OK, here's the deal...
I was planning to post some material today that continued and elaborated on yesterday's theme.
Owing to circumstances beyond my control, however, I didn't get home until nearly 9:00 PM, which was too late to start working on a proper blogpost about a topic as controversial as pacifism. So I'll get back to that issue tomorrow, and today's post will be one of those infamous quick-and-dirty "This Is Where I Am Now" diary-type posts Frank Turk rightly abominates.
This is where I was today...
I had a doctors' appointment scheduled today at 4:00 PM. (Routine annual checkup, but thanks for your concern.) My doctor nearly always runs at least an hour late, and yes, it's frustrating, but I've had the same family physician for 20+ years, so I keep coming back.
This time, it seemed to take forever, and I ended up not leaving the doctor's office till after 7:30. Since I arrived at 3:45, that broke down to an hour and a half in the waiting room proper, an hour and a half waiting in the examination room (during which I read every MAGAZINE AVAILABLE!! TWICE!!), and then a half hour with the doctor probing, scolding, and wondering aloud why my blood pressure was so high. Then it took fifteen minutes more to get all the paperwork done, referrals to the lab for blood work, prescriptions and sample packages of a new blood-pressure medicine, co-payments paid, release forms signed, and all the other annoying things things that make medicine these days so inefficient and costly.
Normally, I would have considered it a totally wasted afternoon, but something exquisitely interesting happened while I was in the waiting room.
The receptionist at my doctor's office is a notoriously brusque man. Let's call him "Duke." That's not really his name, of course. But he looks and acts like it should be his name. Anyway, Duke is a royal pain to deal with. He will always put callers on hold within 4 seconds of answering a call; it's become a reflex action with him. It's the way he routinely answers the phone. ("Doctor's office; please hold." Followed by on-hold music.)
If Duke ever promises to phone in a prescription to the pharmacy for you, you can guarantee he will forget, and you will have to track him down and listen to at least 10 minutes of on-hold music, so you can remind him to do what he said he would not forget. When you do track him down, he'll blame something beyond his control, and try his best to make you feel like you're being unreasonable. It's happened at least fifty times over the past five years.
Plus, he has zero people skills. He's been my doctor's office manager for more than a decade and for the life of me I cannot explain why. If I didn't have such high respect for this doctor's skill and such a long track record with this same family physician, I would switch doctors in a heartbeat.
But I digress. I hate dealing with Duke. I always let Darlene do it. And as sweet and gentle as she is, her dealings with Duke regularly test her sanctification. No way I would ever wish to take this scoundrel's side in a dispute with anyone over his bad manners.
Today, however, I did. Some drug salesperson got angry with him for refusing to let her see the doctor to explain the benefits of a new wonder-drug. This salesperson was a woman who started out real perky, butwithout Duke's really doing anything to provoke hershe became angry, started shrieking at him, turned her wrath against everyone in the waiting room, and finally called the police to report that Duke was "harassing" her. All this was just because he declined to let her see the doctor and then held his ground when she threatened to throw a tantrum.
That's what you call high-pressure sales. I've been a critic of Duke's people skills for years, but this time, he was not legitimately to blame.
The amazing thing is that the police actually showed up to investigate. By that time, however, the harridan had fled the premises, so there was no one to make a formal complaint. It would have been really interesting if she had stuck around. I think I would actually have felt sorry for Duke if they had led him off in handcuffs for basically doing his job. But it would have been a sweet thing to see anyway.
Actually, it couldn't have happened. Every person in the waiting room was prepared to give testimony that she was the one doing the harrassment. It was the biggest hissy fit I have ever actually seen in person, close up. She was good at it, too. And really believable. Her mascara was well and truly streaked by the time she finally left.
Anyway, my long and eventful day in the waiting room is the reason I didn't answer many of the comments that were posted yesterday. And that's also why there's no follow-up post yet. Stay tuned.
One clarification on the pacifism issue
I did appreciate all the comments and questions. Someone directed me to a neighboring blog, "Scribbles in the Sand," where Greg Ho raises a point I want to reply to. Greg, by the way, is a grad student at Princeton (so he's really slumming when he reads PyroManiac). He's also a former member of my church, and he reminds me that I met him once. (I do remember the incident, Greg, but just barely. Thank you for your kindness on that occasion.)
Anyway, Greg writes: "I agree with [Phil] on most of the points he makes, except the one about how it would be right to lob a grenade at Osama Bin Laden even if there was going to be known human collateral damage (if that were the case, why not nuke the whole country of Pakistan)."
Good point, and it raises an issue I need to clarify. What I said was, "As a Christian, I would have no compunction about pulling the pin and lobbing a grenade at Osama bin Laden, even if I knew it would kill bin Laden and everyone else within a 30-foot radius."
To be clear, my assumption is that Osama is still hiding in a cave somewhere, and everyone within a 30-foot radius of him is a terrorist, sympathizer, or support person.
Actually, if by happenstance I ran into Osama at the local Costco and there were moms and children in that thirty-foot radius, I'd try a different method to kill him. (If I could, I'd crack his skull with a tube of Costco's frozen ground beef.) My remark wasn't meant to indicate approval of all civilian "collateral damage." If there's a reasonable way to avoid it and still accomplish the military objective, I wouldn't condone deliberately killing non-combatants. Especially a tactic like nuking a whole country just to be sure you get one guy.
My point stands, however: I wouldn't accept the argument that "collateral damage" is always unjustified, nor do I think the mere fact of civilian deaths proves ipso facto that a tactic is immoral.
And if there are civilians who can actually get within 30 feet of Osama because they know him and are sympathetic with his terrorist tactics, or otherwise deliberately providing him a safe environment where he could blend in, I wouldn't hesitate to throw a grenade in amongst them in order to end his evil influence. I would be sorry and not glad about the collateral deaths, but I would regard them as justifiable nonetheless.
A few miscellaneous short answers
Here's a scattershot array of short responses to various comments on yesterday's post: Let's stay focused here. I didn't intend the post to be an apologia for "just war" theory, a defense of the current Iraq campaign, or an invitation to discuss what is wrong with our government's bureaucracy. (I don't recall even mentioning any of those subjects, pro or con.)
I did explicitly say it would grieve me deeply if I ever had to kill anyone.
And it ought to have been perfectly clear from the context that my remark about someone's brains getting blown out his left nostril was not a celebratory remark about anyone whose brains I actually witnessed getting blown out of said nostril. It wasn't a reference to any actual event at all, but a purely hypothetical argument. It was an attempt to make a graphic point about the justice of lethal force in the worst criminal cases. I stand by it.
I also want to point out how seriously twisted it is that in certain postmodern religious circles such plain language about justice for evildoers is deemed a greater social gaffeor at the very least, it is more likely to provoke outrage and draw a scoldingthan the actual wicked behavior of the evildoers.
I'll try, as time permits, to expand on some of these issues in subsequent posts. That's the best I can do tonight, though.