So it’s been a while. I know, I know, I suck. Have I been busy? Yes. Too busy to update once a week? Even I can’t stretch that far. I’m lazy and need to fix that.
My last few posts have reflected my lack of inspiration. I covered the August Riots in August, and September 11th on September 11th. I swear to God, if I blog about pancakes on the 21st February next year I want you to delete my WordPress. If you want to keep up the monthly theme, you should head over to my friend Matt’s blog for some info on the October Occupations, and a lot more besides.
Meanwhile, I’m going to talk about how we just love killing people.
Not “we” as in the people reading this blog (Although if you are reading this blog and DO love killing people, you should really turn yourself in.) I mean “we” as in the West. “We” the wronged. A few months ago, Abdelbasset al-Megrahi still wasn’t dead, and people were pissed. Now, don’t get me wrong, the man’s a murdering scumbag who blew up 270 people. There were only ever two reasons that he should have been released – imminent death or innocence. He had neither, so should still be in prison. We should have perhaps thought better of handing him back to a regime who would lie through their teeth about his guilt though, let alone one who would welcome him back with celebrations.
In May, Osama Bin Laden was shot and killed by a US SEAL team. Now, if Megrahi was a scumbag, Bin Laden was some kind of scum county, with its own flag and national anthem. America’s most wanted man for nearly 10 years, the BBC reported that, “Crowds gathered outside the White House in Washington DC, chanting “USA, USA” after the news broke.”
And of course, a few days ago, Colonel Gaddafi was caught and killed by rebels in Libya. Another Professional Villain, Gaddafi has been the dictator of Libya for longer than I’ve been alive. He did horrific things, perhaps even ordering the Lockerbie Bombing. Which is why we’re allowed headlines like this, right?
But hey, what else did I expect from the paper that brought you “GOTCHA” after the sinking of the Belgrano? The headline does, however, say it all about the mentality I find so disturbing. “THAT’S FOR LOCKERBIE.” They should have saved themselves the characters and typed “REVENGE”.
Because it sure as hell wasn’t justice. For a man like him, men like Osama Bin Laden and Al-Megrahi, there is no justice. There is no measured response or penalty that can be levied for atrocity of this scale. We stop them, we catch them and we make sure they don’t kill again, but never can we sink to their level. Never can we make hypocrites of ourselves and abandon our principles in favour of theirs by claiming any kind of justification for taking a human life in anything other than immediate self defence or an end to suffering. There’s no such thing as a righteous kill, only a tragic or brutal one.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sorry they’re dead, or in Megrahi’s case, dying. I won’t give their passing a moment’s thought after this. I’ll lose no sleep, and the world will lose even less than that.
But I amm sorry that we as a society seem to take so much pleasure in it. That it’s not enough to beat the badguys, we need to seem the suffer and executed as well. Where does this come from? JRR Tolkien believed that myths held great human truths. That there are great themes and foundations to humanity that we uncover and replay with every creative act. Tolkien believed they were divine in nature. I’m less inclined to go that far, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was something to it. If there were great themes, like death and justice and resurrection hard wired into humanity. Many great stories have them – from the death and resurection of Jesus to the death and resurrection of Superman and Harry Potter. It seems no great story is complete without a death, of a hero or a “dragon”, and maybe that’s the cause. God knows Gaddafi will be the devil of the new Libya’s creation story. There could be a great philosophical point to be found in that, about facing our own mortality. Instead, we’ve crafted action movies that aren’t complete without Hans Gruber falling to his death from Nakatomi Plaza or John Malkovich being crushed by a conveniently placed construction appliance. We show righteous kills as entertainment over and over until we’ve almost convinced ourselves that that’s the way things work. It’s not.
I’ve never lost anyone due to a murderer or a terrorist. I don’t know what it’s like to hate someone on that level and I can’t begin to imagine the pain that the families of victims of such violent crimes feel. The thought of understanding it is actually a frightening one. I have a son and a family and a girlfriend that I love beyond the telling of it, and were something to happen to them I might just chance my tune on when it’s right to kill, and I’d be dead wrong. There’s a reason victims of crime to get to choose the punishments. Pain very often begets pain.
I’m not saying that these men weren’t some of the worst to walk the earth, nor that we should feel bad that they’re gone. What I’m saying is that we need to remember what it was they did that we hated so much. We need to remember that we get to hate them and stop them and oppose them because we are nothing like them.
I loved fairy tales as a child, and I still do. Like GK Chesterton said, they tell us that dragons can be beaten. They just don’t have to be slain.