This morning my wife picked up the main section of our local newspaper and started reading, as she does every morning. But this time she did not get past page one.
“I can’t believe this!” Jacqueline exclaimed as she tossed the section on the floor. “Is this what our world has come to?”
The lead story, in headline type so big and bold that it threatened to jump off the page, had to do with the Navy Yard massacre in Washington, DC. Just below it, a second article updated eager readers on the chemical weapons situation in Syria.
You know what? I didn’t have the stomach for today’s news either.
The other night Jacqueline and I watched a movie called Jack Reacher, which opens with a sniper gunning down five unsuspecting people. Only five? The Navy Yard sniper
murdered twelve innocents and wounded many others. More important: you can turn off the movie, or close the book, if you don’t like the story, and take solace in the fact that it was only fiction. But while you can toss the newspaper on the floor, or into the recycle bin, you cannot escape the reality that many heartbroken families and friends are grieving over their inconceivable losses. As many have before them. And as many more will in the future.
Because Evil Never Dies.
Evil gasses its country’s citizens. Evil destroys innocents in a movie theater, or on a military base. Evil slaughters loving schoolchildren in their classrooms. Evil keeps sex slaves chained in a basement for years.
Evil has no rules, and knows no bounds.
Many years ago I did extensive research on serial killers and mass murderers for a proposed novel that I ultimately stopped writing. (To be honest, the research alone got to me.) One constant appeared to be that these monsters all had troubled childhoods—abuse, neglect, abandonment, and so on. Yeah, well, so did a lot of people, but I would guess that 99+ percent of them did not carve up their victims and keep the body parts in their freezer. Or carry an arsenal into a Colorado high school and open fire.
I also did research on Adolf Hitler’s life for an emotional chapter in my science fiction novel, Bicycling Through Space and Time. Guess what, this monster also had a troubled childhood marked by parental neglect—primarily by his father. Seems that old Alois preferred bending elbows with the boys at the beer halls to spending time with his kid. The family moved around a lot, and young Adolf seldom had any friends.
Still, I’m sure a great deal more factored into this personification of Evil causing the deaths of many millions.
The unimaginable Holocaust carried out by Nazi Germany during World War II became the catalyst for my recently released novel, Freedom’s Hand. Just as Evil could exist in Hitler and his minions, so could it be reborn half a century later in the figure of The Commander and his army of racist thugs. Just as Evil could dedicate itself to “cleansing” Europe of all “imperfections,” so could Evil do the same on American soil.
In some early feedback on Freedom’s Hand, readers said that at first they found the premise hard to believe. But as the story unfolded they considered all of the Evil that has taken place SINCE World War II, and they realized that the post-Holocaust mantra of Never Again was little more than words. Because Evil Never Dies.
If you don’t believe me, just pick up tomorrow’s newspaper.