that we also must do the opposite. We must sensitize ourselves to the fear and trauma and suffering around us so that we can be of help; so that we can promote an end to violence and the establishment of peace.
Some of our United Churches of Christ once used the crucifix in worship. This is one such crucifix that a suburban UCC church was giving away at a recent wider church meeting. Gone are the wretched bodies of Jesus once mounted on our crosses, and for good reason: Jesus is no longer dead, but alive. Resurrected. But our faith also calls us to remind ourselves that death is real; murder is real. Assassination is real. Real flesh-and-blood bodies die. People made in the image of God die every day at the hands of other human beings. This crucifix reminds us to be fully human. It reminds us that when we kill others just because they are vigilantes, because they are different, because they are a threat, that we are destroying a part of the very God we profess to love and part of ourselves as well.
“I think,” says Kucinich, “the people of the United States would be horrified if they actually understood how many innocent people are being swept up in the maw of these wars. So people are just permitted to sleep. And it’s going to be very disturbing for the American people when they awake from the slumber to look out upon a world where there’s carnage everywhere that’s created by our nation without any legal process, without any constitutional basis and without any articulated justification.”
I have been asleep. Where have you been? Is there any justification for this kind of killing: either killing by cross or by drone? When will we awaken and cry out about the horror of it all? And once we reach that place of gut-felt anguish, what will we do about it?
image from Patrician Sotarello and AFSC