Those Fragile Feelings of the Guy Trying to Kill You
I am not one who is often prone to sentimentalism; in writing, anyway. I am not commonly moved to tears by political speeches or even events in the country. When I see a horrific scene of murder or tragedy, I do not feel good about it, but neither do I allow myself to dwell on it. I may lapse into moments of depression - or have my day ruined - as I find myself losing hope for the future of this country; this happened a few months ago when our local OWS movement tried to stage a comeback by protesting at the doors of our local Bank of America branch. That did ruin my day. Seeing real people out there behaving so foolishly, so obviously self-involved and short sighted, and not intelligent enough to grasp the difference between a local bank and "Wall Street." That is a depression more along the lines of what a person feels in the 7th inning when his team is not hitting, his pitchers are missing their marks, and his fielders are committing silly errors. It is the depression that stems from the realization that this team is never going to win if it continues doing what it is doing. It is, admittedly, a bit deeper than that, as if there are members of the team who are actively trying to sabotage victory.
A few days ago, I found myself in one of those moods that I would more rightly describe as sentimentalism, when mobs of angry villains descended upon our foreign embassies, murdering American citizens. I refer to them as villains because nothing that they were doing deserves the cognitive dissonance required to label them "protesters." A protester, rightly or wrongly, stands in protest against some sort of behavior or activity. One does not protest the existence of another group of people, as many Muslims object to America and Americans. To refer to them as protesters somehow legitimizes their actions, and I therefore refer to them as villains.
My immediate reaction was similar to a reaction that I had this morning as I assisted an inmate who was accused of malicious mischief. He had broken into a car and taken two things: the registration, and a garage door opener. Neither judge nor prosecutor seemed to notice, as this young adult sat smugly in his chair, what I noticed, which was that this crime was committed with the express purpose of enabling another (far more serious) crime. The registration was to provide an address, and the garage door opener was to provide access for a residential burglary or car theft. I represented this person (as is my job) competently, giving him sound advice and assisting him in achieving the "best outcome". But the non-attorney who lives underneath the suit was filled with anger, thinking of my family, envisioning the 16 gauge that would be pointed at this person's head if he ever stepped into my home with a stolen key.
This is the feeling that I got when I heard about the mob in Egypt that murdered our ambassador and drug his dead body through the streets. My immediate reaction was the thought that we, as a country, need to finally say enough, already, and squash the mob. My reaction upon reading a statement released by our own government was one that leads me to that emotionalism that typically finds no home in my little essays:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Right now, I feel a bit more like the guy sitting on his porch with a shotgun. This isn't a matter of hurting people's feelings or being nice or taking responsibility for creating a situation where some people hate us. It isn't a matter of cracking down on our own freedom of speech in order to silence anyone who would say something that might spark a riot. It is a matter of getting the message through that we will not tolerate that riot, for any reason. I am far more inclined to suggest that we send that message in the same way we told the Japanese that they needed to be finished with World War II. September 11 becomes far less symbolic for them when September 12 is the day that we wiped out an entire capital city in retaliation. I am not, obviously, suggesting that we drop a nuclear bomb on some Middle East capital in order to send a message. However, what we have done is precisely the opposite. We have given them exactly what they want. We have responded to unprovoked violence by promising to make an effort to dismantle the system that they don't like. We have sent a message. That message: "Keep doing this. It is working."