Sunday, January 29, 2017

Meditations on monsters

"There's nothing worse than a monster who thinks he's right with God."
~Malcom Reynolds, captain of the cargo ship Serenity

I have spent a great deal of my life fighting monsters. Not the fun monsters that Larry Correia writes about, but the tawdry, dreary reality of men engaged in the ten thousand ways of being inhumane to other men.

I have seen the monsters borne of greed; of madness; and those borne out of lust for power over others.

Of all the monsters I've had dealings with over the last five decades, the absolute worst are the fanatics -- those monsters who think they're right with God.

Fanatics are people who think that their actions are blessed and/or required by a Higher Power (ideology, religion, politics, you name it); and are scary for a lot of reasons, but the two primary are:

1) Not only are their consciences clean no matter the evil they do, but there's usually a group of like-minded people (mob, Politburo, cult, congregation, cell, whathaveyou) providing moral support, validation, hero worship, and all of the other fun stuff that group dynamics handles; and

2) Mission Creep.  Defined as: "The expansion of a mission or task beyond its original goals, often after initial successes", in this context mission creep refers to the nasty habit that fanatics have of always expanding their list of "Heretics, Heathens, Idolaters, And Other What Deserve Our Righteous Wrath". Yes, they always expand this list -- unless and until someone (metaphorically-speaking) holds their little heads under water until the bubbling stops.

In Africa and the Middle East, I witnessed first-hand the damage that fanatics can do; along with the snow-white consciences of those who committed  some of the worst atrocities ever seen by the gods in the name of ideology, or religion, or politics.

Here in the United States -- other than a brief fanatic embuggerance during the 1930s and 1940s -- we don't have a lot of experience with the little bugsnipes.  Here when fanatics move up to their post-doctoral studies, the Rule of Law or society in general plays Whack-A-Mole with them, and then we trundle on our merry way.

In the last score of years or so, I'm starting to worry that this is no longer the case -- and this concerns me, although probably not in the way that the average Gentle Reader imagines.

The company that my father worked for had a policy of hiring most of their employees from amongst the ranks of war veterans.  The CEO was of the opinion that someone who had not only already been overseas, but had been shot at overseas, could probably handle anything West Africa could throw at them. 

An educated tribesman from the northern part of the country -- we'll call him "Abdul" -- got hisself bitten by the Religion Bug, came into our neck of the jungle, and set about bringing Allah to the fuzzy-wuzzies.  Started out ok -- if a little enthusiastic -- built up a group of worshippers sycophants, did Some Good.

However, things started getting all fire-and-brimstone, and next thing we know, some poor lad gets immolated for recreational friction with an unsanctioned partner after being singled out by Our Wee Fanatic.

Things get all hot and bothered for a bit, but it's all yelling and chest-pounding, and things settle down.  Two weeks later, Abdul the Moderately Rabid goes a-wandering in the jungle at night and winds up as Kittie Kibble.

The local elders put a slam order on the leopard, call Da', and I go out with him to do the deed.  We start at the body, track the man-eater down, Da' hoses him with a full magazine of 12 bore (Da' REALLY hated leopards), and that was the end of it.

Except, at the body, I realized that Abdul the Moderately Rabid had been done in with an extremely sharp knife run into his neck from the side and punched out the front.  All that the leopard did was clean up the carrion.

That's what I'm worried about.

There are a whole bunch of 50-60 year-olds in the United States who fought the Cold War in dark alleys, midnight ports, and moonlit rooftops with knives, brass knuckles, and silenced pistols.

There are a whole bunch of 30-40 year-olds in the United States who fought vicious CQC battles in places like Mogadishu, Tora Bora, Fallujah, Najaf, and Mazar E Sharif.

There are 20-somethings from places like Compton, El Paso, Chicago, Detroit, Tiajuana, "the barrio", "the ghetto", and "the heights" who have stainless-steel teeth and thousand yard stares.

There are uncounted numbers of immigrants who have come here from war-torn hell-holes -- and brought the skills and attitudes that enabled them to survive along.

This is what I'm worried about.

I'm worried that when Biff the Hygienically-Challenged and his Coterie of Fanatics decide that sucker-punching neo-nazis just isn't enough and mission creep themselves into Proper Fanatical Stupidity, that some truly scary people are going to start whacking and stacking in response.

I don't want to find myself standing over what's left of a coyote attack and suddenly realizing that unless coyotes are carrying knives, some pipe-hitter has just declared war upon other Americans.

Y'all should be worried about this, too.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My shocked face, let me show you it

Well, President Obama has officially commuted the sentence of Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning.

Given the blasé attitude of this Administration regarding sensitive/classified information (Hello, Mrs Clinton and her bathroom server!) this doesn't really come as any surprise, although I am heartened by the fact that Manning's sentence was commuted, rather than pardoned.

Commuting the sentence means that Manning is still a convicted felon, with a criminal record.

I am saddened by what I fear will be the unintended (or maybe intended) consequences of this act:  there were many current and former military members (your Humble Scribe among them) who seriously believed that as soon as the conviction was handed down, Manning should have been taken outside, placed against a wall, and shot.

While President Obama is probably trying to appear kind and magnanimous, to those of us who believed that 35 years was considerably softer than the justly-deserved oxygen jig at the end of a hemp rope, this commutation smacks of a certain level of contempt towards us.

The perception of contempt, point in fact, that causes those of us who voted for someone other than Trump to be less unhappy about the Cheeto Jesus winding up with the Hot Seat At The Oval Office.

Not happy about it, mind you.  But a jolly sight less unhappy about it.

I didn't take Manning to raise, and my da' taught me not to offer advice to those who are neither kith nor kin ... but in this case, I seriously advise that Manning take the Golden Ticket that has fallen, find a quiet hole, and pull it in after.  Live quietly and low-profile.  Disappear.

Or Manning can hit the limelight, make political hay, and continually remind The Deplorables of the perception of contempt, and we'll see what shakes out in the mid-term elections.

Meh.  I'm good either way.

Now to see if President Obama wants to pull a contempt two-fer and pardon Bowe Bergdahl.  Any takers?