You may imagine my thoughts. But why listen to me; let's move right on to a Nobel Prize-winner--Albert Camus, whose great essay "Reflections on the Guillotine" appears in Resistance, Rebellion and Death. Camus writes:

Shortly before the war of 1914, an assassin whose crime was particularly repulsive--he had slaughtered a family of farmers, including the children--was condemned to death in Algiers. He was a farm worker who had killed in a sort of bloodthirsty frenzy but had aggravated his case by robbing his victims. The affair created a great stir. It was generally thought that decapitation was too mild a punishment for such a monster.

That was the opinion, I have been told, of my father, who was especially aroused by the murder of the children. One of the few things I know about him, in any case, is that he wanted to witness the execution, for the first time in his life. He got up in the dark to go to the place of execution at the other end of town amid a great crowd of people.

What he saw that morning he never told anyone. My mother relates merely that he came rushing home, his face distorted, refused to talk, lay down for a moment on the bed, and suddenly began to vomit. He had just discovered the reality hidden under the noble phrases with which it was masked. Instead of thinking of the slaughtered children, he could think of nothing but that quivering body that had just been dropped onto a board to have its head cut off.

When the extreme penalty simply causes vomiting on the part of the respectable citizen it is supposed to protect, how can anyone maintain that it is likely, as it ought to be, to bring more peace and order into the community? Rather, it is obviously no less repulsive than the crime, and this new murder, far from making amends for the harm done to the social body, adds a new blot to the first one.The Armored Humvees

Last week, I wrote to Michael Fox, the communications executive at Armor Holdings, the company that builds kits to protect Humvees. My purpose was to let him know that he shouldn't worry that the government wasn't commissioning more armor kits because Beliefnet readers would be writing him to volunteer to pay for at least a few of them.

Yesterday, Mr. Fox wrote back: "Very kind of you guys. As I am sure you heard, we have been asked to build 100 more per month and are moving ASAP to get it done."

Mr. Fox's note comes just a week or so after Beliefnet readers were thanked by "Cornbread," the St. Louis disc jockey who had organized a campaign to send blankets, socks and other necessities to solders in Iraq.

I am pleased about both efforts, because the ultimate value of this blog is not anything I write--it's the community that forms here. "Swami Uptown" is about an idea of mine that you pick up on--and ideas of yours that I can broadcast on your behalf. And then, because I so passionately believe that one good deed is worth a hundred protestations of faith, it's about what we do in the world to diminish misery and expand joy.

The only negative note in what we've done together this holiday season comes from Loose Canon, who questions my assertion that I--your basic war-hater--seem to care more about our troops than the Commander-in-Chief:

I sincerely doubt if Swami cares more about soldiers sent to war than the president who had to make the agonizing decision to send them to war.
Yes, LC, presidents "agonize" about such decisions--that's on page 3 of the Washington Times "why we fight" guide for pundits--but not George Bush. And I don't think this is a matter of opinion. Consider Bush's extremely inappropriate behavior the night he announced the start of the war:

According to a report from the London Mirror, just seconds before Bush went on TV to tell the world war had started, he vigorously pumped his fist and declared: "I feel good!", a la soul legend James Brown. The extraordinary gesture was in stark contrast to the furrowed brow and look of grave concern he adopted for the subsequent broadcast, and came as television screens were already showing flashes of explosions in Baghdad.
But it's even simpler than that peek behind the media curtain. Just look at the record--if Bush cares about our soldiers, why are civilians at home organizing clothing-and-equipment drives for them? Why did it take a soldier confronting Rumsfeld to get the government to fast-track the armoring of Humvees?

No. The evidence is so glaring you have to put on very dark sunglasses to miss it: Bush's war is all about Bush. About the flight suit and the Commander-in-Chief jacket and the bold words that apparently frighten only his countrymen. It's like the fake turkey Bush pretended to serve when he made his Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad last year--it's one giant photo op.