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September 11, 2003

Another Plane

Another plane of innocent people went down and is largely forgotten. I got an email from my Dad, who’s back in the Amazon filling in for the missionary pilots who are on furlough, saying the “Air Bridge” is back in operation in Peru. This is the joint US-Peru operation where suspect (meaning, not presently identified, whether due to nefarious intent, or mistakes on the part of the operation or civil Peruvian authorities) are ordered to land (possibly on the wrong radio channels), fired on in warning, and then shot down.

Okay, that comes off a bit cynically. Yes, that’s exactly my emotion. To try to keep drugs from flowing into the country, which clearly has a huge consumer demand for drugs, we shoot down planes in other countries. Some of these planes are innocent civilian traffic. Some contain American missionaries and their small children who represent the best of what the United States offers the world.

Where is the outrage among advocates against the death penalty when a plane with innocent children is shot down summarily in an effort to curb American appetites, or curb sating them, for drugs? At least those executed for crimes are first allowed a trial.

I never met Roni Bowers or her young children. I did, however, know her husband when his father served with mine in Benjamin Constant, in the Amazon. Jim Bowers followed in his Dad’s footsteps as a missionary pilot. Both saved many lives with emergency flights. They also served as communications to the outside world for missionaries in other roles, including those serving at a Baptist Hospital in Santo Antonio, far downstream. Because we, as a country, cannot handle our lusts for sensation, our cravings for immediate gratification such as that offered in drug-induced hazes, we as a country try to enforce better conduct by stopping the drug flow (however ineptly) to meet that demand. In the process we sacrifice the innocent to protect the guilty. Then we mourn for a day, or a week, and go on doing the same.

Whether or not you believe in a Christian God who offers salvation, you will be hard pressed to argue that what these missionaries do is not at least as, if not more, worthy as the service of the Peace Corps. Bragging on my Dad now, if you wish to try, explain how it is the Brazilian government saw fit to award him the highest medal a civilian can hold. Dad was awarded A Medalha do Pacificador, “The Peacemaker Medal,” a couple decades ago. These missionaries save lives, teach, show people how to make something more of themselves, and do it on what is low middle class or high poverty levels of income. Of course, where they serve they appear to be rich to most of the locals.

So, now, they are once again in danger of being killed by our own government. And, the promise by the Peruvian government to make good the replacement of the Cessna floatplane that was lost remains unfulfilled. I am an advocate of small government, of fewer government doles, but this is a case in which I think it would be in the country’s interest for the United States to accept a bit more responsibility. We should replace the plane as a country, since we had shared responsibility in its destruction. We can then pressure the Peruvians to repay that amount, rather than forcing the mission to patiently wait for Peru to get around to it (if ever they do).

I am an advocate of the legalization of drugs. I am so because the current state of things offloads the pain, death and destruction resulting from the monopolizing of the traffic in drugs by those who live outside society, the criminals. I am no advocate of drug use. They are a waste. But we are individuals responsible for ourselves. Because we choose to form a state, we have some shared responsibility, but that is for our collective acts (even if we disagree with them). Individually we each must choose whether to do what is right and proper, or whatever gratifies the moment’s lust.

Let’s stop blaming others for our own faults. As a nation we are responsible for our use of drugs. Those who try to make a living (where real poverty makes our “poor” appear rich) selling us what we unwisely crave are not. Make drugs legal, most of the problems, aside from those stemming from the use of the drugs themselves, will vanish. We’ll have to deal with our users, but countries like Peru and Colombia will be forced by free markets to find more profitable, and less destructive, ways to make a living.

God gives us a choice on which rests the salvation of our souls. That choice if of far more consequence than whether or not to use drugs. Our country, following the wisdom of the founders, sees fit to avoid "helping" us to make decisions concerning our souls. It should also stay out of other areas of personal responsibility, as long as they do not overtly affect others.

If you’re interested, Kristen Stagg has written a biography of Roni Bowers. From a literary perspective it lacks, the structure is unwisely designed, but it does a good job of giving a glimpse into the life and thinking of a modern missionary. It’s If God Should Choose, and Amazon has it.

Books mentioned:

Kristen Stagg
If God Should Choose

Posted by dan at September 11, 2003 03:42 PM | TrackBack
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