Reading For the Time Being by Annie Dillard. The book explores the far reaches of cruelty and of faith, from the Chinese Emperor Qin, Pol Pot of Cambodia and Stalin in Russia to the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a man of profound faith and also an anthropologist who discovered Peking Man. Dillard spends most of the book asking God: “Why?” Here’s a short excerpt, obviously from the “cruelty” part:
“After the battle Emperor Qin killed four hundred thousand prisoners. After another he located all the members of families who were his mother’s family’s enemies, and had them buried alive.
Those were cruel ages, East and West.
Quite recently, English policy deliberately starved a millions men, women and children in Ireland – one person in eight. Pol Pot killed one (or two) million of his own Cambodians – again, one (or two) in eight. Stalin’s decision to export grain, long before his 1934 purges, killed ten million peasants, and another ten million soviet citizens died in the purges and gulags. Communist China’s death toll tops these hotly contested charts at 72,000,000 ‘victims’. Mao’s Great Leap Forward policy alone killed 30,000,000 people in three years, mostly by hunger. In 1994 Rwandan Hutus killed 800,000 Tutsis in 100 days.”
Do we doubt that we are animals? Certainly the most vicious of all animals. These are our sisters and brothers killing our sisters and brothers. And we today quibble about the few measly people killed by ISIS. The United States is responsible for the deaths of 242,000 people in Iraq, including combatants. No one ever mentions that. The only thing the politicians in Alabama think worth mentioning is that they are lifetime members of the NRA.