THE BOUNDARIES OF COMPASSION, pt.2

15 04 2018

In a post a couple of months ago, I wrote about a dustup I was having with some old friends over Caitlin Johnstone’s posts, “Please,, Just Bleeping Die Already” and its follow-up, “Good,” written after McCain had been diagnosed with brain cancer. My friends were horrified that she seemed to be wishing death on someone, even a bloodthirsty maniac like McCain. I thought Ms. Johnstone’s view might fall under the rubric of “radical compassion,” doing whatever it might take to keep him from doing more damage (after all, hurting other people hurts oneself, as well), and decided to ask the opinion of a person I regard as an authority on what is, and is not, compassionate. After that conversation, I communicated with Ms. Johnstone, and on those bases, here is my response to my friends in that discussion group.

First, I want to lay out some context for the statement that “Caitlin Johnstone wishes John McCain was dead.” Here are a few statements that I think fall into the same category as this allegation about her.

Bernie Sanders thinks that all women want to be raped.” (Members of this group were repeating that one.)

Bernie Sanders supported Communist revolutionaries in Cuba and Nicaragua.”

Jill Stein is anti-vax.”

Jill Stein thinks cell phone radiation is dangerous.”

Here’s what those four statements have in common: they are taken out of context and/or distorted, and they are memes that originated with  the Clinton campaign/the DNC with the intention of discrediting opposition to Ms. Clinton.

The truth behind these statements is:

Sanders wrote about all women wanting to be raped as part of a radical diagnosis of the ills of society, not as an advocate of such violation.

Sanders, like most of those in his generation with a conscience, supported the overthrow of the brutal, US government-supported dictatorships of Cuba and Nicaragua, and their replacement with populist regimes that took away the wealth and privileges of the oligarchs and made life better for the common people.

The anti-vax claim against Jill Stein was based on remarks that she made cautioning about the over-commercialization and consequent low quality of medical care in this country.

The “accusation” that she is “anti-wi-fi” similarly came from her pointing out that there’s a lot we don’t know about long-term exposure to wi-fi radiation, and that European regulators have adopted a somewhat more cautious approach than we take here in the US. Since then, investigative reporting in The Nation magazine has revealed that the wi-fi industry has packed study and regulatory bodies and sought to downplay the dangers, which are very real.

So, how does “Caitlin Johnstone wants John McCain to die”fit into this?

My meditation teacher friend said, of course, that it is not OK to wish that anybody would just die, because as long as they’re alive they might see the error of their ways and change. “However, it’s OK to wish that they be removed from power, or even be struck dumb,” he said. He pointed out that, karmically, to wish death for someone else is to wish death for ourselves.

When I communicated this to Ms. Johnstone, she said yes, she is well aware of the dangers of wishing someone else would die, and she was not originating a wish for John McCain’s death so much as pointing out that his death wish for others, expressed both in his personal military career and in all the wars he has promoted since, was bound to rebound on him. For her part, as she wrote in one of the articles in question,

(It would be OK with me if he would) retire if he can recover from his addiction to human blood….. Whatever gets his horrible inner demons as far away from America’s steering wheel as possible.

….which is exactly what my meditation teacher friend said was permissible. Ms Johnstone is, to make a comparison, not wishing for McCain’s death any more than the little child who pointed out that “the emperor has no clothes” was wishing for, or responsible for, the emperor’s nudity.

That works for me, although I doubt that, given your partisan bias, it will be acceptable to you, since you found these articles (which I had not previously read) while looking for reasons to discredit Ms. Johnstone. We will probably have to agree to disagree.

There is, however, something I hope you will consider. A great many of those who are most prominently upset about this  alleged Russian hacking of our election, or collusion with the Trump campaign, or whatever it was (presuming that it was, at all), have compared Russiagate to 9-11 and Pearl Harbor. There are far more sources for this meme than I have time or energy to link to, but, for your benefit, here’s a link to a Glenn Greenwald article which cites quite a few of them. Yes, I know you detest Mr. Greenwald about as much as you detest Ms. Johnstone, but he’s sharing your side of the debate’s opinion with those links, not his.

This  comparison raises a couple of questions. The first is, since this attack took place while Obama was President, shouldn’t you be angry with him for his failure to respond with with what you apparently consider appropriate force?

The other question is, just what is the  “appropriate force” with which to respond to a Pearl Harbor or 9-11-type event? The World Trade Center attack prompted the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a “Global War on Terror” that, seventeen years later, shows no signs of winding down. Pearl Harbor was followed by US entry into what we now call World War II, culminating in  the only wartime use of nuclear weapons this planet has seen–so far.

That  seems to be what your “anti-Russia” movement is calling for, whether you personally approve of it or not. Since a military response to Russiagate would almost certainly involve thousands, if not millions or billions of deaths, it seems to me that it is a bit inconsistent (to be polite) for you to act so squeamish about what you perceive as a wish for the death of one of the many principal bad actors in this ongoing tragedy. Many, many people have been killed by weapons of war, but I don’t know of anyone who has been wished to death.

So I’ll leave you with that. “Leave you”? I have told you what I think, and you have told me what you think, and unless or until anyone changes their mind, there’s no point in wasting each other’s time  butting heads. One of the members of this group has remarked that I can’t seem to to take his hint about leaving this group, given my disagreements with  several of its more vocal members. I look at it more like, “I don’t give up easy.” For many years, we were partners what I still regard as one of the noblest and most nearly successful efforts I know of to put the human race on a saner footing, and it saddens me to see you now working for The Empire instead of The People, although I am sure that. in your minds, you are still working for The People–it’s just that now the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA are on your side–who woulda thunk it?!

When you find yourself caught up in a web with those spiders, consider the possibility that you are the fly.

So, I’m not going to actually leave the group. We go back too far, and too deeply, for me to be OK with completely cutting ties. I’ll be monitoring this group, but I won’t be posting or commenting unless I see signs of what I consider a change of heart taking place. And yes, if it turns out that I am the one who has a change of heart, you will be among the first to receive my apologies and a request for forgiveness.

For now, though, let the final words be Rumi‘s, and Terry Allen’s:

You are drunk, and this is the edge of the roof

music: Terry Allen, “That Kind of Girl

 


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31 07 2018
brothermartin

I just read a Caitlin Johnstone piece from last year, “Establishment Loyalists Spent Yesterday Circulating Blatant Lies About Glenn Greenwald,” in which she points out that the DNC’s hacks used the same tactic against Glenn that E. used against me, and Ms. Johnstone, in the interaction I am reporting on here: take a statement out of context and act as if it means what you say it means, not what the writer says. Do mean minds just tend to do the same things, or are we seeing evidence that there’s some kind of playbook, or at least a co-ordinated strategy, behind all this? Here’s the link to Caitlin’s piece:

View story at Medium.com

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