Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lisa Kalvelage, "Murder One" and Situation Ethics

I can't help getting a little choked up every time I hear Pete Seeger's "My Name is Lisa Kalvelage." It's a musical transcription of 1966 remarks by the real Lisa Kalvelage, who had been a child in Hitler's Germany. She explained at a rally against the use of napalm that she had come to understand responsibility and "mass guilt."

When asked about Hitler's actions in Germany and where she was and where her parents were when various events occurred, she had no good answer and was initially denied an exit permit from Germany.

She stood at the protest May 25, 1966 that delayed the delivery of napalm and stated she was there because she didn't want to be asked by her children and children's children where she was when key events occurred and what she did about them.

These are certainly points that resonate with me in this, our present. I think about that especially as torture is discussed in so many corners.

I'm no fan of coddling terrorists, but reportedly, and I've only read this in a blog, not the Congressional record, my Congressman said he was OK with torture if it saved lives.

That's situation ethics of course, a classic case of the end justifies the means.

It's a path I don't think we need to go down as a people.

In the old and brilliant legal mystery series Murder One, Stephen Bochco had his lead character Ted Hoffman tell his younger associates: "We don't treat murderers well and give them fair trials for the murderers. We do it because it makes us better people."

As I sit and contemplate it all, I'm compelled to ask, is torture what it takes to feel safe?

Sadly, it's not always only terrorists who get tortured. Sometimes it's just cab drivers like Dilawar, focal figure of Taxi to the Dark Side.

Like Lisa Kalvelage, I've felt "forced to start thinking on this theme."

Dilawar was 22 years old when he died in 2002 in U.S. custody, guilty apparently of picking up a fare, of working at the best job he could find.

When I was 22 I worked as a reporter because it was a job that let me write.

Where was I, and what was I doing December 10, 2002?

I don't remember. But I was safe.

Is my life worth more than Dilawar's?


Miladysa said...

Sidney - Thank you for posting this. It is one of the most thought provoking posts I have read in a long time.

Sidney said...

Thanks milady. I kind of struggled with putting it together.

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree with Miladysa. It raises a lot of thoughts that many of us might prefer to gloss over. Maybe it's not popular. But it's worth considering.

Lana Gramlich said...

I appreciate the sentiment here, but ultimately safety & security are but illusions that have no basis in reality. Still, they're powerful illusions that have inspired too many people to give up too much freedom in their name.

kj said...

sidney, from mildysa's blog i visit you with curiosity and find myself reading every wise word.

i'm with you. fortunately, there are many many of us who fall on the side of humanity.

i'll be back. thank you.

Sidney said...

Thanks for dropping by, KJ, and thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

My mother is Lisa Kalvelage. I find it interesting to read what people think and say about her story because to me, she is just "Mom".

Thanks for the interesting comments.

Ingrid Kalvelage Owen

Sidney said...

Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the thoughts, Ingrid.

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