Thursday, April 19, 2007

April Murder


April 19, 1993
: Seventy-nine people die, including 21 children, when the FBI conducts a dawn assault on the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. The cause of the uncontrollable inferno that killed so many is still a point of controversy.

April 19, 1995: The Alfred R. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City is bombed, killing 168 (of which 19 were children) and injuring over 800. Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, and Michael Fortier are all later convicted for their parts in this tragedy. McVeigh is executed in 2001.

April 20, 1999: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold massacre twelve students and a teacher at Columbine High School just west of Littleton, Colorado. Twenty-four others are wounded. Harris and Klebold commit suicide at the scene.

April 16, 2007: South Korean émigré Cho Seung-Hui kills 32 (and himself) and injures 29 during two separate rampages on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.

For future reference, it might be prudent to be extra careful during the third week of April next year and in all years after that. In the past fourteen years, 292 people were killed in the above four April mass murders in the United States, and perhaps others could be added to the tally.

Most "rational" people would conclude that the chronological convergence of these atrocities is merely coincidence, that there is no evidence that links them, and they are probably right. There are more differences than there are similarities. But, just for kicks, let us consider the possibility that these tragedies are connected. What are the commonalities among them?

First, there are the dates, of course. On the Gregorian calendar, they all occurred within four days of each other, in different years. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Oklahoma City Bombing was specifically timed to occur on the anniversary of the Waco Assault, in retaliation for the government's unlawful use of power against its own citizens. The Columbine Massacre may also have been planned for April 19, as both killers mentioned on videotape that they intended to top the carnage of the previous mass killings, but the making of propane bombs delayed their plans for a day. So far, no word has come out that Cho timed his killing spree to coincide with the others. For what it is worth, Adolf Hitler's birthday was April 20, 1889.

Second, there are the large casualty figures. The smallest of them, the Columbine slaughter, totaled 39 dead and wounded, including the perpetrators. Cho's rampages caused 62 casualties; the FBI's assault, 79; and McVeigh's bomb, nearly 1,000. While none of these figures approach the nearly 3,000 deaths of September 11, 2001, they are nonetheless atrocious, and in the Columbine and Blacksburg murders, very personal. Also, the first two tragedies killed high numbers of children (21 and 19, respectively), while the last two were perpetrated by students on school campuses, leaving many students dead (12 and 27, respectively). Finally, the last two also ended in the suicides of the killers.

Third, there are the killers' grievances. All of them, including the FBI, felt justified in taking multiple lives in retaliation for real or imagined offenses committed against them. As an agency, the FBI was frustrated and confused by the unorthodox beliefs and staunch resistance of the Branch-Davidians, and its morning assault appeared to be an over-the-top response to this defiance. Allegedly, McVeigh and his cohorts used their bomb to express their indignation against the federal government. Columbine killers Harris and Klebold evidently struck out against those who looked down on them and bullied them. Cho's "multi-media manifesto" rails against rich, pampered, dissolute Americans. While none of these gripes justify mass murder, they provided rationales for their homicidal behavior.

But there is a fourth commonality that too few people—and even fewer media pundits—are comfortable in pointing out: All four of these atrocities were acts of pure evil. Americans are so liberal and humanistic in outlook that they can hardly imagine, much less verbalize, that some of their fellow citizens are evil people. The "experts" provide them with convenient dodges: The killers had "issues"; they were "disturbed"; their frontal lobes had been "compromised," making them unable to control themselves; they had been led astray by violent video games or movies; they had been trained to kill in war or in their line of work; etc., ad nauseum. Why can many not accept the fact that there are genuinely evil people who do indisputably evil things?

In an insightful commentary on the Virginia Tech massacre, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan relates her conclusion about the matter:

The most common-sensical thing I heard said came Thursday morning, in a hospital interview with a student who'd been shot and was recovering. Garrett Evans said of the man who'd shot him, "An evil spirit was going through that boy, I could feel it." It was one of the few things I heard the past few days that sounded completely true. Whatever else Cho was, he was also a walking infestation of evil.

The reason for evil being so unimaginable in present-day America resides in her citizen's rejection of revelation and enthusiastic embrace of so-called scientific reason. Science cannot empirically test evil, nor its ultimate source, Satan the Devil. Having spurned the Bible's warnings about "the god of this age" (II Corinthians 4:4), who has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9), and accepted on faith that human nature is on an evolutionary course toward perfection, many people never really consider if true wickedness even exists. They coin euphemisms to describe evil acts: They become "crimes," "tragedies," "misdeeds," "atrocities," "psychopathic violence," even "outbursts of a tortured soul." And by ignoring the existence of evil, they bar themselves from seeking real solutions to it.

