By Louis Avallone
In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” habit number 5 is, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” The principle here is that by empathically listening to one another, we create an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving, whereby the other person then reciprocates the listening, and a win-win outcome can be achieved. In other words, if we just understood one another better, we would all be happier with one another.
That may be true, generally speaking, but frankly, I’ve had enough of folks in the media seeking to “understand” the Boston bombers, whose callous disregard for human life left 264 people injured, and took the lives of 4 others, including 8-year old Martin Richard.
I’m not sure it’s important that we understand that the Boston bombers came from a Chechen tribal community that has been brutalized by the Russians in recent decades. Or that the bombers felt alienated and disillusioned, despite both of the bombers being afforded all of the advantages that America has to offer – including public assistance when they needed it most.
It does not matter if the bombers’ motivation was because of the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or because they were frustrated with the perceived lack of economic opportunity that they were finding here.
Save the psychiatric analysis for the doctor’s office, please. I’m equally not interested in whether or not these crimes were rooted in the development of their masculine identities, or if they lacked self-esteem.
It’s not that important that the surviving bomber, until recently, was a nice and sociable kid with a bright future, or that the deceased bomber attended community college and was a Golden Gloves boxing champion who wanted to compete in the Olympics for the United States.
All of these details are distractions from the real issue: The bombers committed an act of evil, plain and simple, and they knew that what they were doing was wrong. They chose to cause irreparable harm and injury to hundreds of people, and it’s inexcusable, and unworthy of any justification whatsoever, regardless of whatever crybaby problems they were having.
And while single victim killings have dropped by more than 40 percent since 1980, mass murders are on the rise. From 1900 to 1980, there have been approximately 1 to 2 mass murders per decade, but in the 1980’s this spiked to 9, and then to 11 in the 1990s. Since 2000, there have been 26 mass murders.
Some folks say that we can’t stop mass murders if we don’t understand mass murderers, and that we can’t stop terrorism if we don’t understand terrorists. Tom Brokaw says, “We have to work a lot harder at a motivation here. What prompts a young man to come to this country and still feel alienated from it, to go back to Russia and do whatever he did?”
I don’t think that it’s all that complicated, Mr. Brokaw. You see, in the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl explains simply that, “There are two races of men in this world, but only these two – the ‘race’ of the decent man and the ‘race’ of the indecent man.” And that’s what is underlying the challenges of our modern day society – a lack of decency – not a lack of understanding, coddling, or pampering of the indecent.
There has always been a certain population of young people disillusioned with the status quo, and who felt alienated. But until recent times, murder was simply never considered by them as an acceptable way to express their unhappiness. But there’s just evil in the world, and indecent people who find it acceptable.
And the more we justify it with explanations, and focus on the motivations; we’re only encouraging such evil to spread. In the words of Les Brown, “Life is a fight for territory. When you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want will automatically take over.”
This is about the fight, then, not forgiveness. The only folks in Boston that can forgive are those that have lost limbs, and those who have lost their loved ones.
For the rest of us, it’s about fighting for the good in all that we do, and the triumph of decency over evil, because if good people don’t inspire others, bad people always will. After all, in the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”