THE BLOG

The Eleventh Commandment

05/15/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I'm sitting in a little café-bar in Orvieto, Italy right now, ruminating on an argument that has kept rattling around in my head for about a week now. The supposition -- I think it was Saint Augustine that various folks on the right wing have been referencing recently -- is that from the earliest days the Churches of Europe and all their members had every right to defend themselves against murderous infidels: to torture them during the Inquisition; to kill them during various Crusades, etc; to bomb them nowadays -- to at least waterboard them.

At the same time that these arguments have been bumping around inside my skull there has also been this image of a grizzled guy on a billboard in LA right now (I was there last week, I'll be back in the next). He was pointing a gun at me as I drove by. (I didn't take it personally, clearly he was pointing a gun at everyone that drove by.) He was pointing a big, shiny gun (as so many of the guys on billboards do in movies and TV) and the title above him in big, bold, important letters read: "Justified."

Justified.

Cool. I got it. I got it back when Clint Eastwood said, "Make my day." Cool. Correct. Justified. And then of course there's the argument that if someone is breaking into your home don't you have the right to kill him/her? You have to protect your children, your belongings, yourself. And you get off scott-free if you pull it off under the circumstances of self-defense, right? It's the law.

Justified.

Also there's an argument that we have to stop the terrorists. The Middle East is as good a place as any, then. And smart. Cut them off "at the root," wipe em out where they live -- and the other Biblical adage: "an eye for an eye." Except in that case to kill the person, they would have to kill you first. Complicated.

But justified.

Then I go back (in this very religious town of Orvieto) to what everyone who is religious (that would be most of the right wing) claims is the real thing -- said by God, the Ten Commandments. And in that document, set down very clearly is the statement: "Thou shall not kill."

Thou shall not kill. It's very clear. The killing thing -- thou shalt not do it.

One argument against paying much attention to this commandment, of course, is the other commandments on that list like "thou shalt not covet they neighbor's wife or his man servant or his maid servant" etc -- not all that applicable nowadays -- so there is a justified justification I think for throwing out the whole damn "thou shalt not kill" concept, throw out the whole damn Ten Commandments while you're at it -- too old fashion, too simplistic.

Still -- it would have been nice, it would've been convenient (for the very religious folk and for the rest of us semi-religious people, as well) if God had made the thing a little clearer, like an Eleventh Commandment that said "thou shalt not be killed." Then there would be no problem at all. Obama, Bush (before him) and then all the guys before that -- just about everyone who has/is/or will be living on this planet would be able to point to that Eleventh Commandment and say -- you see? God said it. "Thou shalt not be killed", so let's go kill anyone who might possibly come after us. Yes. Yes. We really do need to keep raising trillions for the military at the expense of everything else. Yes. Yes. We do need to keep a gun or six in our closet. You see? "Thou shalt not be killed." Let's go at it -- now -- pick up a pistol, an Uzi, build a bigger missile, design a faster tank.

It would make this whole thing so much easier to swallow -- even the NRA would start to make complete sense and all these wars, all this slaughter, all the murder of innocent children, the execution of the bad guys behind bars using our tax dollars for the electricity and chemicals. I would sleep so -- so -- so -- much better at night if this Eleventh Commandment existed right now as clear as the bells that ring out here in this ancient Italian town where St Augustine might well have stopped by for a cup of espresso himself, like I'm doing right now. And maybe someone could also get a Palestinian or an Israeli to go back up onto that Mount Sinai or even a mountain nearby, see if a little addendum might not be able to be negotiated. Then wouldn't we all sleep a little bit better at night? Sure we would.