An Inherent Human Trait to Kill

Last week when I wrote about the news, I put on a pair of rose-colored glasses and attempted to solve the country’s problems with a well-intended, but unlikely-to-happen suggestion for peace. Today, I leave my glasses on and look at the greater world, pleading futilely for peace. The problem with these damn glasses is that blood doesn’t really change its color when you wear them, so I don’t understand how others cannot see the same thing I’m seeing.

As a student of human culture, I have concluded that human beings have a proclivity towards violence. A tendency to murder and kill might be wound deeply within the human genetic code. Throughout history, human beings have proven to possess the capacity to kill one another, usually for reasons guided by personal belief systems or socially-rationalized policies that justify the selfish act of taking a person’s life. The world’s multiple news threads of the past week have done nothing to dissuade me of my conclusion.

In Iraq, we have seen a return to violence between factions of Sunni militants and the U.S.-enabled, Shiite-controlled Iraqi government. This ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) organization has stampeded through Northern Iraq, shooting, pillaging, and killing their way across the country in about a week’s time. U.S.-trained Iraqi military police have fled their posts, fearing for their own lives; those who stayed at their post have been captured, beaten, and mass-executed to prove some un-Godly point. Some have had to endure grisly decapitation while alive, a practice that involves the most brutal lack of human compassion, proof that humans are still more than capable of suppressing whatever human dignity that might prevent such grisly acts upon another human being. Many have been publically executed. Shiite clerics are currently asking the youth of Baghdad to take up arms to kill members of the insurgency. The U.S. has moved an aircraft carrier into the Iraqi waters, ready to add its efficient killing technology where needed, but without resolve about who deserves to bear the brunt of U.S. military dominance. Iran, a country with its share of practiced bloodshed, might actually intervene as a pseudo-ally of the United States of America.

The ISIS movement started in Syria, where bloody civil war has enabled mass death by use of chemical weapons, a no-no according to NATO pacts. Never mind the bloodshed caused by typical knives, guns, and explosives…the Syrian conflict has sustained itself readily, executing families house-to-house and forcing refugees to flee en masse. When the world intervened and told Assad chemical weapons were off the table, the actors in Syria “innovatively” utilized barrel bombs, dropped indiscriminately upon humanitarian facilities in an effort to kill more innocents…and once chlorine gas was discovered to NOT be on the agreed-upon list of chemical weapons, it may have been employed for more efficient killing. ISIS learned its radicalism and disregard for human life within Syrian borders, where the Syrian government has been most instructive on genocide.

Americans’ initial reaction is, of course, to get involved in Iraq again (after giving Obama the requisite blame). This is understandable, since our insurgency into Iraq has quite a bit to do with the current ISIS movement (I’d like to see the name Bush inserted into more of the conversations of blame!)…and we should also be concerned about the establishment of a terrorist nation that might make a name for itself by attacking and killing Americans on U.S. soil. We hesitate, because we have lost over 4,000 soldiers to the war in Iraq (I presume this number does not include soldiers who committed suicide because of the Iraqi war, so forgive me if I am not precise). American decisions about taking human life become more considerate when it involves the potential death of our own citizens…but I assume too many Americans will not bat much of an eye at the likely, soon-to-be staggering number of deaths that occur from Iraqis killing one another…certainly the number in Syria doesn’t really bother us much, or we might have intervened earlier, potentially thwarting this new killing trend…the problem with American intervention, in Syria and Iraq, remains that intervention means more killing.

Lest we forget, there is a lot of killing occurring not too far away in the country of Ukraine. It wasn’t that long ago that the Winter Olympics were punctuated by a rebellion of Ukrainian citizens against their Russian-supported government, in which nearly a hundred people died in conflicts sponsored by the then-Viktor Yanukovych-led Ukrainian government. Vladmir Putin reacted by taking Crimea and pushing Russian military to the eastern border of Ukraine. This past week, a Ukrainian military plane was shot down, supposedly by pro-Russian insurgents. Forty-nine useless deaths in Ukraine, and it barely registers a blip on the American news radar. We’re too concerned about Iraq. Apparently, Putin might be using the world’s attention on Iraq to push his advantage, as there are reports of Russian tanks and soldiers entering across the border into Ukraine. There will likely be more deaths across the ocean as foreign countries justify killing, both in Ukraine and Iraq, over where borders should be drawn.

Speaking of borders, we have an occasion other than war to observe human tendencies of violence…at our own southern border. Over a thousand fleeing children are now attempting to enter the United States. Most of these children are travelling unescorted by parents and were sent as a final chance to escape from an increase in violence in countries like Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. I cannot begin to put myself into the shoes of a parent that feels compelled to send her children unescorted on an unsafe journey into another country…but I’m sure that if I saw a chance for my children to escape the possibility of dying, I would probably make the same difficult decision.

Before we get too comfortable with the idea that we here in America are safe from such violence, I don’t need to remind Americans about how a 14-year-old Oregon student was shot in his last week of school by another 15-year-old. I don’t need to remind about how two Nevada police officers and a Wal-Mart customer were shot to death by two radicals. I don’t need to remind how a misogynistic narcissist killed seven rampaging through Isla Vista, California. I don’t need to remind about Newtown, Connecticut. I don’t need to remind about the Boston Marathon. I don’t need to remind about the South Side of Chicago. I don’t need to remind about Trayvon Martin. I don’t need to remind about Aurora, Colorado, or Fort Hood, Texas, (twice), or Columbine, or Virginia Tech, or Northern Illinois…or any of countless daily news stories where Americans were intentionally killed by other Americans. I don’t need to remind about the 74 school shootings that have occurred since twenty five- and six-years-olds and six of their teachers lost their lives to a single killer (no matter how CNN attempts to paint it)…and I certainly don’t need to remind Americans about September 11th, 2001.

Americans are human beings. We are just as easily capable of killing, or being killed by another, as those who might live in another country…and we are just as easily capable of continuing the human trend of violent killing that has marred much of global human history. Ask Wayne LaPierre about how dangerous America has become.

Not only do I conclude that human beings have the innate ability to take others’ lives, but I also conclude that it is a sustainable, and sustaining, human condition. We have not learned from history’s mistakes; in fact, we lean towards justifying further killings instead of practicing peace. Whether it’s because of mass media, which should allow for greater scrutiny and understanding of our fellow human beings, or it’s because of technologically-enhanced killing methods, which allow for more efficiency of killing more and more human beings, there is no denying that we have never abandoned that inherent human trait that allows for us to take another human life.

Rationalizing death is a circular argument from which the human collective seemingly cannot escape. It’s my preference that we recognize this inherent quality to kill within the human condition and eradicate it, like the historically-proven disease that it is. Otherwise, human beings collectively are simply the Earth’s most-populated virus, comprised of vicious, self-serving, hunting/gathering animals that fulfill the primal theory of Survival of the Fittest. A more human philosophy might involve how killer humans put primacy on the Self…and it’s easiest for the Self to justify the death of the Other for the Self’s benefit. At some point in human history, coldly-objective human animals might evolve and become human beings, emotional creatures capable of campaigning for peace, promoting the importance of human life, and working harmoniously with one another for the advancement of the species.

That day does not seem to be today, but I would suggest—nay, I would beg—that this day is just as good as any to stop the killing.

{If you appreciated this writing and want to help support the continuation of this blog, please consider sending a donation to:

Scott C. Guffey
P.O. Box 53
Michigan City, IN 46360

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