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For Whom the Death Toll tolls

April 10th, 2012


John Donne and 1664 Dutch map of the world

“No man is an iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee….”
John Donne, Meditation 17, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, 1624

What was true some four centuries ago for the English metaphysical poet John Donne is timeless, even if his writ shows its linguistic age. Today it can also be said that no country is an island unto itself, no matter where or how you spin the globe. This is certainly the case for the United Sates, with our military still on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, targeted drones over Pakistan and Yemen, the smoldering aftermath of the bombs that brought down Qaddafi in Libya, the stench of made-in-the-USA arms just about everywhere. If, as Donne eloquently reflects, the death of any man (or woman or child) diminishes us, then why are we so hell-bent on adding to this diminishing by arming thugs and sending our military to die in other countries?

First, it is important to realize how much the death toll drones on daily. Take today, for example. On Al-Jazeera we learn there are “many dead in Afghanistan suicide blasts,” 18 dead and 45 wounded by the numbers. As the nominal peace part still fails to protect the dictator-weary people of Syria, reports are that some 9,000 have been killed so far by the Assad regime, including refugees over the border in Turkey. There are also “Pakistanis dead in apparent sectarian attack,“adding six more to the thousands who have been killed in the ongoing violence that plagues Pakistan. The see-saw fighting in Yemen’s troubled south leaves “Dozens killed in attack on Yemen army base.” And a few days ago “Hamas hangs three Gaza prisoners“.

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