Friday, October 21, 2011

Khadafy Killing a 'Good Thing' in an Age of 'Good Things'

They killed Khadafy.

By now, everyone knew what there was to know. Deposed Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy was killed Thursday in his hometown of Sirte after a NATO airstrike busted up a convoy of vehicles, and rebel fighters found the bedraggled tyrant hiding in a drainage pipe. The wounded Khadafy was dragged from the pipe, and, apparently, an 18-year-old rebel fighter saved Libyan taxpayers the cost of a showy show trial.

Khadafy was the poster child among blood-thirsty dictators, and no one beyond the blood-thirsty dictator fan club shed any tears.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj of the Libyan military counsel proclaimed, "we have done a great job to liberate all the country."

The world's leaders chimed in.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said, "The disappearance of Moammar Khadafy is a major step in the struggle led for the last eight months by the Libyan people..."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "This day draws a line beneath the Khadafy regime: it is an important day for the Libyans."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, "The death of Moammar Khadafy is an historic moment for the people of Libya."

In the U.S., bickering legislators found themselves grudgingly in agreement.

"The passing of Moammar Khadafy from this earth is definitely not a bad thing," said Democratic Sen. Chris Coons (DE).

"Khadafy being gone is a good thing," said Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (MO).

Even Martha Stewart would likely arrange a couple of doilies around the tyrant's bloodied corpse and pronounce it "a Good Thing."

There was no doubting Khadafy'd been a baaad man, and that he'd been, in the parlance of the Wild Old West, someone who'd "needed killin.'"

And yet, and yet...

They killed Saddam Hussein, and everyone agreed it was a good thing.

They killed Osama bin Laden, and everyone cheered.

They killed Anwar Al-Awlaki, and everyone more of less nodded in assent.

Certainly, some very bad people had gotten their comeuppance of late. Their just desserts. Paid the piper. Had their dogma run over by their karma.

Certainly President Barack Obama had gotten to step repeatedly up to a podium to tell the White House press corp that yet another enemy of freedom, democracy and goodness had bitten the dust.

And yet, and yet...

Of course, this was the way it was supposed to be. Harry killed Lord You-Know-Who. 007 killed Goldfinger. Darth Vader redeemed himself by killing the Emperor. The 47 Ronin acquitted themselves by killing the evil Lord. Countless square-jawed Sheriffs gunned down countless black-hatted villains at innumerable high noons on innumerable dusty Main Streets.

And yet, and yet...

When did civilization devolve to the point where its only victories consisted of killing someone? When had the payoff for all the hope and struggle and toil and sacrifice become reduced to a bullet through someone's brain? When was it that the only tickmarks goodness and decency and democracy dropped into the "Win" column began coming from gunning someone down or blowing someone up?

It wasn't so much that killing Khadafy wasn't the best thing since killing bin Laden, but that it was the only good thing since killing bin Laden. It wasn't so much that killing Khadafy wasn't a good thing, but that killing some bad guy had become the only good thing anybody managed to accomplish in a very, very long while.

Couldn't anybody other than the Avenging Angel please make a play?

Couldn't the Angel of Mercy break a tackle and dance into the end zone for six? Couldn't Charity step to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and crank a three-run jack to send the fans home happy? Couldn't Kindness sink a three-pointer at the buzzer and draw the foul to put the home team over the top?

Couldn't faith, or hope, or temperance, or diligence, or patience, or humility bend that last-second kick into the back of the net as the play-by-play announcer ecstatically screamed, "Goooooooooooooal?"

While the world celebrated this good thing, it seemed incapable of creating jobs for people who needed them, or nursing the sick and injured, or caring for aging parents and grandparents. While the world did its touchdown dance and spiked the football over yet another bloody corpse, it seemed incapable of cleaning up its rivers and lakes and oceans, or clearing its air, or reversing global climate change, or even agreeing such problems existed.

When the good folks of eighteenth century France set up Dr. Guillotines' amazing slicing, dicing, person-o-matic in the Place de la Revolution and began dragging powdered aristocrats to the National Razor to take a foot off the top, the crowd agreed it was a very good thing. They whacked Louis XVI, and Collenot d'Angremont. They whacked Marie Antoinette. Maximilien Robespierre and the Revolutionary Tribunal figured it was all good and whacked aristos and collaborators and crooks left and right. There seemed to be no end to good things.

And yet, and yet...

Somewhere between the time they whacked Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins and Robespierre himself; sometime between the rise of an obscure army officer named Napoleon and a genocidal war in Spain; at some point between Austerlitz and a miserable, freezing retreat from Russia and the maelstrom of Waterloo, it ceased being a good thing.

Killing Khadafy was a good thing, everyone agreed. Killing Hussein was a good thing, most everyone agreed. Killing bin Laden was a good thing, most everyone west of Islamabad agreed. Killing Al-Awlaki was a good thing, many people more or less agreed.

Thanks to modern technology, there was no need to trek to a guillotine for a good thing, as good things could be administered remotely. Unmanned drones fired over-the-horizon smart missiles. Snipers blew people up from a mile away. Rockets and RPGs and IEDs all administered someone's idea of a good thing.

There was no end to the number of good things that could be done, and no end to the number of folks who figured they knew a good thing when they saw one.

Someone posted a $75,000 inducement on the internet figuring that murdering Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-IL) was a good thing. Last month, someone, the same or otherwise, offered $100,000 for killing President George W. Bush. Or Donald Rumsfeld. Or Dick Cheney. Or any U.S. Senator, Congressmember, or their family members.

The FBI was investigating similar threats against Obama and other lawmakers. A lot of people seemed to have their own ideas about which things might be good.

It was a time when anger and disenfranchisement had spilled onto the streets of cities and towns around the world. It was a Time for Outrage!, declared revered diplomat and World War II French Resistance fighter Stephane Hessel.

It was a time that threatened to be full of good things.

And everyone knew how regrettable too much of a good thing could be.

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