Monday, June 21, 2010

Though it is the first day of summer, the Polish temperature has been marvellously clement. The air is sweet and breezy, and the sky a glorious, marble dome of swirling greys, blues, and creams. I feel a bit guilty enjoying this sort of weather as it threatens rain, and Poland has suffered enough from flooding. So I pray that the sky gives way to sunshine, and that the Polish election places a patriot at the helm of her courageous, fragile barque.

M thoughts dominated by these concerns, I strolled down Nowy Swiat today towards the Presidential Palace. There was the wooden cross, now decorated with rosaries, erected in memory of the dead in Smolensk. There was the mass of votives burning before it. Only not all were burning. The brief drizzle of mist that had wetted the ground had put out the flames uncovered by the little brass steeple housing the other candles. There were thirty extinguished candles laid out in the form of a cross.

I knelt down, and spotting the fragments of some matches, attempted to light them myself, whispering a few prayers for the election's results. I succeeded only in getting ash under my fingernails while the candles I lit quickly went out in the breeze, and the matches were reduced to hot charcoal.

A minute or two into this sisyphean task, I glanced to the left and saw a soldier's boot. I felt a brief rush of adrenaline--the sort one experiences when his passport seems to be lost or a large dog lunges at him from behind a wire-linked fence. It dissipated quickly, especially as the guard only smilingly said: 'Pani swoje spódnicy będzie brudna jeśli klęczeć na chodniku.' I smiled back at the handsome young man and indicated in my poor Polish that it didn't matter if my skirt got dirty, as it was grey and nothing would show. Still I gave up my task of lighting the candles and left, feeling a little silly at how much fear tends to well up in me at the sight of a soldier or an officer.

All day, I have been analyzing that ridiculous, but habitual reaction, and my thinking returns again and again to one fact. These uniformed men are tools of the State, and my life is worth something to the State
per accidens, not per se.

For those who have not had the pleasure of Porphyry or Aristotle, let me explain.
Per accidens relates to properties inherent in a thing because of what it is, but they do not make the thing to be what it is. Example: a crow is black. All crows are black, but that is not what defines the nature of 'crowness.' Man is featherless and is made to walk on two legs, but the quality of having no feathers and requiring a pair of feet is hardly an apt description of man's nature.

Per se
properties are those that separate things according to the qualities that define their nature. Frogs are separated from fish not because of their four limbs, but because of their amphibious nature. Man is classified as different from other animals not thanks to his upright stature or his nakedness, but because he is rational. It is therefore extremely disconcerting that some accidental property one possesses for a temporary amount of time is all that keeps one from being branded an burden to the State. It is a deadlier condition than being a criminal; after all, how many criminals are executed?

On March 22, 1984 circa 20:00, I became a legal member of the human community. I now had a right to life, and the State had an obligation to protect me. Yet, up until that moment my life was in the hands of two individuals. If my mother and father had decided they wanted a little more time after getting married to start having children, if they had not been natural parents that welcomed life and were willing to sacrifice for it, if there had been no love in their hearts, then I could have been dead before that spring day in March.

The Supreme Court of the United States would have left my fate entirely up to my mother. My mother however is a woman that has long campaigned against that abominable allowance of the law, and my father is a man who reveres all human life as sacred. I live at their behest; one from the generation of survivors.

Yet, I am not safe yet. As Terry Schiavo's murder has shown the world, one must retain full possession of one's faculties to have recourse to 'justice.' Should I lapse into a vegetative state, I can expect to be treated like a vegetable.

Assuming I escape the privation of my faculties of mobility and speech, decades from now, I may find myself aging in a world that has come to the logical conclusion of its principles. Where abortion abounds, euthanasia must follow. The men in uniform who are charged to protect me now may very well be overseeing my death one day.

I don't know. One really can't be sure, but perhaps that little, irrational start at the sight of an officer is the intuitive feeling that given the right circumstances, I can't trust him with my life. I can't trust the State.


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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