How did we get here? I mean humanity. How did human beings get to the point where we can replace body parts, keep people alive artificially on breathing machines, clone sheep, and do face transplants — and yet still fight each other to the death over what amounts to differences of opinion? In the years since we came on this planet, we have come everywhere and nowhere.
This morning I woke up to the news that we had killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. “We” is the American people, represented by our military. Killed means we dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house 35 miles outside Baghdad that he was using as a safe house. Zarqawi’s dead face was all over the TV screen as I greeted the dawn, which I usually do by petting both dogs and turning on the water in the yard. Dawn is the best part of my day.
But this morning I was depressed and not elated, and even the dogs knew it.
Yes, this man’s a terrorist. Yes, he was reponsible for the deaths of thousands. Yes, the world is better of without him. But how do we advance civilization by killing him, admitting we killed him, and putting it all over the world’s TV screens? Doesn’t that just piss off all the people who follow him? Do we really think they are all sitting around saying, “oh, wow, we should change our religious views because the Americans are stronger than we are?”
It doesn’t work that way. The jihadists operate out of a belief system, not from facts. If indeed facts exist at all. Wouldn’t it be interesting to entertain for a moment the thought that both sides operate out of belief systems, and facts are an illusion? If there is no external reality, how can we be right and they be wrong, or vice versa?
Hold that philosophical thought. Let’s just look at the tactical implications of what we’ve done.
We’ve now upped the ante. We’ve made all the people who say we are an overbearing colonial power that wants to turn the world into greedy capitalist pigs appear to be correct. We have given the religious zealots a crusade — or a jihad. We’ve encouraged the mentally ill to believe their view of reality is accurate. We’ve martyred a pig.
I later saw an interview with the father of Nick Berg, the man who presumably was beheaded by al-Zarqawi. Michael Berg is now running for Congress, on a platform of non-violence.
�Do you feel like you have gotten revenge for your son�s death,� the interviewer asked.
�Revenge?� Michael Berg replied. �What good is revenge? It�s a tragedy when anyone dies, and now the father of al-Zarqawi will suffer just as my family suffers.�
Berg went on to say that revenge only begets revenge, and that he would never ask for or seek revenge. Further, he says he feels obligated to stop the cycle of revenge.
�But what if you could have stopped the hand that held the knife in the room with your son? Wha tif you could have saved his life?� the interviewer blundered on.
�I would have certainly tried to stop him,� said Mr. Berg. �I would have thrown my own body in the path of the knife. But I would never cause another man to die.�
The man�s forgiveness, spoken through tears, puts us to shame.
I heard one good adjective this morning in all the TV I watched, and it was “medieval.” A commentator called the world view of the jihadists “medieval.” But I am worried that our response is equally medieval, and we’ve just succeeded in waving our collective male reproductive organ. If we have terrorists in Toronto, they are not under the direct influence of al-Zarqawi, but under the influence of the same TV and Internet we all see.
And we didn’t look good on TV this morning.