Keeping score in the game of killing


A friend commented on my Echelon blog; he wondered how I could write about the Las Vegas Strip when Syria was unraveling.  He is right of course, nothing in ordinary business or the mundane routines of daily life is more important than the life and death struggles taking place around the world.  The Syrian situation is indeed tragic – but it is beyond my ability to understand.   People are dying by the tens and hundreds every day, but where is the right and where is the wrong?  I don’t know – I only know that anti-Assad media always finds Assad guilty of cruelly killing his fellow Syrians, while pro-Assad media sees CIA, AL-Qaeda, Saudi and North African anti-government forces behind every event, every death.

Everyone can agree on one thing, people are dying and not just in Syria.   Within a week, 5 Israelis were killed and 25 more injured by a suicide bomber in Bulgaria; 3 Syrian generals and an unknown number of officers and officials were injured by a bomb in Damascus; and in Colorado, 12 movie-goers were killed and 58 were wounded by a college student; these incidents come just a year after Anders Breivik killed 77 people and injured 209 in Norway.   The Colorado incident defies analysis, the shooter appears to have assumed the identity of the Joker of Batman fame and committed to fight against the evil he perceived in  Batman’s heroic main character.  Right, exactly, a real time killer joins the fight against a comic book (and movie) super hero.  I would love to hear him explain that to his mother, priest or girlfriend.

The Colorado killings defy explanation because the killer does not seem to be motivated by the same things that normally motivate such killers; he is not claiming the moral high ground as Bulgarian bomber might, if he had lived, as Breivik did, or as the anti-Assad forces have.   With or without a higher political, religious or moral purpose the Bulgarian bomber’s  killing of random Israeli tourists is as impossible to explain in rational terms as the Colorado killings.  It may be easier to understand the bombing is Syria.  The Anti Assad bombers set out to destroy or at least weaken the Assad regime by destroying its leadership; a normal and usual explanation for killing.

The other incidents generated hundreds of expressions of sympathy for the victims and criticism of senseless violence in general.   The Syrian bombings did not generate any sympathy or condemnation of such killings, at least not in the western or the Arab press.  In fact, most articles on the subject had a subtext, “they deserved it”; the same subtext you might find in the Iranian, Hezbollah or Hamas media when Israeli tourists are killed.  Does anyone deserve such a death?  I think not.   In an objective examination, the Syrian incident is no more comprehensible than the other incidents of senseless killing.  In all of those incidents an individual or group of individuals passed a death sentence on people they did not know; the victims were chosen by an activity, attending a camp, riding a tourist bus, going to a movie or attending a meeting.  That was their crime, but the judge and execution managed to define all involved in those activities as criminals and therefore deserving death.

There is something base, dark and flawed in our nature; that something allows us to imagine justice in the deaths of other people.  These incidents were not acts of war, although many of the killers claim they were.   In war two sides engaged in battle attempt to destroy the opposing side by killing combatants.  That is the way we keep score in war, how many of the “them” did we kill and how many of the “us” did we lose.   All killers keep score the same way – I, me or us against you and them; but it is not a game, it is not amusing and it defies any rational explanation.  Killing other human beings is wrong – and no one can give you a free pass – if you kill you are wrong.  There is a flaw in our nature – under certain circumstance we, as individuals, groups or whole societies can find a justification in doing an unjustifiable thing.  Lots of people died this week as die every week because some person or persons thought they were god and could make rules.

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