Saturday September 4, 2004
When I was being taught the basic values at my mother’s knee I got some valuable lessons. Some bad ones, too, but I’ve taken personal responsibility for those and educated myself away from them, so much so that I have to dig really hard to remember them, to no great profit that I am able to discover. The good ones, though, have stuck with me, and I’ve done what I can to reinforce them.
One of the basics was the tenet that two wrongs do not make a right. To which I’ve added the principle that a greater wrong does not make a supposedly lesser one justifiable. Wrong is never justifiable and it is certainly never made justifiable by pointing at a greater wrong.
When, yesterday, I responded to the evil perpetrated in a Russian school, I did so by focussing down on the individual acts of evil. I stated that I failed to find any common ground with the murderers who shot and killed innocent children. I stand by that position, and it will remain my focus. I condemn the murderers, I condemn the act of murder, and I am angered that their evil caused suffering and meted out death to ordinary school kids going about their lives the way school kids do the whole world over.
I did not touch on the situation in Chechnya, nor the greater one in the entire Caucasian region. Nor shall I do so. I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking that my knowledge of these things is sufficient to endow any comment of mine, here in my public journal, any credibility or worth at all. A couple of rehashed paragraphs gleaned from a CNN broadcast, or from the BBC, does not constitute understanding, and it certainly doesn’t amount to much as knowledge.
As a diarist, I speak of what I know, and report on what I observe. I filter those things through my own experience and my own knowledge, of course I do, but mostly I try to keep to what I can see and touch and, when necessary, I report as objectively as I can my reaction to them.
So. What do I know of the events in that Russian school?
I know about rifles. I was a skilled marksman during my military service, and I know that moment of concentrated stillness when the target selected, the sight is laid good and true, and the trigger squeezed. A rifleman may shoot in anger and passion, but he learned to shoot in the light of cold reason. For an instant, even in the heat of battle, a man’s entire being focusses down on the rifle sight and the act of firing to hit a target. Making the body of a fleeing child into that target is an act of personal responsibility.
I know a little about children. I’ve observed their joy and wonder, and I’ve seen their fear and sadness in the face of events they cannot control. I’ve witnessed their anger and their cruelty, too. Against that I can balance the hope that as they grow and learn the anger and the cruelty will be cast aside. Some do, some don’t. It’s certain, however, that a murdered school-child will never have the opportunity of either path.
Even before all the shooting was done, before all the killings were over, and long before the bodies were washed and laid to rest, so-called experts were raking over the causes, saying that historic and concurrent injustice and oppression was the real cause. Well, it wasn’t. The occasion of the death of each of these children was a man with a rife or a bomb. Not some greater wrong, nor some larger cause. Each death was the responsibility of one man with his finger on a trigger.
It may be that, some day, I shall learn some eternal truth by which I can justify the murder of a child. Hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not holding my breath.