20 March 2008

Good Friday: The Bomb vs The Sopranos

Probably the most ridiculous thing I can say about myself is that I work at a US defense research lab, but I can't stand to watch the Sopranos, because the show is just too violent for me. It's ridiculous because the US military, with its nuclear arsenal, can dish out way more violence than the mob.

The work I do — designing some of the tools of the military trade, be they material or just software — is done to create so-called "force multipliers" which amplify the ability of our uniformed men and women to break things and kill people. It is one of those activities that His Holiness John Paul II would have classified as intrinsece malum — intrinsically evil. And indeed, tomorrow morning protesters will stage a demonstration at my lab, as they do each Good Friday.

It is as if they are trying to communicate that by pursuing my line of work I crucify Christ. But in large ways and small, we all do that. Their fantasy is that if the US just lays down its arms there will be peace on earth. The reality is that war is all too normal a part of the human condition, and that if you get rid of your own military, you will have to get comfortable with some other country's military.

In other words, if nobody did what I do, if nobody stepped into the moral gray zone of keeping our military well-armed, liberal democracy might have already have perished from the earth. Huge portions of humanity would be less free and less prosperous, if they would be alive at all. The effect of what I do is good, even if the intrinsic intent is bad.

Conversely, even though the intrinsic intent of the protesters is good, the effect of their policy, if put into effect, would be bad. This is because they are not actually making peace by what they do. They are merely making war on war itself. If their cause were chastity, they would be fornicating for it.

I can't really blame them. Fighting against war is almost infinitely easier than making peace. But fighting against war will not reduce or eliminate the need for a large, well-armed military. Only making peace can do that.

What I take from the protesters is that they don't like the way I crucify Christ. They want me to crucify Christ the way they do. That's the message of Good Friday. We all stand together on the same side of the cross. The side into which we hammer the nails.

So, in light of the Crucifixion, I have no problems with "right livelihood." But in light of the Resurrection, I have no answer except to say that the Spirit has not led or kicked me elsewhere. At least, not yet.

But I've said all this before, and another guy has said it at greater length. I guess as long as the protesters keep repeating their message, I may as well keep repeating mine.

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