July 15, 2016

Aftermath


About twenty-four hours ago I woke up planning to write a blog post about making curry. Cooking is a topic I haven't yet written about. I'm not a great cook, and I don't enjoy cooking as much as some people do, but over the course of my meandering life I have learned a few simple techniques for making do with whatever happens to be available. I made a pot of curry a few days ago using smoked sausage along with eggplant and potatoes my wife had grown. It wasn't fancy and wouldn't win any prizes at a county fair, but I'd taken some photos while I worked, discovered a few things about cooking eggplant together with potatoes, and I was using a new frying pan with a high-tech ceramic inner surface.

Then I made the mistake of turning on CNNj. I was hoping to learn who Donald Trump had chosen as his "running mate", the person who would become Vice President if the pair of them won the general election in November. Instead, I spent the day watching in horror as the death toll in the latest mass murder rose from "dozens" to "more than 50" to "at least 70". According to Fox News, the current number is 84. As horrifying as the unfolding story was, the low point of the day came when Hilary Clinton called into the CNN broadcast center in Atlanta for a live interview. After mouthing a few platitudes, she went on to blame the attack on French society's treatment of Muslims and to lambaste Donald Trump for saying he would declare war in response to a terror attack. Her advice was for more Americans to read ISIS propaganda and "learn what their true aims are."

So the woman who tells California audiences she wants to confiscate all the assault weapons in America only to turn around and tell an audience in Arkansas she'd never made such a claim, who handed President Putin a big red "reset" button then did absolutely nothing as his special forces invaded Ukraine in order to annex the Crimea, and who sent the Benghazi Consulate quick reaction force on vacation after MI-6 told her an attack was imminent, now wants me to read enemy propaganda to learn their heartfelt desire for a peaceful Islamic world?

When the attack in Nice took place the day before yesterday no one knew who drove the truck. By the time I went to bed last night the French police still had not confirmed identification of the driver's bullet-ridden corpse. All they had was an ID card that might or might not belong to the driver. The only thing anyone really knew was that for some reason a man around thirty years old had driven a five-ton cargo truck down a boulevard closed to traffic for the Bastille Day fireworks display, killing as many people as he could before dying in a shoot-out with police. The French government had declared it an "act of terror", but none of the known terror groups around the world had claimed responsibility. The modern world, and that includes me, always assumes that whenever a mass murder takes place one or more radical Islamic terrorists are behind it. Our fascination with terror has become so complete that when mass murder took place at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut it took almost a full day before the news media figured out what to call it.

At this point in time, almost everyone in North America or Europe knows the life stories of Adam Lanza, Omar Mateen, and Dylann Roof. Even over here in Japan, a surprising number of people on the street can identify these three by name and by photo. Someday there will be feature films about them just as there are still feature films being made about Jesse James and John Dillinger. Decades from now someone will stumble across this blog post and recognize all five of those names. They won't even need to run a search on some future version of Google.

There is something deeply flawed in human beings. We quickly forget the names of those who sacrifice themselves to protect us from harm. The heroes who kill mass murderers are quickly forgotten. We expect such men and women to spend the rest of their lives burdened with guilt because they took another human life in defense of the innocent; and then we immediately turn around to celebrate the spirit and narcissism of the villains! There are exceptions, of course. Almost everyone knows who Chris Kyle was, for example. But you know what really disturbs me? I have to take the time to link Chris Kyle's name to his biography because I am absolutely certain a decade from now no one will remember him. One of the most common questions people used to ask him in television interviews was, "How could you do it? How could you pull the trigger and kill someone from afar?"

This insanity quickly manifests in the aftermath of a mass murder. At first, news commentators react in horror at the awful numbers of the dead. For example, the blood-soaked floor of the Bataclan theater after terrorists slaughtered 89 people during a rock concert is still circulating through the internet. It pops up in my Facebook feed with alarming regularity. I even used it myself in an internet meme against gun control. Then, as the numbers climb and full scope of the horror is revealed, we are treated to days and weeks spent analyzing the mass murderer. For some reason we as a society feel compelled to find some way to comprehend how such monsters are created in the first place. But does anyone know the names of the police officers who took down the last Paris terrorist in the final shoot-out? Does anyone even remember where the final shoot-out took place? Why is that? What is it about human beings that causes us to remember every single villain and never the heroes who destroy them? Why do we celebrate the "freedom" of evil men to slaughter others without remorse and then load down our heroes with enormous burdens of guilt and despair? Why do we find it evil to kill evil men?

I'm tired of learning the life story of terrorists and mass murderers. I am appalled by the burden of guilt carried by soldiers who went to Iraq and Afghanistan to face down our nation's sworn enemies and destroy them without mercy. I no longer understand why killing someone dedicated to the slaughter of innocents is more destructive than the acts of the mass murderer. It sickens me to watch friends and relatives of mass murderers and terrorists trying to apologize for and explain away their actions. When a police officer kills a violent felon with a long record of criminal activity, we spend hours listening to the thug's parents explain how "he was a good boy, a fine student, and an athlete" while the police officer who killed the thug in order to save his own life and the lives of other innocents is forced out of his career and into obscurity. This makes no sense at all! Shouldn't we be celebrating the cop who eliminated the felon? Why interview the relatives and friends of the criminal and not the family of the hero? Why is the grief of a criminal's mother worthy of endless news coverage while the police officer who fired the fatal bullet is assumed to be a violent sadist?

Violent men and women have always been part of the human experience. Every single one of us carries the seed of violence. The only difference between the mass murderer and the hero who stops him is the hero has chosen to use that violence to protect others. It is time to stop expecting guilt from the hero in the aftermath of a mass murder. Killing a violent felon with a long criminal history needs to be celebrated, not condemned. Friends and relatives of a mass murderer are not responsible for the actions of the mass murderer. It is time to stop blaming them for the actions of a person they had the great misfortune to know personally. Every time we immortalize a mass murderer while vilifying a hero we encourage the next slaughter. Heroes need to stop feeling guilty for surviving and start celebrating their victories! We can minimize the frequency of mass murder, terrorism, and war, but we will never eliminate them. These horrors have been with us throughout the entire scope of human history. They are never going to vanish completely. The one thing we can change is how we behave in the aftermath.

Celebrating heroes does not perpetuate violence. Immortalizing the villains is what insures someone else will be inspired to mimic them.