What is a single Texan’s life worth? Or a Louisianan? What is the value of a Floridian’s life? A Tennessean?
Monetary values are always the goto measurement but it’s always a stupid, clumsy measurement. One thing the monetary system does well is it establishes a standard. For a long time now the US dollar has been the preferred currency for international transactions (because it’s generally stable) and you can measure other currency values against it. Let’s try it with lives…
Is a Texan’s life worth more or more valuable than a Californian’s? Is a Floridian’s life more valuable than an Alaskan’s? Is this working? Maybe if we went by region. Is a Southern life less valuable than a New Englander’s? Are the lives of people on the west coast more precious than those of the Mid-West?
This still isn’t working. Fuck it. Let’s see if we can standardize the value of a human life by the same stick we use to value currency. With its record of stability following the Civil War, i.e. WWI, WWII, the Cold War, U.S. lives might work as a standard, right? Are U.S. lives worth more than German lives? Are U.S. lives more or less valuable than Liberian lives? Spaniards? Ukrainians?
Here’s why the question “whose life matters more?” does (and doesn’t) matter. Two dozen U.S. governors are refusing to allow Syrian refugees through their borders. Let’s leave the fact that U.S. law (both through legislation and judicial precedent) forbids this sort of refusal. As an anarchist, I hate arguing on the side of law, especially if there’s no need. These politician/reality stars are amplifying the death rattle of the Tea Party Conservative, the last host of the parasitic Christian Right. They have effectively told their constituents that it’s okay to say that Western lives hold more value than Syrian lives. In fact, if we roll with the conservative U.S. governors’ implied exchange rate and Obama’s pledge number for asylum, 126 Western lives equal 10,000 Syrian lives. Unfavorable, to say the least.
It gets worse.
Are these Republican governors saying no to a mere 10,000? Hardly. If Obama pledged 20,000 or 100,000 or told the whole lot of them they could have Death Valley nothing changes. Except the exchange rate. In practical terms, these politicians are saying to the world that 126 Western lives are worth 4.5 million Syrians. Syrian lives are literally worthless to the ignorant hillbillies and the paranoid ultra-rich of the United States.
Equivalent issues like abortion or the death penalty are murky, complex, and debatable. One cannot deny the difficult nuisances of other right-left issues in this country but are we really going to debate the very simple fact that 4.5 million fellow human beings need immediate asylum from almost sure death or enslavement? No life is worth more than any other. Not anymore. The right decries the attempted devolution of human society by groups like ISIS and yet it falls into the same ethical traps. According to a great many Shiite Muslims, Sunni Muslims do not deserve to live under the same sky. How is this any different than denying defenseless Syrian women, children, elderly, students, doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, architects, economists, engineers, pilots, firefighters, writers, artists, musicians a safe place to live? Both ISIS and the hard conservatives of the United States want to drag us back in time.
And once again, we find ourselves in a place where we are explaining the economics of terror to people who are either swindled by dogmatism or incapable of empathy. The truly horrific fact is that the jihadis of the Middle East are out maneuvering the jihadis of the West. The hard right of this country may mirror the extremists beheading innocents in the desert but only on a superficial level. On closer examination, U.S. conservatives are pawns in a game that one would think they understood by now. Yet, by turning refugees away, the hands of the fear mongers in the U.S. are in direct contact with every blade that slides across every throat. By demanding more war, they are unwittingly relenting to the tug of the marionette strings. ISIS wants the West to freak the fuck out over 126 dead bodies. When the West freaks out over 126 dead bodies, thousands if not millions of dead bodies will follow.
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