Ecclesiastes 3:3

(From the novel The Avenging Demon, by C.F. Navarro)

Wars and revolutions flare up at the gut level when abusive individuals make life so miserable for average folk that they can stand it no longer and strike back. But stupidly, instead of striking back at their abusers, they take it out on others like themselves, and call it patriotism or a just cause. If they were to vent their repressed anger instead on the abusers, their real enemies, most wars and revolutions could be prevented. Killing a fellow man just because he wears a different uniform is criminal, but executing the sons-of-bitches who turn you into a killer and send you off to war for personal gain, that’s heroism.

Expanding on the bedside lecture that had put his wife to sleep, the old man recalled the passage in Ecclesiastes where King Solomon, the paragon of worldly wisdom, said that there is “a time to kill, and a time to heal.” Solomon had ordered the killing of his half-brother Adonijah before Adonijah, intent on usurping the throne, killed him instead. So Solomon knew from experience what he was talking about. The juxtaposition of the words “kill” and “heal,” made perfect sense to the old man: To heal—read, to survive—sometimes one had to kill. He closed his eyes to divine what the wisest of king’s had been thinking when he realized that in order to save his throne and his life he had to have his half-brother killed. When the old man next opened his eyes it was morning.

Once he saw the light, or believed he saw the light, he felt healed. Inklings that he might be mistaken, that he was going demented, as had everyone in his family, briefly cropped up in his mind, but he ignored it. He reasoned that it wasn’t the urge to kill Bulldog Perruno that had been causing him stress but the unnatural struggle to suppress it. Instead of exacting revenge, as the laws of survival mandated, he had been too inclined to turn the other cheek, to surrendered meekly, crucify himself as prescribed by the Christ of the Christians. Huge mistake. The realization that he could, should, and would, kill without a qualm the conman who stole his famly saving, revitalized him. When he looked into the mirror that morning, the face gazing back at him was no more the haggard mug of a spent senior citizen. Now it was a formidable patriarchial visage reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Moses.

He had first turned to his religious and philosophy books for guidance on how to suppress his killer instinct. Now he was reading the same books to justify it. Returning to Marcus Aurelius, he wondered how many men the Stoic philosopher had put through the sword or thrown to the lions in his role as Roman Emperor. Were his classic Meditations an ethical guideline for the common man, as scholars claim, or were they, like the delicate art of the Samurai, the genteel introspections of a man who would not hesitate to wield his power to the hilt? Could Marcus have written such lofty thoughts, could David have composed his Psalms, could Moses have led his people to the Promised Land if they had not first steeled themselves in mind and spirit by exercising their killer instinct? Would General Sherman have been so magnanimous toward the vanquished South had he not ordered the scorched-earth march through Georgia? Would President Truman have been so intent on rebuilding Japan if he had not nuked Nagasaki and Hiroshima?

Recalling his two tours in Vietnam, the old man had seen that for ordinary soldiers war can be hell, a collapse of all moral values. But that’s because they are put in a position where in order to survive they have to kill other soldiers like themselves, and often civilians, who are not their real enemies. Those people they blow up and gun down, so they don’t get blown up or gunned down first, might in times of peace have been their closest friends. The real enemies are the crooks back home who, illegally or legally, prey on him and society. These are the ones that a man can kill with a clear conscience and feel ennobled by the deed.

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