Sunday, April 20, 2008
“The Coin Don’t Have No Say”
“It’s just you.”
Those lines are from the ending of No Country for Old Men. A small town young woman has just come upon a psychopath in her home. The uber-controlled stranger has already killed her mother for no substantial cause, and now he asks the woman to call his coin toss. Whether she guesses heads or tails will determine if she lives or dies. But the woman refuses to choose. She quietly but adamantly tells him: “The coin don’t have no say; it’s just you.”
It’s not chance. It’s not fate. It’s not God.
It’s just you.
It’s just me.
It’s just all of us collectively.
There’s so much, so very much wrong in this world that we shrug off as not our responsibility. Things that are not truly inevitable or beyond human control. But we refuse to acknowledge that fact because it’s uncomfortable. What can we do anyway, right?
None of us ever mention the fact that our president and vice-president are oil men from way back. Or the fact that this may well have influenced their decision to attack and occupy Iraq. To squander so much innocent blood. Estimates are up to a million Iraqis now, over half of whom are children. And several million more homeless or displaced. Over four thousand US soldiers dead, many of whom signed up because a military life is all we offer our young people. No affordable education. No decent jobs, while we give subsidies to companies shipping them overseas. We’re still even giving subsidies to oil companies, who’ve actually never in history been pulling in so much money. If you’re in oil or military industry, you’re probably doing just fine; nobody’s even been overseeing the industry dealing—and cheating—going on. But most of us are hurting.
With run-away inflation and recession, people not only in this country but across the whole world right now are not able to feed their children. While we bail out the banks that took reckless risks with “sub-prime” mortgages, we tell all the families losing their homes from predatory lending that it’s not right to bail them out. It was our Senator from Minnesota, Paul Wellstone, who first came up with the term “corporate welfare.” That’s what’s been both running and sinking this nation for a very long time.
It’s sad, but we can’t help any of that, right? Just the way it is. It’s beyond our control.
The pope has been visiting the US and tries to apologize to all citizens who’ve been sexually abused by priests. He also tries to explain away being a Nazi Youth in Germany. But I check his words for any true repentance and find none. How can I say that? Because nowhere in any of his words does he accept personal responsibility for his own choices. Living in Germany in the time of his youth did not actually necessitate joining the Nazis, as he suggested. Other German youth chose to become members of the Resistance. Does he mention that not so very long ago he was the person in charge at the Vatican for threatening Catholics with excommunication if they spoke about any known priestly pedophiles, who were silently shunted from parish to parish by Vatican decree? Nope, of course not.
It seems to me sometimes that half the human energy of the world is engaged in avoiding taking responsibility for anything.
In No Country for Old Men, by not making the coin call, the woman refuses to participate in her own death, and mirrors the responsibility of her murder back onto the murderer. Right where it belongs.
Of course, ironically, her refusal also bypasses her one shot at life. But I like to think it was because of her conscious decision not to participate in human evil, her own choice demonstrating what was more important to her: to speak truth and not participate in the psychopath's world view. So she has some of the responsibility for her death after all, too. But, as 'they' say, it was a good death.