Last night the glorious one and I stayed up late watching the 2nd season of Jericho, one of our favorite series. At the end of the 3rd to last episode “Termination for Cause“ one of the key characters, Stanley, walks up to the mercenary leader, Goetz, who was responsible for the death of his deaf sister and wounding of his girlfriend, puts a pistol in his ear and pulls the trigger. Goetz was handcuffed and unarmed at the time and this action caused a great deal of grief for the whole town. Stanley is shown in the next episode almost incapacitated by guilt at his failure to defend his family and then for killing a man.
My initial, gut reaction was to think “no shit you killed him, good on ya and you should have done it sooner”. I don’t get the emotional angst about killing someone who, clearly, needs killing.
Then, this morning, I listened to my friend Bad Quaker’s most recent podcast (http://badquaker.com/archives/1372 ). In the last minute or so he and Kai talk about the Zero Aggression Principal (ZAP) and I was reminded again what a great philosophy that is and how I wish it was more widely adopted. Sometimes irony, or something, is so thick even I get it, and it caused me to mentally pause.
I know myself very well. I have a naturally introspective personality and a bent towards history, religion and philosophy and one of my great concerns in high school, as I began to consider a military career, was “could I kill”? Second to that was, in killing to preserve that which I loved, would I become that which I hated? I haven’t thought in those terms in a long time. Clearly, I settled them to my own satisfaction a long time ago. But the media I took in last night and this morning have caused me to re-look at the second of those big, high school questions.
I don’t think anyone would argue that true evil exists in this world, and the most ardent ZAP adherent agrees we all retain the right and commiserate duty to self-defense and defense of the innocent. My job though, as I have discovered, requires me to expand my definition of defense. It’s not as simple as defending myself from a mugger, or a little old lady from a purse snatcher. I am going into another country to keep that country from allowing or conducting activities that place my fellow Americans at risk. We can debate the accuracy of the intelligence that leads to that decision, but, at the operator level, that is what I do.
I fear though, that this ‘expansion’ of definition has led to a callous attitude. At least, it has set me apart from the norm of my society. So many of my fellow Americans would have trouble killing a chicken for their dinner (see Jericho or Survivor) much less defending themselves in hot blood. And me? I’m OK with killing in cold blood, so long as it meets certain of my own moral justifications. When did I become different from the herd?
I am a huge Charlie Daniels fan. His song Simple Man is used as an example by what I would consider ‘normal’ or ‘mainstream’ society to show that we hillbillys and rednecks are full of crap.
“Just take them rascals out in the swamp
Put ’em on their knees and tie ’em to a stump
Let the rattlers and the bugs and the alligators do the rest”
Nobody really acts that way anymore, right? This is a civilized society; we kill you with lawyers these days!
No, that would be a practice I would be happy to help with, and I would sleep like a baby afterwards.
Does that make me a hard man, a realist, normal for the bulk of history and societies (where life is usually cheaper than water) or a mad man?
I’m glad I am still asking those questions. I know, in my heart, what the answers are, but I am glad I still occasionally ask the questions.
p.s. As a side note, looking for the image above led me to several discussions of the “he needed killing” legal defense, which apparently has its roots in English Common Law and was a valid defense in the US until fairly recently.