Good, Evil and 22-Year-Olds

Not too long ago, July 22 as a matter of fact, a 22-year-old fire-fighter was killed in the line of duty.  He was not killed by fire or smoke.  He was shot.  His name was Ryan Hummert.

Who did it?  Some guy estranged from his family.  He had worked at the St. Louis Art Museum.  He set his home on fire, shot Ryan when he arrived to fight the fire and then shot himself in the head.  "Just senseless," said a fire chief. "So he was only 22?  Wow, that's scary.  I'm only 20," said another firefighter.

Another firefighter, one in the US Air Force stationed in Iraq, sent Ryan Hummert's fire department a plaque and a flag.  The plaque said "In Memory of Ryan Hummert."  It was Flag and plaquefrom the "Fire, Crash, Rescue 506th" and the flag had flown over Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, on the day Ryan died.

The USAF firefighter who sent that was the son of a life-long friend of mine who had joined the Navy with me on the "buddy plan" when we were both 19.  His fire-fighting son in Iraq, whom I can remember in diapers, is now 20-something and in his first hitch.

Some years after the Navy, at the ripe old age of 26, I moved to Baltimore.  A friend there pointed to a local cemetery and said, "Before Vietnam, that hill was just grass."  Now it was full of tombstones.  I looked at those tombstones up close later and noted the dates - lots of "Born 1949, Died 1971" type dates on those tombstones.  They were seniors in high school when I was a freshman, but dead before the age I was when reading their tombstones.  Acres worth of such tombstones.  Guys dead at 22 or so.

I remember how stupid I was at those ages.  When I joined the Navy, I thought I'd have nothing to do with Vietnam since that was an Army thing.  (That's all I saw on TV, Army guys bleeding on stretchers.)  I cared less about Democrats or Republicans.  As a kid much in trouble myself, I was glad to see President Richard Nixon, top dog of the country, in trouble himself.  I had zero idea of what he did wrong or what it meant; I was just relieved to see someone high up, not me, in my kind of trouble.  I had no idea if fighting Communists in Vietnam was worth anyone's life, much less my own.  But I could have easily killed anyone who messed with my buddies then because, well, I knew they'd do it for me, and that's how it was.

I'm not a whole lot smarter now.  But I think I know a few things.  I could have been Ryan Hummert.  I also could have been the guy who shot him and then killed himself.  I could have been one of the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam.  I also could have been part of the Viet Cong, proudly resisting the "imperial power" in my country.  I could have been gassed by the Nazis, or a Nazi soldier giving a rifle butt to an uncooperative Jew, Slav or homosexual.  I could have been in the World Trade Center on 9/11, or I could have been a Palestinian laughing about the great power's overdue come-uppance.

It's not that some of us are evil and others good.  Evil lurks in each of us.  If the Auschwitz death camps, the Ukraine "famine", the rape of Nanking, the Cambodian killing fields, the Rwandan churches, Saddam's rape rooms and hundreds of other places and situations throughout history do not demonstrate to you that we, humans of all stripes, are inches away from barbarity, then you have no eyes.

But I think I know something else.  Evil feeds evil, and good feeds good.  And sometimes the mostly good people have to kill the mostly bad people to bring evil to a standstill.

  • Slavery in the US did not just end. Whether it was the most efficient method of ending slavery I'll leave to others, but 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and slavery in the US died with them.
  • The Nazis killed millions, and tens of millions died stopping them.
  • Communists killed about 100 million, and the US lost tens of thousands stopping them.
  • Saddam Hussein killed more than a million, mostly fellow Muslims, and the US and fellow Iraqis lost thousands stopping him.
  • The radical Islamists who made video-tapes of torture and beheadings did not just evaporate, they had to be stopped by fed-up Muslims backed up with US force, all risking death by assassination, explosion, booby-trap or torture. And they are still out there.
  • Each year thousands of us murder each other in the US, and each year a thin blue line gets thinner trying to keep that from happening.

And there is something I know, down solid.  The guys that sent the plaque and the flag to Ryan Hummert's fellow firemen are the good guys -- good feeding good.

Our soldiers are the good guys.  Our policemen are the good guys.  Our border patrols are the good guys.  The people who struggle with the rules of engagement for them, trying to balance toughness against evil without becoming evil ourselves, are also the good guys.

How sad it is that such truisms need explanation.

I recently received a letter from a reader.  It said, in part,

"Saddam Hussein was an evil character, but so were the Americans, including General MacArthur, who allowed South Vietnamese to kill several hundred thousands of their own people and nothing was done to stop them even though Americans were at the scene and even photographed the shootings."

Judging by polls and public statements by others, the author of those words is not alone.  If this type of uninformed America-loathing reaches an electoral majority, and it is very close right now, I'm afraid the good guys are in for more bad times.

