Thoughts on the Death of Kissinger

Mourning, celebration, and legacy

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

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Henry Kissinger speaking at the LBJ Presidential Library in 2016. Public domain image.

Whenever a controversial public figure dies, debate ensues over whether it is appropriate for people to openly celebrate their demise. Yesterday’s death of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger at the age of 100 is no exception.

Speaking only for myself, I neither mourn nor celebrate the death of Kissinger. I do not mourn his death because this man was instrumental in war mongering. Whether or not he should be labeled a “war criminal”, as many have argued for, is not of great importance to me, because I am a pacifist and consider all war to be immoral.

At the same time, I do not celebrate Kissinger’s death because I do not celebrate the death of anyone, with the possible exception of those who are suffering greatly from terminal illness and wish to die peacefully. While I might casually or privately characterize people as “good”, “bad”, or “evil”, I try to judge actions rather than individuals. Everyone takes actions that cause more or less harm to others. Overall, I do feel Kissinger’s actions caused more harm than good, so I don’t blame people who are glad the world is rid of him. It’s not for me to judge whether or not they should voice their opinions publicly.

Independent of Kissinger’s notoriety, a human reaching the age of 100 is still fairly rare. At age 53 myself, I’ve been thinking a lot about human mortality lately. When I am filled with dismay about all of the violence and oppression in the world, I remind myself that most of it is engineered by people in positions of power, and that every single one of these oppressors will be dead within the next 50–100 years. I look to future generations in the hopes that they will guide our evolution to a more peaceful species, even though I likely won’t be around to see the results.

The significance of human mortality is worth emphasizing, as wealthy, privileged individuals sometimes try to overcome this inconvenience with (often dubious) life extension techniques. Combined with advances in AI…

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Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, pacifist. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch