We are All the Barbarians

Image by ha11ok from Pixabay

Although there is no real evidence that St. Francis wrote the prayer commonly attributed to him, it’s a prayer that shows the principles of the Franciscans. Whoever prayed it, the words “it is in dying that we are born to eternal life” is a comfort for me.

I’m not sure that our modern society has much of a claim to superiority when we criticize ancient societies for being barbaric and uncivilised. We recognize the uncivilized when we see it, because we, too, are uncivilized. If you want proof of that, just take a look at the “justice” system in the United States.

The way prisoners in this country are treated is barbaric, and that’s just the beginning. Healthcare for profit, fighting against children being appropriately educated, dangerous narratives about LGBTQ people, and white supremacist rallies.

We refuse legislation to curb gun violence, sacrificing children on the altar of a misinterpretation of the second amendment, forcing women to birth a baby at all costs even if it will kill them or the child won’t live. We are also trying to take away birth control. All of this is barbaric and uncivilized.

It was about a year ago that I thought about Hadrian’s Wall. I asked myself who the barbarians were, the Romans or the Celts, and came to the conclusion that the barbarians were, and always will be, the other side. To the Romans, the Celts were barbarians, and to the Celts, the Romans were barbarians. Neither civilization had any claim to being more cultured than the other.

That’s what it really comes down to, in the end, is which side someone is on. We aren’t more civilized and humane in our modern society here in the USA, and in fact we are currently going backwards. The further we progress, the more we stay the same. People always find more ways to deny the humanity in others.

Most people in the United States end up dying in institutions such as hospitals, nursing home, or hospice. It’s cold and clincial, because we have allowed medical technology, businesses, and insurance companies to dictate death in a way that is cold and devoid of anything meaningful.

Death, says David Wendell Moller in his book Confronting Death, “does not exist unless the requirements of certification have been met” (p. 83). There are certain medical criteria that have to be met before a person is considered dead, and yet, that only tells part of the story.

A medical doctor will declare a time of death in accordance with policy, however, until the soul leaves the body, a person is not dead. People can be kept clinically alive but they are dead because their soul has departed already. Science does not get to control death no matter how hard it tries.

In the end, death is still a spiritual event. God gives life, and God takes away life, and no amount of scientific discovery will ever let humans control or dictate death.

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MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.

MaryClare StFrancis, M.A.

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She/her. I write memoirs, feature articles, essays, poetry, and more.