Letter From New York 02 03 15 A Step Too Far…

The day didn’t start quietly; I was awakened by the sounds of trucks scraping the street outside the apartment in New York. It was a struggle to wake, having been in a long, convoluted dream about explaining some technology to a friend.

Running late for an early lunch date with a friend, I hailed a taxi on West End Avenue and headed for Le Bonne Soupe in Midtown. The driver was a cheery fellow and we chatted as we headed south; he was from Lebanon and has lived in the US for twenty-six years. He left Lebanon in the late eighties due to the civil war between Christians and Muslims. As his taxi was decorated with a number of rosaries, I pegged him as Christian. He reminded me that I have made a decision to live in an attitude of gratitude these days.

My friend, Mary Dickey, and I were the first customers of the day at Le Bonne Soupe, settling in for some warm food on a cold day. While we were eating, my phone buzzed with the distinct sound it has when an alert is coming in from BBC News. Picking up the phone, I read that ISIS had apparently burnt alive their captured Jordanian pilot.

Muath al-Kaseasbeh is his name. I want to say his name. If the video is legitimate and every one of ISIS’s videos has been legitimate, the “Caliphate” has stooped to a new low in its cruelty and depravity.

Apparently they dragged him in their signature orange jail suits to a cage, doused him with gasoline, and set him afire with great panache.

The Jordanians believe he was killed on January 3rd, long before ISIS dangled him as a pawn in an effort to secure the release of a woman in Jordan who has been condemned to death for being part of a suicide bombing in Amman ten years ago. Her own suicide vest failed to explode.

While having been disgusted at the beheadings, something about this latest death has caused me to feel anger, to want to do something to punish ISIS, to wish we had a hundred thousand snipers to deploy on them.

This was a step too far.

It has hung over me all day, a weight I should feel, I think. We have been at war so long we have all become a bit distant from the brutal meaning of humans killing other human beings. War is a brutal, brutish thing and takes men to the heart of a dark spot in their beings. It is no wonder we have so many veterans who are suffering the aftereffects of their time in service in Iraq and Afghanistan and every other place we have been in war.

Steven Pinker wrote the best selling book The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. He posits that over history we have gotten gentler.

It is hard on a day like this to believe it.

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