Behind every story is a different reality

The e-mail’s subject line said “coward.” I had written unconventionally about the armed services of this great nation [“Mayhem,” From the Edge, Nov. 12—ed.], and the subject line referred to me.

The sender, a local businessman, opened with, “Your article regarding the terrorist act at Ft. Hood is despicable. You do not deserve to live in this great country. You are a coward of the worst variety. How dare you sit back and pontificate on the evils of America and suck its teat for all the liberties and freedoms it provides your sorry …” and so on.

He also said I was a “mental pervert”—he’s got me there—who didn’t “deserve any of the blessings and protections … afforded by the courageous patriots that serve a greater good.” I thought being from Chicago was enough. I even have my birth certificate.

The reader also accused me of hiding behind our brave warriors and simultaneously feeling superior to them. I’m not hiding behind anybody, and I’m not feeling superior either. It’s not that soldiers aren’t brave, it’s that they kill people they don’t know because somebody else said to—like the Manson family—and their indoctrination, strict obedience, and hierarchical structure are consistent with other cults.

A lot of people—sometimes it seems like most—want the rest of us to agree with them. On everything. Hardly anybody agrees with me—you may have noticed that yourself—and I grant everybody the right to think anything, no matter how goofy I think it is. No matter how unhelpful to the thinker it might appear to be, I stay out of it and I keep my trap shut. It’s a radical approach, like thinking of all murder as just killing with various stories attached.

Take Iraq. One story was “freeing innocent people from the devil, who by the way had something to do with 9/11, and preventing him from hurting us, which he would totally do if he got a chance.” Another, and much older, story is that billions of dollars would change hands for all the stuff to kill people, with trillions more for reconstruction and new military bases and whatnot for years to come, in addition to the oil. Same corpses, same invoices, different story. I’m not arguing with the reality in Iraq or at Fort Hood, but the story is never reality, which is more than any story.

For our souls’ communion, perhaps, this reader closes, “I’d love to get together with you face to face and see just how tuff you are. … Let me know when and where you would like to meet, or just stay in your dark little cave and spew your hate until you need a brave soldier to cover your worthless, pitiful self. Call soon Mr. Big.”

Check me out, “Mr. Big.”