Everyone’s Loss, continued

Last week’s Musing got quite a response. I would like to respond to one comment, from Tom, which was posted. (If you are comfortable posting your comments rather than sending them privately to me, I do appreciate it.) I gave my thoughts on the Ramadan part in the comment section following the last posting, but decided that further elaboration was threatening to turn my answer into a short story. I said there that I would expand further in a new Musing. Here is the continuation:

As to other, tragic, loss of life, I did think about writing more -including about abortion as another comment mentioned – but the Musing was turning into an essay rather than a blog. I don’t begin to understand how God values different lives, but as a human being, I try to keep a few complementary, if on the surface seemingly contradictory, thoughts in mind. Firstly, as an American and a Jew, I do mourn more for American and Jewish dead.  This is no different than my being more emotionally involved with my own family than with my friends’ families, my neighborhood’s families or millions of other families around the world. I believe that the concept of ‘loving everyone equally’ paradoxically leads to less generosity and compassion rather than more.  Since we can’t take care of or help everyone, there is a danger that we end up taking care of or helping no one. There is a Jewish concept which gives a hierarchy for charity, which says that, “the poor of your city come before the poor of another city.” In practical advice the phrase, “your city,” means your ‘group,’ be it family, institutions from which you personally benefitted, friends and co-workers, etc.

This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t feel an emotional shudder when tragedy strikes people far away with whom we’ve had no contact. And as individuals we may feel the desire to do something rather than just feel something, which is praiseworthy. But like most other things in life, if we let emotion take over too much, we can cause problems rather than solving them. I have too frequently seen good-hearted people neglect their own spouses and children while heading a charitable event for a worthy cause. If this becomes a constant in their lives they sometimes end up doing tremendous harm to themselves and their family. It turns out that someone else could have replaced them in running the charitable event, but no one can replace their unique role as husband, wife, mother or father. Likewise, I know many church groups which most commendably send missions to Africa, South America and Asia to deliver medical care, work in orphanages and the like. When there is a disaster like a tsunami or earthquake, they raise large quantities of money as well. However, while it is less dramatic, they also consistently work with people needing assistance in their own neighborhoods, whether by providing homes for unwed mothers, tutoring or buying school supplies for kids whose families can’t afford them, etc. In my mind, if they only helped those far away or who made the headlines news, or even disproportionately helped those while ignoring the needs in their own back yards, it would be misplaced emphasis and the end result would eventually be less available for everyone.

So, I do not apologize for mourning the loss of American troops more than the loss of other country’s citizens.

As to the United States not having a monopoly on virtue, I would agree that we don’t have a monopoly, nor was virtue the topic of my Musing. But I think one would be ignoring reality to posit that all countries and populations are indistinguishable in the blessing they bring to the world. I think that it is a reasonable hypothesis to think that the entire world loses more in potential benefit through the death of American SEALs than by the death of an equal number of Pakistani or Iranian soldiers. It would be wonderful if other societies would change and evolve so that wasn’t so, and certainly there can be and are outstanding individuals, but statistically speaking American society does produce citizens who contribute more than the citizens of most other countries. Should America aspire to be greater and better than she is? Of course she should.  But the world would be a better place for all if hundreds of other countries aspired to be as great as America is right now. 

Once again, I am not speaking of the value of a specific human life in God’s eyes; I certainly cannot speak for God. But I think we diminish humanity’s potential by not recognizing that certain societies live in ways that produce more prosperity, technological progress and peaceful living. If we think that all societies are equal, then those of us who are blessed to live in America won’t examine what is special about our country, which places us in peril of changing in ways that will lead us to lose our advantages. If we insist that all ways of organizing society are equal, then citizens of other countries who face abject poverty and danger every day have no hope that they can seek to better their own lives. If countries’ successes and failures are random, the future can only be bleak.

So, while I certainly agree with you that America has made mistakes and is currently making mistakes, I give no apology for feeling more deeply when American troops are killed.  I do not apologize for believing that America is a blessed and unique country. I pray that she will continue to be a blessing to her own citizens and to the world by cleaving to the special characteristics which have made her so and which so many urge her to abandon.  

14 thoughts on “Everyone’s Loss, continued”

  1. I truly appreciate all of you who have taken the time to write. I am gratified that my thoughts expressed what so many of us feel and, too oftenfind ourselves misrepresented and ridiculed, for believing.

