When I was a child in Spokane I recall there would
occur very forceful, though temporary rainstorms from time to time during the spring
and summer months. It happened like this. Like as not I would be in the front yard of
the house or on the porch and abruptly it would cloud over and rain would start to
fall. Then the rain would fall harder and harder still until it would raise the dust
six or eight inches up off the dirt street in front of the house. This downpour never
lasted more than a few minutes, but its intensity always fascinated me. Then the sun
would force a bright presence and the air would smell wonderfully clean and
I think that I should like to experience a rain like
that on the day I decide to set down my glass and pick up my revolver. I would know what
to expect after the shower, to be able to breathe the clean air and feel refreshed. What
I did then with the blue piece of iron would be of only minor importance.
No one in this society is permitted to speak or write
of self-destruction without being reckoned a mental case. And yet in other societies,
the Oriental comes to mind, older and considered by some to be wiser than our own,
seppuku is not only a fact of life, it is a factor to life. I am not sure why I hold
such an anomalous view on such a universally condemned practice in light of the
fact that so many of my other views are traditional to the point of stuffiness but
I've never been able to get the notion out of my head that each man has the right to
metabolize or not metabolize. May I quote Ambrose Bierce? From The Devil's Dictionary:
"Life, n. A spiritual pickle preserving the body from decay. We live in daily
apprehension of its loss; yet when lost it is not missed."
So why the moribund humor? The virtue of seppuku
crosses my mind regularly and I sometimes get lonely for some companion to discuss
the subject with in a thoughtful and caring way. But alas, the register contains no
such one. Have they all committed the act before I could discuss it with them? How
ironic. I am reminded of Dr. Van Dellan's medical advice column in Spokane's
Spokesman-Review. Nothing noteworthy every appeared, or so I thought. One day however
I read this response by the Good Doctor to the query, "Can sterility run in the
family?" "Not for very long."
I thought of seppuku this evening as I watched a
videotape of the 1963 Italian film Mondo Cane. I did not see the film on its theatrical
tour that year, though I hear from associates what comprised the subject matter. During
its national run, Mondo Cane was considered shocking, dramatic, sensational, exploitive,
and highly commercial. Today it is merely a curiosity of a more naive time. New Guineans
breast feeding pigs and then later bashing in their heads for a once-every-five-years
potlatch, children polishing skulls in a centuries-old Italian abbey, drunkards of both
sexes in modern Germany, the sons of the Spanish upper crust matching wits and body size
with El Torro in the ring, the Cult of the Airplane Worshipers, American pet cemeteries,
animal abuse, etc.
The point of the documentary, it would seem, is that
the world is a pretty bizarre and unfriendly place. Well, most of us have suspected
that since the time the neighbor's kids put our cat in the dryer. But to see it all in
living (and dying color) right there on the projected image before us ... that, as the
young people would say, is pretty heavy duty.
No one committed seppuku, however. Even in this low
and basely portrayed world, everyone struggles for his/her/its daily bread (and often
butter). Why, to kill one's self is the coward's way out, as we've been told from
kinderhood. It's the American tradition that whenever a man has committed a cowardly
act such as striking a woman, child or animal (or even a lesser man), then that
wretched man promptly commits seppuku to atone for his cowardice. We try no cowards
for desertion under fire in the military; they wisely turn on themselves the arms
issued to them by our government. Cowards always commit seppuku; that is why America
is the Home of the Brave. We can't have a percentage of the population who cowers in
time of national emergency, can we? Cowards have the obligation to snuff themselves
and thus prevent others from imitating their cowardly behavior. We all live today
because only a coward would commit seppuku. It's a naughty thing to do ... something
done in the bathroom with the door locked. It's nearly always messy, seldom creative,
and invariably illegal.
In Mondo Cane man's inhumanity to man (and animal)
was graphically drawn. (Interestingly enough, the theme for the film is a song
entitled, "More.") Yet even the exploitive Italians couldn't bear to factor seppuku
into their equation of "man as dirtbag." We can easily, even tediously watch abuse
after abuse dispensed to savage and civilized alike, but let Dick help Jane slash her
wrists and the downpour on the dirt street intensifies.
My view is this: we each come into this world without
any choice whatsoever. We have no choice of life itself, parents, community, race,
mental capacity, physical fitness or emotional stamina. We can be members of what
Donald Trump calls the "Lucky Sperm Club" and find ourselves the off-spring of affluent,
well-heeled Connecticut gentry. Then again we may discover to our horror that we have
been born the twelfth kid of a dirt poor Sudanese goatherd.
In America today we have what is known as the
"pro-choice" special interest group. The pro-choicers insist that a woman has the
right to leave an unborn fetus to quicken in her womb, or to erase her "mistake" if
she so chooses and have the little beggar snuffed out. No choice for little beggar.
Now should the woman elect to keep little beggar alive until his birthday, then
instead of the gift of pro-choice passing to him as his birthright, he's given a slap
across the buttocks.
"Choice, not chance, in the modern Army," says the
recruiting poster. If you join us "willing to be killing" this nation's enemies, you
are free to choose the capacity in which you'd like to perform that duty. If, however,
you tell us that you are "willing to be killing, wanting to be killing, and waiting to
be killing," then we can't use you. "Willing to be killing" is all that's acceptable.
Of course, we can't give you the choice of whom to kill, that right is reserved for
those trained in knowing who best deserves to die. And, too, we can't give you your
choice of weapons; you must use our weapons, which you will find are much more
efficient than boiling in oil, guillotining, garroting, bastinadoing, starving, or
talking to death.
The Army is pro-choice and the Army is in the
business of death. But seppuku: no entrepreneurs are welcome.
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