What is the Value of Human Life?

A few days ago I watched the Netflix movie Worth, a based-on-a-true-story film about the lawyer in charge of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. According to slate.com, the movie fudges some details and creates a few composite characters. Simply put, it’s not a documentary. However, it does remain faithful to its theme—the very real moral struggle to determine what value to place on human life. It is an excellent movie with superb acting and directing as well as some great Hollywood moments. I’m sure it will be a contender when awards season rolls around.

I was fully invested while watching this movie. 9/11 was a horrific tragedy that we will not (and should not) ever forget. These families deserved every penny they received. But afterwards, I started thinking about the essence of this moral dilemma on a larger scale, far beyond American heroism. What if there was a Victim Compensation Fund set up for all the families of the victims of collateral damage as a result of drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia? Where are the movies that document the suffering of these people? Where are the cameos highlighting their struggles now that their brother/sister/ father/mother/child is gone?

Citizens of countries around the world die every day from war, famine, and disease. Of course, foreign governments cannot be responsible for all of this. However, what about the damage and death caused by occupying forces of powerful, wealthy countries in poorer, war-torn countries? Are the “haves” only responsible for their own citizens and “to hell with everyone else?” It seems that way. Perhaps this thinking is the result of years of believing that the American way is the only way, that wealth and power give a country the upper hand and the moral high ground by default. Maybe we should all start asking more questions and demanding answers about the suffering and death of innocent victims caused by drone strikes.

In the meantime, I will wait for that movie, the one about the collateral damage fund. The one where we all get to feel that maybe we can do the right thing for everyone, no matter where they live.