Proverbs 8:13 says, "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate." When so many in this nation forsook the fear of God, they failed to hate evil, and evil, unrecognized and ignored, began to grow and spread, breaking out in murder and mayhem in April and September and in every other month of the year. Until Americans once again acknowledge the presence of evil within the "desperately wicked" human heart (Jeremiah 17:9), they will not be able to devise viable solutions to counter it. And if they refuse to change their approach, the days of Noah are at hand (Matthew 24:37).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Apologies and Hypocrisy


Over the past week or so, we have witnessed several examples of a consequence of present-day America's inclusive, diverse, multicultural society. Perhaps we should call our time the "Age of Apology," as it appears that everyone has something to apologize to someone else for. It is as if we are all sitting at the hot-seat end of Oprah Winfrey's couch, sweating under the intense glare of the lights and forced by media scrutiny and public disapproval to confess our trespasses against those we have wronged.

Call Dr. Phil! We need to talk this out.

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:10, quoting Psalm 14:1, "There is none righteous, no not one." A few verses later, he paraphrases Psalm 5:9, "Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit" (Romans 3:13). His accusations are just—human beings as a whole and as individuals are guilty as charged. James writes in his epistle, "For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. . . . But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James 3:2, 8). He concludes, "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so" (verse 10). Offensive speech is unjustified.

However, under America's founding principles, offensive speech is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . . ." Essentially, the Founders severely limited the government's ability to censor speech, writing, or activity that expresses contrarian views. They depended on the overall morality of society to keep such expressions within decent, ethical parameters. A quick look at modern American culture exposes their Pollyannaish trust in the innate goodness of their fellow man.

In a way, then, the public outcry over Don Imus' thoughtless and demeaning "joke" at the expense of the Rutgers women's basketball players fills the role that the Founders hoped would help to rein in offensive speech. Yet, unfortunately, this view is a bit simplistic. Imus is reaping what he sowed, surely, but others who regularly say far worse things—and ultimately far more damaging things—about black women receive a free pass.

As Michelle Malkin has chronicled in a recent column (*offensive language warning*), top-selling rap "artists" verbally abuse black women in their crude, hateful lyrics. Rapper Snoop Dog, a man with an extensive rap sheet of his own, claims that the double standard is warranted:

It's a completely different scenario. [Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about [women] that's in the 'hood that ain't doing [anything], that's trying to get a [black man] for his money. These are two separate things. . . . We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel.

In his illogic, Snoop Dog thinks it is entirely justified to demean young black women in song after song, accompanied by memorable lyrics and a catchy beat because rappers see women as money-grubbing opportunists and because it is "relevant" to the artists' feelings. How this affects the attitudes, self-perceptions, and aspirations of both young black men and women never enters the equation. Yet, if a white man imitates the same "urban" phrases in a foolish attempt at humor, he should be at least publicly excoriated, deprived of employment, and perhaps sued and stifled for the rest of his natural life—and perhaps beyond. While what Imus did is wrong, what the rappers do in hit after hit is pure evil. It is indefensible as "real," as art, as culture, as anything.

Amidst this farce, another major apology became news when Durham, North Carolina, District Attorney Mike Nifong apologized to the three Duke lacrosse players whom he accused of raping a hired exotic dancer a year ago. Nifong, a liberal Democrat running for reelection at the time, made this a high-profile case even though the early evidence cast serious doubt on the accuser's story. Meanwhile, the three young men—though certainly not saints, by any means—were exposed to intimidation (by the Black Panthers), calls for their castration (by feminists at Duke), calls for their expulsion (by a cabal of Duke professors), and general defamation of character (by too many to list). Jesse Jackson, ever eager to denounce racism and capture another fifteen minutes of fame, embroiled himself in the controversy, promising to pay for the accuser's college education.

The lacrosse players lead defense attorney, Joe Cheshire said that Nifong "appealed to the racial divide" and "so-called community activists" agitated the public into a frenzy despite a lack of evidence. "Both sides, white and black, need to turn themselves away from community activists and [those] who see race in everything, . . . [who] see hate. Everything is not racial, everything is not class, . . . everything is not politically correct." On the strength of this concerted agitation, Nifong was reelected—beating a law-and-order black Republican!—and continued his prosecution of the Duke student-athletes.

It is no wonder that they do not accept Nifong's apology as genuine. In their eyes, he is merely trying to save his own bacon and salvage what he can of his professional reputation. He faces almost certain disbarment by the NC State Bar Association, which took the unprecedented action of instigating the procedure itself (normally, it is petitioned by others). It is unlikely to rule against its own ethics violations charges.

And where are the apologies of the Black Panthers, the Duke feminists and teachers, and Jesse Jackson? Where are the apologies of the media outlets who hounded these young men for months? Where is the apology of the false accuser? The air surrounding this travesty of justice contains more than a whiff of hypocrisy. Only certain ones have to apologize, and even then, it is insincere and self-serving. Today, a public apology is meaningless, a mere show of contrition.

The ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16) forbids bearing false witness, and its spirit includes every kind of deception and hypocrisy, however expressed. Jesus teaches in Matthew 12:34-37:

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.

