Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Well, it's official. The whole world's going to heck.

It shouldn't surprise me. For years, I've been a firm believer that a good chunk of humanity is hopelessly evil. This enchantingly pessimistic outlook, generated somewhere around the third time my house was t.p.'ed as a kid, has kept me somewhat level-headed when perusing the oft depressing and occasionally horrifying news headlines.

I mean, there's always going to be corrupt governments oppressing mankind in favor of oil and power. And as long as one person believes in god #1 while another believes in god #2, there will always be conflicts, wars, and atrocities that you'd think would majorly tick off ANY of your gods of choice. The big headlines don't shock me.

It's the smaller acts of evil that make you sit there and go, "Umm? Really? In OUR world?" This week, I read one of those stories that's still leaving a mark on my psyche.

By now, I should be firmly desensitized to violence, right? I listen to Top 40 music that pushes the virtues of decadence daily in new and exciting ways. Last night, I watched a Mark Wahlberg flick where, in the closing scene, I cheered as the heroic Marky Mark walked into a room full of defenseless bad guys and capped them all at point-blank range. Today, I spent 3 hours playing a video game where one of the prime objectives is to, I kid you not, conquer Gandhi. So by now, when I read about some horrific act of violence, I should just be able to tune out, right?

Not so much, I discovered.

I'm going to recap this story. It's awful, but true. Maybe you've already heard the details. If you're of a sensitive constitution or don't want be exposed to gross stuff, stop reading now -- surely there's a Sudoku puzzle somewhere in this paper calling your name out. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

So last week, in Canada, a packed passenger bus is hauling people cross-country. A random guy gets on the bus, sits down next to some sleeping kid, pulls out a butcher knife and hacks the kid to death. Awful, right? There's more. As random passenger-hacking is usually frowned upon in today's modern bus lines, the driver comes to a stop and everyone runs out.

As people are fleeing, though, a group of do-gooders decide to go back and try to save the kid and apprehend the guy. They get to the door of the bus to find this crazy freakshow standing there, knife in one hand, kid's severed head in the other. (Don't worry, I made that same "eww" face when I read that part, too.) Somehow, they trap the guy in the bus until police come and arrest the nutjob.

I just can't believe people like this are roaming the Earth. I live by some basic tenets, and one of those is proudly: "Unless your name is Connor McCloud and you are a Highlander, don't decapitate strangers." Can you even imagine what it would have been like to be on that bus? I'd be in therapy on a daily basis for the rest of my life. What would I have done? I'll guarantee you that I would've made a sound like "Eeeeeeeeeeeeee!" That's all I know for certain. Beyond that, I would probably be the guy known as "a second victim who succumbed to a fatal heart attack."

I mean, there's crazy, and then there's Freddy Krueger nightmare kinda awful. I'm a firm believer in a fair trial and all, but this is one of those cases where you should be allowed to just throw the books out and do away with this sick puppy. He's not even worth locking in a padded room and studying through little slots for the rest of his life.

I suppose, if you can somehow approach things analytically, our response of shock and horror might simply be mandated by societal values. Just as we go out to festivals in the District, our forefather's forefather's grandparents would go out to the village green for an afternoon of music, roast mutton, and a public beheading or two. But I'd like to think that our world has advanced to a place where we can all agree that this story isn't just appalling, it's... it's... a word not even invented yet to define "the most appalling thing of all time ever."

Which led me to my aforementioned belief that the world is officially too evil for its own good. Still, at least some guys were brave enough to trap this nutbag for the police. So maybe we're not evil after all, I thought. Then I read the rest of the article. Sigh. Looking for comment, reporters turned to the charter bus company.

"This event is tragic yet isolated," said a spokesperson. "PROUDLY, BUS TRAVEL STILL REMAINS THE SAFEST MODE OF MASS TRANSIT IN THE WORLD."

Yes, there's only one thing more evil and heartbreaking than the brutal murder of an innocent kid, and that's a PR staffer trying to spin the story to their advantage. If there was ever a time to NOT extole the bountiful wonders of the contemporary bus, perhaps its the moments surrounding someone getting their head chopped off in one of them. Once again, the world sees a human tragedy while big business sees a fiscal one. If I were a CEO and my company approved that statement for release, heads would roll (sorry, couldn't resist.)

In the meantime, I'll be as optimistic as possible towards our world and hope for the future. That starts with me shutting off the computer, turning off the news, and petting some cats, so if you'll excuse me...

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