I had two very different conversations yesterday with friends who read my last post about the massacre in Afghanistan. Both expressed opinions that were essentially to my Left, ideologically, and yet they were almost completely opposite from each other.
The first friend didn’t like this sentence from my post:
We’re going to come down on him like a ton of bricks (and we should).
He took particular exception to the parenthetical “and we should” and mentioned that he had read a lot of different commentary that all expressed the same kind of caveat in regards to punishment. Everyone who writes or talks about this tragedy in the media, he said, is very careful not to appear to be suggesting that this man should not be punished, out of fear that they will be characterized as soft.
I admitted that I had written the paragraph first without the parenthetical, and then before posting, I had added the “(and we should)” because I felt uncomfortable with the implication that its absence allowed. While part of that was a desire to avoid any undue criticism over not seeing the severity of the crime, the other part is even more simple: I think he should be punished.
This led to a discussion over the nature of punishment and whether or not evil actually exists. (I said yes.)
The second conversation was much shorter and more of an aside, with a friend at work. She mentioned that she was just appalled at the media going out of their way to make excuses for this soldier who had, quoting here, “fucking murdered 16 people.” She also argued that we had no business being there (which my first friend would agree with) and that we should have turned the solider over to Afghan authorities (which he does not agree with).
It’s the last part that puts her on my Left, I think. First of all, it is obviously politically impossible that any modern president would turn over an American soldier to a foreign country to be tried for murder in an election year. (Okay, maybe Jimmy Carter would. Actually, he definitely would, and then he’d go on TV the night before the election and say voters should think long and hard about whether they should vote for him because the massacre happened on his watch. I kid, Jimmy!)
But secondly, I’m not sure I would support having our deployed soldiers tried in foreign countries, and yes, I realize that this is a problematic position for a liberal to take, especially one who believes that the United States should act as a member of the international community, not as the self-proclaimed leader.
It struck me as interesting that two friends could be arguing with me, essentially from my Left, and still be so wildly opposed. They each have completely different takes on the media coverage of the massacre, and they each have completely different takes on the appropriate consequences for the soldier.
I don’t have anything particularly profound to say about any of this. (Do I ever? No. I do not.) I just found it interesting.