Much fanfare has been made of the fact that President Obama left a seat empty at the State of the Union yesterday. This seat was supposed to serve as a stand-in for the usual random citizen anecdote. Instead of a particular person, it represented all the victims of gun violence that no longer have a voice.
Cute, I guess, if you’re into that. But there was a great editorial out in USA Today that begs the question, why just those victims? Why not represent the victims of US foreign policy as well? They are, after all, far more numerous.
It’s a rhetorical question of course. But it highlights an important an odd contradiction. President Obama is, just like George W. Bush before him, one of the greatest purveyors of violence and suffering in the world today. It is therefore somewhat bizarre that he has any legitimacy when passionately advocating for something he believes would save lives. If saving lives were really a priority, it seems like there are far easier and more certain paths to do it. For instance, we could stop helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen or stop drone strikes elsewhere.
I recognize that we’re all supposed to accept the fundamentally bigoted idea that American lives are inherently more valuable than everyone else’s. But if we set that premise aside, we realize that Obama would need a lot more than one empty chair to represent the victims he is responsible for. Not because he failed to act, but because he did act.
Here’s the full editorial from James Bovard that’s worth checking out: