Steel City Cowboy

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

It Takes One To Know One

We're mostly good people here, and, as I tell my kids, good people don't usually think that others are up to bad things. It's the liar in us who looks for the liar in others, and the mugger in us who looks over his shoulder on the street at night. And it's not like that's a bad thing. It gives us a better read on threats than an amorphous fear of the unknown ever will.

It also means that we give the benefit of the doubt, sometimes even too far.

Before the second plane hit the South tower, we were all busy ignoring the warriors within us. Some of us desperately so. It's hard, almost impossible, for good people to seriously consider deliberately murdering thousands, if not tens of thousands, of completely innocent human beings on behalf of an ideology. That's why everyone sat there after the first plane hit and told themselves "what a horrible accident."

When the second plane hit, that thought became instantly invalid. It was no longer up to us to look for malice or good, to guess at motives. Others had made the presentation in an irrefutable manner, tied up in a package of concrete, steel and souls. When the second plane hit, many of us thought immediately of how many other planes were in the sky at any given moment, each one a potential missile, and ouradrenaline spiked. Then, the Pentagon. Then, Shanksville. How many more would follow before they could be stopped?

It was right after the second plane hit that I went to war with them. To some people, the attack spoke to their inner pacifist: when someone wants to kill you, have them over for dinner, because they probably just don't understand where you're coming from. It spoke to their inner self-doubt, cutting loose their anchor on reality already worn floss-thin by an entire lifetime spent in the temple of relativism.

Now, I am a Christian, a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. I strive to emulate them in the way I deal with others, both those who are kind to me and those who are not. At the same time, I am a student of Mark Twain, and remember the first time I really got one of the major themes of Huck Finn. Huck resolves that to turn (escaped slave) Jim in is the wrong thing to do, and even though every source of information available to him tells him he will go to Hell if he doesn't, Huck decides to do that thing he knows is right, consequences and Hell be damned. Likewise, I've heard various riffs on the passage from Jesus' sermon about "not resisting an evil man", and turning the other cheek when slapped, all trying to explain away the pretty clear direction present in His message. They all seem to be rationalizations put up to let us fight evil. Personally, I'm with Huck, and just don't bother. If resisting a mortal danger to your family and way of life is wrong, then I will be wrong.

How that squares with Jesus' words, I am not sure. It probably doesn't. I'll ask Him when I meet Him. But until then, people like myself will resist.

In their shortsightedness, the people who presented us with this war saw only one side of the equation. They saw the future, with America in tatters, her countryside freckled with mosques and echoing the sounds of the call to prayer. They looked at us, and they saw no warriors, because they were not warriors themselves. What did they call us? Weak. Ineffective. A culture steeped in decay. It was the only way they could see us from afar, such was the lens of their own person. But they were wrong.

And fifty years from now, it will not be the United States that is dotted with mosques and madrassas, but their own lands that will be covered in McDonalds and Wal Marts. Their own children educated in secular classrooms. Their own mothers and fathers seeing their children win the soccer game next weekend rather than practicing for a suicide mission, rolling their eyes instead of reaching for a knife when their daughters come down the stairs dressed for school in a belly shirt.

The men and women of the active West, those whose heritage is one of action, decision, courage and ingenuity, will not be beaten. We will not. And if someday we have to do horrible things in order to ensure that our grandchildren will not have to revisit these same shores, then those things will surely be done.

I feel that we stand at the edge of a great precipice, watching those on the other side with the part of our good selves that still wants to hope for the best. But the other part of us is ready, too, watching for the flinch of motion that signals war. Fortunately, we are clever, and have machines, structures and philosophies that allow us to stand at that edge and rain Hell on our enemies without fear that we will lose our footing. Our enemy, however, has only a crumbling cliff's edge on which to stand, while a long, dark fall stares up at them, waiting.