  2. Susan,
    This is my first time reading your Musings and I couldn’t have picked a better time to begin. Thank you for being unapologetic about mourning the loss of American lives more than the loss of others. It is refreshing to read such truth.
    America has contributed more to the world’s well-being in her short history than most of the world’s other countries combined. That is precisely because we have the freedom to be innovative and creative and to think “outside the box” as the saying goes.
    Your points are well thought out and equally well stated. I will make your Musings and Daniel’s Thought Tools part of my regular reading.
    Fred in Concord, Ca.

  3. I’ve never read your blog but am very impressed with your courage to speak the truth and your ability to speak it so well!

  4. Thank you, Susan – that was beautifully and bravely written. Thank you for taking a stand and writing from the heart, saying those things that many of us feel, but may not know how to express so eloquently.

  5. Susan, your Tisha b’Av Musing about the sad loss of so many American heroes is your personal expression, written eloquently. Those who seek to expand, edit or re-direct your thoughts appear to express their own agendas rather than respond to what you actually say.
    Your elaboration emphasizing that it’s appropriate to focus on those closest reminds us of the biblical basis from which you write. It’s a popular, media-fueled, movie-star belief that “doing something for the starving children in India” or some other far-off cause is more laudatory than helping neighbors–because the underlying assumption is that we in America are too privileged; ie we don’t deserve the assistance as much.
    BTW, the relative of a dear friend of mine was one of those just killed in Afghanistan. Here’s a story from his local TV network about the loss: http://www.kfor.com/news/local/kfor-7th-oklahoma-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan-20110816,0,2729450.story.

  6. I would like to say, regarding charity, that true charity is a freewill gift from an individual to another of his choosing, with no compulsion, penalty, or personal gain. For the government to take my taxes to provide “charity” to others (or even back to me) is a misappropriation of public funds. Just try declining to “contribute” to Social inSecurity; eventually someone with a gun and arrest warrant will be at your door.
    If each of us believed God, worked to provide for our own families, then helped the needy in our own circle of influence, we would all of us be much better people. But that is very hard to do when federal, state and local taxes take 50-60-75%, far above God’s 10% minimum.
    Praise God, and don’t bypass the ballot box.

  7. Thank you Susan for your comments both this week and last. My son is serving in the military and when I heard the news my heart also sank. Before I read your blog my son’s words echoed yours. We don’t realize the depth of giving and abilities that these young men have sacrificed for us. The Bible says in John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” I owe a great gratitude for my freedom to think and do as I please to men such as these.

  8. Beautifully and powerfully staed. We do humanity a great disservice if we fail to make distinctions between cultures and what they create or add to the world. The important and relevant distinctions are not based on race or ethnicity but upon the fruit born by a particular society. Many lament the failures of America and the west and at times they are heartbreaking. Still in the all too dark and tangled flow of human history — there has been no other culture since Eden that allowed it citizens the freedom and prosperity that is ours in this land, imperfect though it is. Thank you Susan for having the courage to say so. The death of those SEALS is a tragedy indeed and so is the death of any of our troops fighting in Afghanistan not to take over the country but to give the Afghan people a chance at democracy, freedom and dignity.

  9. Thank you, Susan for expressing your views so eloquently! I agree with your thought on this subject, completely!

  10. Hi Susan,
    You do not need to be apologetic about mourning the death of Americans.
    And your words ring true when you say loving every one equally means less love rather than more love. I just could not agree more.
    Oh! If only all of us try to become just a notch better than yesterday, we will make this world a paradise.
    At least, I vow to be like that.
    Let the change begin from me.
    Keep up with your musings Susan even when it becomes more of an essay as you bring in a lot of value to your readers.

  11. Certainly the loss of every single life is tragic; however, I believe it was Joseph Stalin who said, “The death of an individual is tragic. The death of millions is a statistic!”
    We look at the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of the Amalekites ordained by God in astonishment, not as horrifying as the death of 1/3 of the world Jewry in the Holocaust, because it the death of the Jews is both closer to us in time and relationship. Afterall, how many Amalekites do we know? Surprisingly more than we might imagine. Rabbi’s teaching on the see-saw relationship between the Spirit of Amalek (rising) and the Spirit of Jacob (currently eclipsed) in the world, points to Amalek rising in our state department, which through its largess toward the Palestinian Authority is actually paying the ‘salaries’ of incarcerated Palestinians with blood on their hands.

  12. Thank you Susan . That was beautifully stated. I appreciate the time you took to express your thoughts so well. It helped me understand my own feelings too.

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