Randall Hoven can be contacted at randall.hoven@gmail.com or  via his web site, kulak.worldbreak.com.
Not too long ago, July 22 as a matter of fact, a 22-year-old fire-fighter was killed in the line of duty.  He was not killed by fire or smoke.  He was shot.  His name was Ryan Hummert.

Who did it?  Some guy estranged from his family.  He had worked at the St. Louis Art Museum.  He set his home on fire, shot Ryan when he arrived to fight the fire and then shot himself in the head.  "Just senseless," said a fire chief. "So he was only 22?  Wow, that's scary.  I'm only 20," said another firefighter.

Another firefighter, one in the US Air Force stationed in Iraq, sent Ryan Hummert's fire department a plaque and a flag.  The plaque said "In Memory of Ryan Hummert."  It was Flag and plaquefrom the "Fire, Crash, Rescue 506th" and the flag had flown over Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq, on the day Ryan died.

The USAF firefighter who sent that was the son of a life-long friend of mine who had joined the Navy with me on the "buddy plan" when we were both 19.  His fire-fighting son in Iraq, whom I can remember in diapers, is now 20-something and in his first hitch.

Some years after the Navy, at the ripe old age of 26, I moved to Baltimore.  A friend there pointed to a local cemetery and said, "Before Vietnam, that hill was just grass."  Now it was full of tombstones.  I looked at those tombstones up close later and noted the dates - lots of "Born 1949, Died 1971" type dates on those tombstones.  They were seniors in high school when I was a freshman, but dead before the age I was when reading their tombstones.  Acres worth of such tombstones.  Guys dead at 22 or so.

I remember how stupid I was at those ages.  When I joined the Navy, I thought I'd have nothing to do with Vietnam since that was an Army thing.  (That's all I saw on TV, Army guys bleeding on stretchers.)  I cared less about Democrats or Republicans.  As a kid much in trouble myself, I was glad to see President Richard Nixon, top dog of the country, in trouble himself.  I had zero idea of what he did wrong or what it meant; I was just relieved to see someone high up, not me, in my kind of trouble.  I had no idea if fighting Communists in Vietnam was worth anyone's life, much less my own.  But I could have easily killed anyone who messed with my buddies then because, well, I knew they'd do it for me, and that's how it was.

I'm not a whole lot smarter now.  But I think I know a few things.  I could have been Ryan Hummert.  I also could have been the guy who shot him and then killed himself.  I could have been one of the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam.  I also could have been part of the Viet Cong, proudly resisting the "imperial power" in my country.  I could have been gassed by the Nazis, or a Nazi soldier giving a rifle butt to an uncooperative Jew, Slav or homosexual.  I could have been in the World Trade Center on 9/11, or I could have been a Palestinian laughing about the great power's overdue come-uppance.

It's not that some of us are evil and others good.  Evil lurks in each of us.  If the Auschwitz death camps, the Ukraine "famine", the rape of Nanking, the Cambodian killing fields, the Rwandan churches, Saddam's rape rooms and hundreds of other places and situations throughout history do not demonstrate to you that we, humans of all stripes, are inches away from barbarity, then you have no eyes.

But I think I know something else.  Evil feeds evil, and good feeds good.  And sometimes the mostly good people have to kill the mostly bad people to bring evil to a standstill.

  • Slavery in the US did not just end. Whether it was the most efficient method of ending slavery I'll leave to others, but 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War, and slavery in the US died with them.
  • The Nazis killed millions, and tens of millions died stopping them.
  • Communists killed about 100 million, and the US lost tens of thousands stopping them.
  • Saddam Hussein killed more than a million, mostly fellow Muslims, and the US and fellow Iraqis lost thousands stopping him.
  • The radical Islamists who made video-tapes of torture and beheadings did not just evaporate, they had to be stopped by fed-up Muslims backed up with US force, all risking death by assassination, explosion, booby-trap or torture. And they are still out there.
  • Each year thousands of us murder each other in the US, and each year a thin blue line gets thinner trying to keep that from happening.

And there is something I know, down solid.  The guys that sent the plaque and the flag to Ryan Hummert's fellow firemen are the good guys -- good feeding good.

Our soldiers are the good guys.  Our policemen are the good guys.  Our border patrols are the good guys.  The people who struggle with the rules of engagement for them, trying to balance toughness against evil without becoming evil ourselves, are also the good guys.

How sad it is that such truisms need explanation.

I recently received a letter from a reader.  It said, in part,

"Saddam Hussein was an evil character, but so were the Americans, including General MacArthur, who allowed South Vietnamese to kill several hundred thousands of their own people and nothing was done to stop them even though Americans were at the scene and even photographed the shootings."

Judging by polls and public statements by others, the author of those words is not alone.  If this type of uninformed America-loathing reaches an electoral majority, and it is very close right now, I'm afraid the good guys are in for more bad times.

Randall Hoven can be contacted at randall.hoven@gmail.com or  via his web site, kulak.worldbreak.com.