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It is midnight in the garden of good and evil

By Nancy Salvato
web posted April 30, 2007

Every man who has preserved or defended his country, or has made it greater, is reserved a special place in heaven, where he enjoys an eternal life of happiness. Of all those things one might do on earth, nothing is more pleasing to the Supreme God, ruler of the universe, than the gatherings of men who are bound together by law and custom in those communities we call states. In fact, it is from this place, here, in heaven, that the rulers and preservers of states come from, and to which they eventually return.
-- Cicero: The Dream of Scipio

I find it difficult to begin this piece of writing, an undertaking prompted by an article about the Virginia Tech memorial. I've already surmised what I end up writing will leave me exposed to a flood of e mailed rage. Still, I am compelled to tackle this matter because there is something that needs to be aired. Here begins my next Tsunami, this time an attempt to distinguish between good and evil in the context of terror and terrorism.

Many people identify with seeing the world through pre- and post-9/11 lenses. Prior to Osama Bin Laden's suicide henchmen flying planes into the Twin Towers, I was more concerned about my immediate circle of friends and family and the mundane suburban problems associated with such a lifestyle. Was I paying attention to what was happening outside my circle? Well, not so much. I was only concerned about how events impacted me. For awhile, I actually followed Andrew Weil's advice, going on a news fast. I only knew of the outside world from news sound bites aired between songs on the radio. My husband, who opines more than Bill O'Reilly, was appalled that his wife, who majored in history, would read a Time or Newsweek cover to cover when wanting to catch up with what was happening in today's world. That is all I need to know, I would tell him. He would just shake his head.

After 9/11 everything changed. Knocked out of my self-induced stupor, a buried passion was jump started; and I found myself studying and analyzing history as it unfolded in "real time" before me. Slowly, at first, and then like a dam breaking, everything I had ever learned was connecting. Like Scipio in Cicero's Republic, I could see the world and how it fit together. Reading "between the lines", I grasped the big picture and began to understand how seemingly isolated events were actually related. It didn't take long to conclude that we are in the midst of a war and our "way of life" is at stake. Within the United States and the western world, rages a culture war that threatens our rule of law. Around the world, war is waged against western civilization by those following a fundamentalist ideology which encompasses eliminating, converting or making us subservient to their fanatical beliefs. We keep conceding to our enemies because we think there is an opportunity to negotiate, but there is not. Surreal, the drums beat in the distance...far from Jewel and McDonalds, far from the comforts afforded the people living in this country, who can't imagine the domino effect of just one nuclear bomb exploding on our soil.

Viewing the world, post 9/11, has changed the way I see what is happening around me. When I board my train, I look at my fellow passengers wondering if any have planned on blowing his or herself up. Recently, I was asked by a passenger to watch his back pack while he went to the bathroom. I said yes and then worried if I would be an accomplice to the death and carnage that might take place. I didn't really believe anything would happen but there was great relief when he came back to his seat. When I arrive at Union Station, I think of the Ricin that was unleashed in the Japanese subway system and wonder what it must have been like for those who experienced that act of terror. Working next to the Sears Tower, I wonder how fast I could run down 12 flights of stairs and if there would be a nuclear wind that would swallow me up as I exited my own building in the event the terrorists succeed in striking one of their targets. Would I help others who are trying to escape? If we gave in to terrorists, I wonder if men in our culture would truly believe that they had more rights than me, how many would abuse women because they would be protected by Sharia law. I wonder how it would feel living among the rubble of blown up buildings with no electricity or heat or access to packaged food. Could my middle aged body perform manual labor? Would I beg for my sustenance?

Cho Seung HuiHow does this fit in with the Virginia Tech massacre? I don't think people recognize evil anymore. People are not in touch with their feelings. As I watch the reactions on the television to what occurred, I am not sure I recognize any of the 5 stages of grief, denial; anger; bargaining, depression; and acceptance. I have noticed that people have been extremely quick to forgive the gunman, Cho Seung Hui.

"His family is suffering just as much as anyone else."

However, forgiveness is not about absolving another person of their responsibility for their actions. Many don't seem to recognize that this is a man who committed a deliberate act of terror and does not deserve to be remembered among the victims he massacred. Do we remember Hitler in Holocaust memorials? This person was not invested in his chosen community, did not care about others and, at the very least, could be considered a psychopath who imposed terror on others to satisfy some need within him. Psychopaths are antisocial and have no remorse when they impose great harm on others. If they cannot control their impulses, they should be locked up.

Many of his actions may be the result of his identifying more with the terrorists who want to destroy our way of life. He waged war against our culture and snuffed out random lives, completely in line with his well planned manifesto. His act was premeditated and evil, at the very least. Quite possibly, he saw himself as a terrorist in the larger war being waged against our culture. In no way should he be memorialized. We should rise up and defend ourselves against such people.

In the world that existed before September 11th, I might not have seen it this way. I might not have understood that there is a clear demarcation between good and evil. Good allows people to live their lives in freedom and asks that people not impose their beliefs on others (secular or otherwise). After September 11th, I understand that the evil which allows intolerance of those who do not share the same views must be fought against. Evil must be recognized for what it is; evil is a belief that there is no such thing as evil, that every act can be rationalized and that we should tolerate those who want to destroy us. ESR

Nancy Salvato is the President of The Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501 (C) (3) research and educational project whose mission is to promote the education of the American public on the basic elements of relevant political, legal and social issues important to our country. She is also a Staff Writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit (501c3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets, where she contributes on matters of education policy. Copyright © Nancy Salvato 2007


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