The Guilt of Bystanding

Mickey Z’s latest book, No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial, is an eclectic mixture of essays, quotations, quips, poems, quizzes, and lots of information (e.g., extinction lists).

Mickey’s essays are no-holds barred. He does not espouse logically contorted, wishy-washy positions like supporting the troops/killers while posing as anti-war. As an American, Mickey holds the average American culpable for the crimes of the country that are unopposed. The same would hold for citizens of other countries whose governments collaborate or run their own sordid policies. Mickey has too much respect for humans. He grants that each human has the faculties to read, listen, observe, think, and form their own conclusions on what is right and what is wrong; humans can, therefore, act accordingly.

There is no excuse for carrying out orders that are war crimes and crimes against humanity. Each of us bears responsibilities for our actions.

To allow one section of the antiwar movement to comfort the warriors while opposing their actions is, to put it mildly, perplexing. It is a paradox that finds pro-warrior, if not prowar, types posing as antiwar types. Mickey nails this paradox straight.

The carnage of humans runs as a thread through the book. Mickey finds that for some people, killing other humans is just part of the human condition, after all, species are perishing at an alarming rate.

No Innocent Bystanders is propeace, pro-humans, and pro-humanity. In other words, it is a book about people living together in peace, caring for the environment and for the other creatures on the planet.

People are responsible for not only their actions but their seemingly trivial contradictions, their silent complicities, their hypocrises, and their inactions.

The book is about people who claim to be environmentally conscious and drive a SUV. It is about people who claim to care about animal rights and wear cosmetics tested on animals. It is about people who claim they are opposed to war but coddle the killers. It is about people who pine for a new government and support lesser-evilist politics. It is about selfishness, that people claim to hold all life as sacred, but value and treat the lives of people near to themselves with greater reverence than the lives of strangers and those they hold dear.

No Innocent Bystanders is about the loss of liberties, and the valiant ones who defend those liberties, like Emma Goldman and Ward Churchill, while others do little. It is about exposing the hypocrisy and vacuousness of patriotism.

But Mickey’s book is not just a litany of what is wrong. While discomfiting for some, No Innocent Bystanders is an easy read, and it comes with simple solutions — as simple as challenging authority and obeying conscience — that, if embraced, would point the world in a sweeter direction.

That is the essence of No Innocent Bystanders: its call for valuing life and living for all.

Kim Petersen is an independent writer and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be emailed at: kimohp at gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 8th, 2008 at 10:01am #

    i don’t think that more than 5% of amers feel guilty ab US killing people.
    they may be angry/resentful/baffled.
    they r mistaught an disinformed. and, no, i don’t blame victims but perps.
    and, most importantly, not one amer will be sentenced even if she faces a court of law.
    natch, none will face ICC or future courts in afghanistan, iraq, palestine, korea, vietnam, nicaragua…
    conditioning has taken place just as pavlov dog had been.
    education might be the way out of the lawlessness. thnx

  2. Martha said on October 8th, 2008 at 11:41am #

    Bozhidar, you could be right. Hope not though. Thanks to Petersen for the review which both was a treat to read and informed me Mickey’s got a book out. This is the quote from Petersen I’d use in an advertisement for the book: “No Innocent Bystanders is about the loss of liberties, and the valiant ones who defend those liberties, like Emma Goldman and Ward Churchill, while others do little. It is about exposing the hypocrisy and vacuousness of patriotism.”

  3. rosemarie jackowski said on October 9th, 2008 at 10:33am #

    This is one more very good book from Mickey – a great Christmas gift, especially for teachers and also members of the military.