I’m assuming you’re all familiar with the story last week about 3 teenagers in Oklahoma who randomly shot and killed a young man because they were “bored.” These 3, whose ages ranged from 15-17, murdered an exceptionally fine young Australian, who had come to the U.S. and gone to school here in hopes of playing professional baseball. After all isn’t this what most people do when they’re bored. Go out and shoot an innocent victim, just to spice things up a little, and dispel the boredom. Laying aside the fact that their brains had not fully developed to the point of realizing the heinous nature of such an act; on some level these 3 teenagers had to understand that they were also flushing 60 or 70, or perhaps even 80 years of their own lives down the toilet. At this point, the best they can hope for is to spend the rest of their lives in prison. All to relieve a little afternoon boredom. Of course, none of the 3 had any parental guidance or supervision in their lives, so the end result was descent into the bottomless pit of evil. Where serial killers reside; who also kill just for pure pleasure without regard to civilized human decency. Unfortunately, from the beginning of time until present day, there have been and are figures on the world stage for these killers to draw inspiration from.
Also last week, the brutal dictator of Syria, Basher Assad, used poison gas to kill hundreds of his own people who have been rebelling against his despotism for over 2 years. Over 100,000 Syrians have been killed in this bloody civil war; but Assad refuses to relinquish power. Last week Assad’s evil hit a new low, even for him, with the use of poison gas on the opposition. Yes, one is just as dead with a bullet to the head as they are from inhaling poison gas. But the difference is, that with a bullet to the brain, death is usually instantaneous; while inhaling poison gas usually results in several minutes of the most the most agonizing and gruesome torture before death finally takes over. (Google the effects of poison gas on the human body if you’re interested in more gory detail.) Sometimes not enough gas is inhaled to result in death; but the victim is left with years of the most torturous and debilitating aftereffects. The heinous nature of this use of poison gas might have even motivated our President to undertake military action against Assad, even though he appears to be fond of having the weakest American foreign policy in history.
The use of poison gas first reared its ugly head in WWI. My father, as it turns out, who was drafted into the Army during that war, was wounded by mustard gas used by the Germans in the Argonne Forest in France. Fortunately for him, the wounds were minor and he was eventually sent home. (Fortunately for me too, I guess.) When both sides in that war saw the unbelievable horrors caused by poison gas, they both quickly agreed to outlaw its use. ( The war was then fought on a much more humane level of using just bullets and bombs to kill people.) The next use of poison gas was in 1935 by the ruthless dictator of Italy, Benito Mussolini, who had decided to invade the largely defenseless African nation of Ethiopia. Although Ethiopia had virtually no military, it held out for 6 years before Italy could finally claim its conquest. It was Mussolini, by the way that inspired Adolf Hitler to install a similarly brutal fascist dictatorship in Nazi Germany. While Hitler refrained from using poison gas on the battlefields of WWII, he had no compunction about using it to kill 6 million innocent victims in Nazi concentration camps. The Holocaust stands out as probably the single most evil event in recorded history. It’s also a monument to the bottomless pit nature of evil itself.
Fast forward to the 1990s and a civil war going on in Iraq. Saddam Hussain, another legend in evil’s hall-of-fame, employed a despotic dictatorship not unlike Hitler’s in Nazi Germany. The Kurdish people, who occupied a large portion of Northern Iraq, were seeking to break away and form an autonomous state, mostly to free themselves from Hussain’s shackles. Thereupon Hussain ordered his air force to drop canisters of poison gas over heavily populated Kurdish areas. Thousands of people were murdered by this action, and the suffering and anguish of that event lives on, even to this day. Besides the thousands that were killed, hundreds survived, only to live out their lives in anguished debilitation. The world was outraged by this action but it didn’t seem to preclude good ole Saddam from getting a restful night’s sleep. Eventually, President Clinton established a no-fly zone over the Kurdish area of Iraq. This meant the the U.S. air force patrolled Northern Iraqi skies and would shoot down any of Saddam’s planes should they enter that space. As we all know, Saddam was eventually overthrown when President George W. Bush launched an all-out war on his regime in 2003. After several years on the run, he was eventually caught and tried for crimes against humanity, in an Iraqi court. Found guilty, he was hung by his fellow Iraqis, and the world was instantly better, because he was no longer breathing in the same oxygen as the rest of us.
Now we have Saddam’s offshoot, Basher Assad further illustrating both the banality and the bottomless pit nature of evil. Of course, I could have also discussed Stalin in Russia and Mao in China, who also butchered millions upon millions of people in those 2 countries during their reign’s of terror. All this, just within the last 100 years. If I wanted to go back further in history I’d have to write a book about evil. People who aren’t barbarians, or those with a conscience, have a very difficult time understanding the enormity of other people’s capacity to commit evil. It’s like they’re from another planet. But they continue to thrive among us, be they young boys who kill out of boredom; or serial killers looking the thrills they can only obtain from the kill; or tyrants on the world stage willing to kill as many people as it takes to impose their will.