Famous Explosive Raincoat
We know people actually do this. Real men and women actually do this. We see the effects on the television news all the time. We hate them for doing it. We hate them for planning it. And our leaders will stop at nothing to stop them. And that's a good thing, isn't it?
Since our leaders are so committed to having them out, root and branch, that they are even willing to lie to us about why, in order to be able do so, we do have the leisure to take a little break from being completely identified with our hate, and to examine the matter in human terms.
Don't worry. The phones will still be tapped, the e-mail monitored, the spy satellites will still be searching, the bureaucrats will still be briefing the press about the success of the operation, and the Delta Force or the IDF will be ready to blow away the ________ when we find them, or at least destroy their leaders, and their extended families afterwards. So let's put away the hate for a moment and do a little quiet thinking.
Suicide is not fun. Wearing that explosive raincoat can't be all that pleasant. I know personally that, well fed and free as I am, I would be too frightened to do it. What makes a human being do this? We have all sorts of labels for the reasons, but most of these merely evade the question and reinforce our own hate, giving us the will to pull the trigger when, by luck or work, the label finally pops up in front of our gunsights. If we step back and look at own our evasion of the question, however, we have half the answer. What we share with the suicide bomber is hate.
So let's really taste our hate and put a face to the hated one so that when we feel the weight of the gun in our hands, leveling the front sight to the back sight on the face in front of us, we can know the humanness of our own feelings.
What face shall we use for our little fantasy exercise? Let's not use the obvious target--Osama Bin Laden--he is too easy, too conventional a target, to mimic the hate of the suicide bomber. We need targets more anonymous and real, like the patrons of a café where the bomb finally detonates.
Who then? The silly boy who joined the Taliban? The CIA agent and wife of the former ambassador, who criticized the President? Dan Rather? Eason Jordan? Any ordinary Muslim woman walking the street, or shopping at Wal-Mart, with her head covered? The man down the street, with the heavy accent, who owns the convenience store?
With the labels in place (no, I'm not going to state the labels explicitly, that merely keeps us from really feeling our own hate properly) any or all of these faces will do. All by preference, since the suicide bomber needs numbers to make the effort worthwhile.
But something is missing. We don't quite have the suicide bomber, yet. What is it?
When I really probe my own mind for the answer, the only clue I can find is in the few videotapes we have seen of Osama chatting with his entourage, and in the few narratives we know, of those who have spoken with him personally. All show the overwhelming calmness with which the fool's errand (in any rational view) of trying to destroy a country of the size and wealth and power of the United States has been undertaken.
The key, I think, is here--Osama is determined to act despite an utter absence of hope. We have hate, but we still have hope, so we cannot complete the other side of the parenthesis which lets you wear the explosive raincoat. So if you really want to understand the proactive violence of our world, seek the causes in the reasons why the violent have no hope, and not just in their hate. The reactive violence of our leaders, the Delta Force, or the IDF, we already understand well enough.
Why do we want to understand it? I doubt we will defeat the men and women with the raincoats unless we do. Know your enemy, and all that. Know your enemies' human weaknesses, particularly.
Will we keep our hope? If we consider the possibility that in order to win the "War On Terror" the United States may have to monitor absolutely every phone call and every e-mail, videotape every street corner of every city, have the content of every bank balance and every credit record available on demand to every policeman or airline ticket agent, and know exactly where all 290 million of us are at any given moment, completely despoiling us of personal privacy and partially despoiling us of freedom, the outlook isn't too good.
Then, of course, there is the fact, though we haven't been paying any attention to it, that our leaders are rapidly making it impossible for America ever to be the "land of opportunity" again, in the way it was in the past.
I really don't think, in the long term, we will keep that hope.
But, then, there's always a London Fog outlet near you for whenever the skies threaten rain.