By lex, on May 4th, 2006
Well. Color me: Disappointed, but not entirely surprised.
That ol’ debbil Zacharais Moussaoui gave the hangman the slip yesterday, as a “jury of his peers” determined that, gosh, hadn’t childhood been hard on him, and all? Abusive father, you know. Racial epithets – in French no less! – and we all know how wounding it can be to have someone call you names. Especially in French.
Conspire in the murder of 2700 innocents, and later say – in front of a jury – that your only wish is that it might have been more, and get a pass. Supper’s on us, breakfast too and did I mention dinner? No, no, put it away. I insist. Forever.
If Moussaoui didn’t deserve to die for his crime – remember, he was in custody, knew of the 9/11 plot and could have stopped it, in fact actively lied to the FBI to prevent its discovery – then no one does. And if no one does, we ought to change the law and have done with it.
But forgive me, gentle reader, I believe that certain people do deserve to die for particularly heinous, premeditated crimes. And the law as currently written says that we have the collective right to say, “Enough!Too much! We recognize you now: You are a beast in a man suit, and we exile you from our company. By these inhuman acts you have foreited your ‘humanity’ privileges.”
But (insert obligatory nod to due process in particular and the judicial system in general here) we seem to have lost our moral compass at best, or our nerve at worst. A man can gleefully boast of his conspiracy to kill thousands of us, and we look for reasons to just… put him away. Out of sight – see? All gone.
Right and wrong become not absolutes, nor even discernable shades of gray, but just a different way of looking at things. Some people think it’s a good thing to kill innocents in their thousands and set that as a goal – and who are we to judge? Different strokes, etc. Shame if it happens to someone you know.
If this result reflects who we truly are as a people, then we are no longer slouching towards Gomorrah, to use Robert Bork’s words – we’re headed there in a dead sprint. Is anyone really surprised anymore that in the 21st Century it should be possible to find a juror – you only need one – so stubbornly muddleheaded as to say, well, yes he could have stopped it, and yes he knew the difference between right and wrong, but he is kind of loopy (unlike your run-of-the-mill, garden variety, seen-one-seen-’em-all mass murdering terrorist). And even then there’s something in what he says you know: We haven’t always been perfect neighbors and then there’s that nasty upbringing. It was almost inevitable really. All children with hard backgrounds, who’ve been cursed at in French will inevitably try to kill a few thousand Americans, and get the chance to crow about it later. Chickens come home to roost, really.
This is much less an act of mercy than it is an unwillingness to unflinchingly face evil and give it a name.
And then some of us will say, “This will show the world the difference between us and them: We have mercy.” Because the difference between us and them apparently wasn’t at all clear, heretofore. And it’s wonderfully naive, so very “Miracle on 34th Street” to think that any minds may now be changed in darker corners of Islamist thought by this gesture of mercy. No, they are much more Cesar Romero than George Seaton over there, and somewhere in Ramadi a bomb maker looks up from his workbench to see ol’ Zach boasting that “America loses” on Al Jazeera, and that the knucklehead gets to spend the rest of his natural as a federal ward rather than take a needle for the team. He mutters something about god working in mysterious ways, screws his monocle back in and lowers his head back to his circuit board.
So. Done is done, and not much use to fume about it after, except, I suppose, as a kind of catharsis. If any one asks me where he should go though, I’ll only point out that Jeffrey Dahmer’s cell is, I think, still open. See you in the yard.