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To Die For

I was saddened to hear of the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Saddened to know that there are still people out there who believe that might is right and that they can win by violence, as if the world is going to stand still and just put up with their crap. Saddened to think that this 54 year-old woman will never see her children grow up and will never know her own grandchildren. Saddened for the prospects for democracy in a country that so desperately needs it to work – not for the international security of the world, but for their own self-determination.

Ms. Bhutto’s death got me thinking: What would I be willing to die for?

In truth, not much.

Oh, I’d be willing to die for the usual – my husband, my family, and, if threatened, my faith. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t deny my Christian faith if faced with anti-Christian assassin asking me if I believed in Jesus, as occurred at Columbine.

Would I die for my country? Probably not. Not because it isn’t worth it. Because the idea of “dying for my country” has, in this country, been stretched so far from the idea of national defense into the idea defense of national, or rather international, economic and geopolitical interests. We send our men and women in uniform to die for nations that aren’t democratic and don’t aspire to be (Kuwait) or that don’t want democracy bad enough such that their own people rise up to die for it (Iraq). I think we perpetrate a huge lie when we say that every person in uniform who is killed in action has died for our country when in truth they have died at the request of our country.

Would I die for my people? Probably not. I remember when I was taking Professor Derrick Bell’s “Civil Rights at the Crossroads” class at Harvard Law School when he posed this same question of us students. One of my law school classmates, who is African American, said no, she wouldn’t die for her people. Why? She responded, “Why would I die for my people when my people don’t even love themselves?”

Perhaps that’s precisely why we as African Americans should be willing to die for our people – to show them that someone loves them enough to die for them, even if they don’t love themselves. But would my death in the service of advancing my people make my people any better off, if only to ponder the reason for my sacrifice? I doubt it. If the sad but understandable death of Rosa Parks or the untimely demises of Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz didn’t shake us out of our embrace of ignorance over education, tattered family units over unity and primacy of children’s best interests, and materialism over wise economic stewardship, I don’t know what else could.

Is the fact that I haven’t found much other than my husband, family, and faith that I’d be willing to die for mean that I don’t know what I’m living for?

Perhaps. So, my goal for the New Year is to ask myself: What purpose am I willing to die for?

Perhaps you should ask yourself the same thing. Because we’re all going to die, but at least some of us will know what we’re dying for. Like Benazir Bhutto, may she rest in peace.

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