The Lord proclaims in Hosea 4:1, "There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land." If we put these scriptures together with the present state of American hypocrisy, we can only reckon that the day of judgment cannot be far off.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Bloodshed Upon Bloodshed


The city of Charlotte, North Carolina, has been in
mourning for the last week since two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers, Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton, were murdered late last Saturday night, March 31, after responding to a domestic disturbance. Witnesses say the officers left the apartment to which they had been called and encountered a young man, whom police now identify as Demeatrius Antonio Montgomery, 25. The three held a fifteen-minute conversation, and then suddenly five shots were fired, all by the suspect. Residents found the two police officers moments later, and both had been shot in the back of the head, their revolvers still holstered. No one saw how it happened, and no one seems to know why.

It has been more than a decade since Charlotte has had an officer killed in the line of duty, and many of her citizens are shocked at the brutality and senselessness of it. Early reports wondered if a recent crackdown on gang activity in the area had prompted retaliation, but police officials discounted the idea. Reports of a second suspect seen fleeing with the assailant have also been quashed. The department is being very tight-lipped regarding the investigation, perhaps to close ranks since the victims are two of its own, perhaps to safeguard its case against Montgomery, or perhaps to obscure the actual cause of the killings. The last supposition is not beyond the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department under its current chief, Darrel Stephens, which officially denied that the Queen City had a gang problem until the last few years, despite the obvious presence of increased crime, violence, and territorial graffiti.

Nevertheless, it has been interesting to witness the reaction to this tragedy. Most people are grieved from an entirely humanitarian point of view, as they should be: Two families have suffered irreplaceable losses, and the city has lost the services of two of its finest, from all reports. Blue ribbons have proliferated all over Charlotte, pinned to lapels, tied around light poles and tree trunks, and affixed to mailboxes, car antennas, fences, and signs. Thousands paid their respects at the visitations on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and thousands more lined the streets on Thursday and Friday afternoons to salute the fallen as their funeral processions wound their way to the cemeteries. The local television and radio stations have broadcast wall-to-wall coverage of the two funerals. Outpourings of sympathy have come from all over the nation and from as far away as the Marshall Islands.

In the past, syndicated columnist Dennis Prager has observed that, in America, conservatives and liberals view the world from two vastly different perspectives. Prager, who is a Jewish conservative, posits that the distinction in viewpoints comes down to each group's understanding of human nature, and these are informed by the sources of their fundamental beliefs. Conservatives, who are predominantly Judeo-Christian in their religion, accept the Bible's teaching that man's nature is flawed, that he tends toward evil unless he is strongly taught and influenced to choose to do good. As Jesus said, "There is none good but One, that is, God" (Matthew 19:17), and Paul echoes His Savior, quoting Psalm 14:3, "There is none who does good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12).

Conversely, liberals are overwhelmingly secular and humanistic—and many are agnostic and atheistic. They consider mankind, then, to be the pinnacle of animal life and impersonal Nature's greatest achievement. In other words, human nature, being an evolutionary development, is good and getting better as mankind advances toward its self-propelled perfection. Philosophically, the belief in the innate goodness of human nature has been a part of the liberal mind at least as long as the ideas of Mencius, Confucius, and Plato.

Applied to this unfortunate event, the conservative and liberal reactions have been typical of their worldviews. Conservative talk-radio has rung with calls for prosecuting Montgomery to the full extent of the law—that is, making sure he receives the death penalty, an option in North Carolina—and diverting funds from arts, transit, and welfare programs to hire more prosecutors and police, as well as to build more jails. Government's first responsibility is public safety, they argue, and the city obviously needs to devote more resources to cleaning up its violent streets.

A few liberals have had the temerity to speak up for the alleged cop-killer. One caller made the unfounded assertion that this is what happens when the police target certain minority segments of the community. City councilwoman and mayor pro tem, Susan Burgess, one of the most liberal people in Charlotte politics, lamented, "I keep thinking about that 25-year-old man, [Montgomery,] and I ask, where did we lose him?" Taking her comment at face value, she seems to feel more pity for the "wayward" perpetrator of a gruesome crime than for his undeserving victims. Apparently, this young man took to a life of crime through our negligence. With the right social intervention at the right time, he could have been a fine, outstanding citizen. It never seems to have occurred to Burgess that he may just be an evil person.

The Bible predicts that the nations of Israel will be filled with bloodshed as the time of Jacob's Trouble nears (see Hosea 4:2; Jeremiah 30:7). Ezekiel 7:11-12, 23 says, "Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness. . . . The time has come, the day draws near. . . . Make a chain, for the land is filled with crimes of blood, and the city is full of violence." Charlotte is not alone among cities witnessing escalating violence and brutality, rising numbers of gangs and gang members, and increasing fear and insecurity. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy as befell these Charlotte policemen to focus attention on the problem, but even so, questions remain. Will the community and its leaders have the vision and wherewithal to find and implement solutions? Will they have the endurance to see them through?

Perhaps the most troubling question is, with the state of society as it is, can these problems even be solved? Call me skeptical of human abilities, but God, I feel, will have to intervene to fix this mess.