Not long ago, I mentioned some ways in which the freedom of which we often prate is constrained; it’s not only limited by the certainties of death and taxes, but by myths we adore, hatreds that seethe, failures of the heart, and such.
One thing we must know by now is that we cannot control the world, cannot bend it to our will, and that while the world is anything but what it should be — violent, bloody, self-serving, irrational — there is little that one nation, no matter how powerful, can do to make it right if there is lacking a consensus as to what is the right thing to do in the face of pervading evil.
Surely, these decisions ought not to be left in our hands alone, for our unilateral acts have made bloody messes of it in the past which cannot be papered over with patriotic pieties, the latest bloody mistake, of course, being the cause of “the caldron of madness” that the Middle East has become.
Yes, the recent use of chemical weapons in Syria (presumably by the government, though as of this writing it’s yet to be absolutely proved) was heinous, though, as one letter writer to The Times asked today, why ought the huge Syrian death toll thus far be considered with no less revulsion for its having been caused by “plain old bullets and bombs.”
Several of the writers today — just about all of whom urged caution when it comes to this nation’s response — called for some kind of collective action, humanitarian and diplomatic, to bring an end to the killings.
“Let [them] cease,” said N. Narayan Kutty of Mansfield Center, Conn. “The massacre of more than 100,000 men, women, and children is already an indelible stain on the soul of the 21st century.”
Just one of many stains.
And they won’t wash off entirely, not even in our marvelous modern washing machines that assure us the whitest of whites.
The stains remain for all to see. It is hard to avert your eyes from such evil, whatever the intentions, and perhaps fixing our collective gaze upon them may lead to some good.