Several years ago a woman served me apple pie from a recipe of her cousins in Chicago, the descendants of her great-aunts and great-uncles who fled to America after yet one more Russian pogrom. She left more recently, only a decade or so ago. She is a Jewish settler on the West Bank. She explained to me that the land around us was all part of Greater Israel promised by God to the Jews. She returned home to a place she had never been.
As she spoke, my mind and senses disassociated from each other. The sweet smells and tastes, the kindness, and her patient sincerity in explaining this God-given truth, did not fit for me with the root meanings of her words, i.e. this land is a Jewish right that trumps the legitimacy of the non-Jews who have lived here for hundreds and hundreds of years, so we are reclaiming it.
She wished no harm to the Palestinians. In fact, she wanted to join them in one state. They could even fly their own flag if they wished, though they wouldn’t be allowed to vote, of course, or run structures that would govern their lives. When she saw my perplexity, she added, “At least not at first.” That is, they would be disenfranchised second-class citizens on their own land, which would be called “Israel.” That the land had been called “Palestine” for two thousand years had no substantive meaning to her. “If you read the Torah you would know . . .” she said, that Greater Israel extended even into Jordan and Lebanon.
Manifest Destiny is a dangerous concept built on myths of entitlement.
In the name of Manifest Destiny, northern Europeans decimated the native populations in North America, and the Spaniards and Portuguese did the same in South America. Pox in blankets. Death marches. Death as slaves in gold mines. Betrayals. Confinement on barren lands. Outright slaughter. Separation of children from parents for indoctrination. But, of course, the white man is superior. We are entitled to be savages.
Combine Manifest Destiny with self-serving human distortion of the teachings of a group’s chosen god and you have apologias for mass brutality. We live in this world now. The fanatical fringes of the Abrahamic religions – Islam, Christianity, Judaism – grant themselves free rein to murder and oppress because they have created their god in their image, with their prejudices, greed, and lust for power.
God, whatever It may be, has nothing to do with war, hate, and land-grabbing. If such a sentient Lording-Over-Us Being exists, there is no way He/She/It could have created a world in which love exists so bountifully while also advocating slaughter – or poverty, prejudice, hate, or dispossession.
To be plain, Israel was promised to no one. America – neither south nor north – was promised to no one. The counties Germany claimed during WWII were not part of an Aryan right. The nations Russia claims under Putin are not an inherent part of a greater Russia. Neither India nor Pakistan have a heaven-endowed right to Kashmir. China does not have a Manifest Destiny to claim Tibet. The clashing interests and claims in some nations in the Middle East and Africa have no justification from any god.
It is a myth. It is all human invention. Whatever Source created and propels an expanding cosmos of more than 10 trillion galaxies – a number used but generally considered a gross underestimation – is not interested in real estate apportioning on earth.
The woman who served me fresh apple pie did so while a guard with a gun sat 8’ away because the law of the settlement required a guard when “outsiders” visited. She saw nothing wrong with her perception that the West Bank was Jewish property. She did not make the connection that the reason a guard was necessary was because her belief might not be heaven blessed. To her it was the highest perception possible. God-given, and, Lord knows, God is above secular rule.
When we create God in our image with our prejudices, our demands to be recognized as superior, and our lusts for control and ownership, we create a petty god. We create excuses not to share, have compassion, or love. The belief that we are an elevated people chosen to follow the dictates of a god we ourselves created tramples “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Syrians are slaughtered, refugees fleeing horrors from their home nations are turned away from other nations, fanatics behead people who don’t follow their beliefs, barrel bombs are dropped on civilians, and gun killings in the US explode in numbers – and are justified.
Living in a commune four decades ago I was taught that if I believed I was God, I was correct because we all are made of whatever God is, but if I believed only I was God, I had gone insane.
I believe this principle expands to: If you believe only you and people like you have the inside track with the Source – call It whatever you care to – that created us, then you are on a path towards harming others, harming the earth itself, justifying your damage, and never coming into full awareness of love, sweetness, and wonder. It is more than a waste, it is a self-imposed cage of insanity.