The Pale Criminal
by Marian Shuter

New Mexico, June 13, 1999 - Right now, I am reflecting on Friedrich Nietzsche's notion of an individual who has the courage of the knife, but not of the blood and, therefore, can be seen as the natural heir to this title. As his idea blossoms in my mind, I find myself also thinking about Clinton and Milosevic; and, for that matter, all of the names and voices crossing the air waves since March 24, 1999: Albright, Cohen, Blair, Cook, Clark, Holbrooke, Shea, and so on.

But then, I turn Nietzsche's idea on its head and think of the remote possibility that there might be a people who have the courage of the blood, but not of the knife. Here, my thoughts turn to all the innocent Serbian and ethnic Albanian civilians engulfed by Nato's bombing campaign.

What kind of courage must a person possess in order to live through 75 days of unrelenting explosions? Could those making the decision to continue bombing muster this type of courage themselves? Yet, I do not believe that one must have this experience in order to fully comprehend the groan of bloodletting. But it must be certain that one MUST imagine the continual flow of blood (if it is not already part and parcel of personal experience) in order to have the courage to behold it. This vision, if genuinely realized, becomes an excrutiating torment for all but the "pale criminal." For only those possessing this tortured vision can lead us towards peace. All others, by virtue of their inability to have such clarity of vision, can only lead us to slaughter.

When people can speak of their fellow human beings in such casual terms as "collateral damage," they are identifying with a voice that finds this language suitable for thoughtful discourse; here, they are revealing their lack of sight and insight as they witness life's force: the blood that sustains us all.

It is true that there will always be times when we must draw the sword in order to protect and defend our ability to maintain a life-giving field. But when we shift our way of thinking from that of protector and defender to that of aggressor and conqueror, well, we already know the results: just think of the people native to this country (if you would only be willing) and the "trail of tears" comes marching, once again, in Kosovo and Serbia.

I don't pretend to know why we never learn from our history lessons. It might have to do with the fact that, historically, history has been written by the victor. And if the victor's way of seeing denies him/her the ability to see the blood of the knife, then the words used by the historian (i.e., collateral damage and the like) will deny the reader any hope for the sight and insight necessary to experience an epiphany: that is, the courage of the blood.

I can only ask all politicians to stop killing us in the name of blood already lost. For it seems to me, more clearly, that the blood they wish to defend, they have never really seen.

Published June 13, 1999
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