Humanity, Hobgoblins, and Hubris

B-2 Bomber in flight

B-2 Bomber in flight (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It has been a long, strange week. We began with the first acknowledged act of terror on American soil in over ten years. I say “acknowledged” because there have been others, but because the victims have either not fit the profile of “good” victims, or the perpetrators have been dismissed as either “lone” madmen or extremists in the name of “acceptable” causes, our narrative has not allowed those people to be called “terrorist.” I watched as this discussion took shape long before we had any knowledge of who the suspects in the Boston Marathon Bombing were. I hoped, just a little, that maybe we could see a real dialogue take shape.

It may still, I vacillate wildly between wide-eyed optimist and heavy-hearted pessimist. The language from the right, and the absolute refusal of the mainstream media to challenge it, makes it hard though. Already I see the events being co-opted by the less rational of my fellow gun rights advocates. They wonder if now Muslims are going to be put on some sort of list whenever they buy pressure cookers, as if this were a group of people not already being profiled and marginalized, as if they did not have to suffer extra scrutiny at transit checkpoints, or wonder if a relative might be held indefinitely simply because of their name.

We are all so ready to paint anyone not “us” as villains. The two young fools that perpetrated this horrible act were motivated, at least in part, by their willingness to not accept the basic humanity of those around them. In retaliation, in rage, in fear, and yes in pride, we are willing to do so to everyone even a little like them. The vast majority of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Atheists, or whatever else, go through life just wanting to get through their next day. They hope for a little happiness, a little comfort, and more than a little safety. When the chips are down, however, and someone tells them another group wants to destroy them, they are willing to believe it, because how else does the “other” think?

We have been force-fed a narrative our entire lives, one that convinces us of our obvious superiority to those not of our culture. They are less, or at least incomplete. Only our culture can raise the individual to the ultimate expression of humanity, and if someone is part of another culture, then they are a hobgoblin to be closely watched, less they lash out and hurt us, because that is what hobgoblins do. Led by our noses we are willing to toss humility to the wayside, and commit acts of true terror on one another, feeding fuel into this psychotic merry-go-round that threatens to spin us all into oblivion.

Now we face the very real possibility that short-sighted, old men will spin this into greater military spending and action. We will drop bombs, or help our Russian “friends” to drop bombs on innocent people to punish a tiny, wicked minority, all the while lining the pockets of those who benefit from our willingness to think the worst of complete strangers living in fear half a world away. The carnival’s manager has filled the house of horrors with monsters to thrill us, and we are eager to throw our money and our young at him to pay the price of admission. It lets us believe in our hearts that we are better than them, it lets us ignore the crimes we are complicit in, and to trample over the memories of our own lost loved ones and neighbors. I suppose that is a small price, for some, to pay for our continued pride.

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