It's pretty natural to hate certain people for what they have done. I think a majority of people of my political stripe would admit to hating Rove, Bush, Cheney, and a lot of other members of the recently departed Administration. We want them to be brought to justice: we want them tried, convicted, and given some sort of harsh punishment.
I have been thinking a lot about this hate thing lately. For starters, I notice that I don't do my mind, my body, or my spirit much good by hating. Hate is a corrosive emotion, and I have seen people become progressively more twisted by hate over time. I don't want to become like that.
The Hopi, I am told, have a very different world-view than ours. If someone commits a very heinous crime, they see the offense as proof that the perpetrator is spiritually sick, and they hold healing ceremonies for the criminal. To them the situation is obvious: the person has done something that no normal, mentally and spiritually healthy person could have done. Therefore there is a terrible defect within the person that it is the business of the healers to remedy.
For the past few years, and for an unforeseeable time into the future, military and mercenary fighters have been and will be coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many--maybe most--will be very injured. The preponderance of the injuries will be subtle and hard to detect. There will be very many brain injuries, that only sophisticated medical and neuropsychological testing can detect. There will be the emotional sequelae of trauma. Not just classic PTSD, but a whole range of what are coming to be called Disorders of Extreme Stress (not yet in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, now in its fourth edition, but watch for it in DSM-V). And there will be something else--something that we saw in a number of Vietnam vets, but which I think will be endemic in the Middle East returnees. It doesn't have a name yet, and there will be great efforts from officialdom to deny its very existence. For lack of a better name, I will simply call it Spiritual Sickness. It is the product of long-held guilt. For some, the guilt will be due to having killed a child who was mistaken for an armed enemy. For others, the guilt will be from deliberate acts of cruelty and inhumanity like those we know of from Abu Ghraib.
Even as you read this, our land is being populated by increasing numbers of people whose injuries of body, mind and spirit will create severe problems for generations to come. Some of them will be emotionally unstable and dangerous. Others will simply be unable to hold jobs. Many will drift into addictions to whatever substances or behaviors they can find to blunt their physical and emotional miseries.
Our immediate response will, no doubt, be the same as it has always been in the past. We will deny the existence of their injuries so that we don't have to pay to treat and support them. We will build more jails and prisons for them. We will perhaps find ways to make more use of the death penalty.
Would it not be better to learn from the Hopi? Let us treat our veterans with compassion, recognizing that, if some of them have become monsters, they did not ask to be made into such creatures. Let us try to heal them, and if we can't heal them completely, let us find ways to care for them humanely and provide for their needs.
But in order to take this path, we must give up something. We must give up our hate.
And that, you see, is the rub.
I believe, with the Hopi, that people who commit monstrous behaviors do so out of a spiritual sickness. I believe that is true in every case. I think this principle applies no less to George Bush than it does to Lynndie England.
Surely we must protect ourselves from those whose disorders render them dangerous. Again, this is no less true of a George Bush than of a Jeffrey Dahmer. But, while providing for our own safety, we must treat our damaged people with generosity and compassion. In the land of an Eye for an Eye, everyone ends up blind; however, we are about to enter a time in world history in which we will need every bit of vision we can muster.