Monday, April 15, 2013

To Those Who Think Death is the Answer

Sometimes I know that something is true even as I find myself incapable of understanding how.

I know there are those who think about causing death, imagine ways to do it, formulate plans, carry them out. Human beings die because they set out to make it so. And they had reasons, reasons which made it seem to them as something to be done

My wife ran her first endurance event--a marathon--at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, a race founded to remember and honor all those who died when Timothy McVeigh drove a Ryder Truck up to the Murrah Building and detonated the explosives inside. When it happened my wife was a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, some 30 miles away. When she and those around her felt the concussive force of the blast, they knew something terrible had happened, something to shatter their world.

In a couple of weeks my wife will run that course again--this time the half-marathon. But that event will carry with it the specter of another shattering. Earlier today a friend of mine, someone I've known for more than twenty years, crossed the finish line at the Boston Marathon. For about half an hour she and her friends and family were celebrating her accomplishment. Then came the explosions. 

She was shaken up, her achievement overshadowed by the bloody aftermath of violence. Had she been a slower runner--about half an hour slower--the effects for her might have been far worse.

And I sit here and I think about those who find their answers in death, sometimes their own and sometimes the deaths of others. They find their answers in making living people dead. 

I know that it's true. And I've devoted many scholarly hours researching the ideologies of violence, the patterns of thinking that motivate the commission of horror. I can describe their structure---bifurcation, moral disqualification, sacred mission, zero-sum struggle death death death and the good will rise from the ruins if only we destroy the right things make the right people dead it will all be better the hidden good that has been held back by life will rise blooming free by the creation of corpses.

I think it helps me understand, but it's like putting a grid over chaos and saying, "Hey, look! A grid!"

Yes, there are patterns of thinking that culminate in a spray of blood. But they are, for those who follow those patterns, nothing but a grid. There's no substance. Just the illusion of it. That's the only thing to be said, in the end, to those who think death is the answer. And I suppose it can be summed up even more simply than that. 



  1. You brought me to tears, Eric. All I can do is pray, so, that's what I'm doing. Right now I will, pray for, the victims.But later, I'll pray not to let my righteous anger into hate.

    1. Keith: I know what you mean. As a father of children around the age of the boy who died, I feel that righteous anger--the side of grief that wants to scream and rage.