Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Doomed Man's Only Mercy

I had never thought of myself as someone incredible, I always viewed myself as something of a specialized tool. An instrument to be used for its own purpose, the same way mortar and trowels are used to lay bricks, or ink and paper are used for keeping records and sending messages. Something useful, but not special. I liked to get lost, I admit, despite who I am and what I do, that small part of my mind that knows something more than I do terrifies me. I hide from it, sometimes I hide behind blood, sometimes I hide behind night, sometimes I hide within my own self pity. Someday, I'm sure, I won't be able to hind anymore, and neither will I be able to run. But that day is not today, nor has it come.

It's strange, to think about that part of yourself. The part that is right about things that the rest of you doesn't care to even think about, let alone form ideas about. For myself at least, I often end up in a maelstrom of rhetoric; I know that somehow I know, but I don’t know how to know where to look in what I know for what I need to know about things I don’t know I know about. Needless to say, it becomes confusing after a time.

That’s the part of me that reassures me that being a soldier is okay. That being someone whose main job is destruction is right. The other parts of me question it, sometimes more and sometimes less, but constantly. Sometimes a passerby will make a comment glorifying what I do. It bothers me. It’s not that they are right or wrong about that they are saying, it’s that they simply don’t understand. I’ve never shot anyone, I’ve never seen anyone die because of me, but people do die. Sometimes I’m the person who presses the button, sometimes I’m the one who measures the amount of explosives in a demolitions charge. Sometimes I’m the one who decides what chemical agent to use, sometimes I’m just watching from an airplane as the bombs I dropped destroy hundreds of square acres. People die because of what I do, I just don’t see it. Sometimes that makes it easier, sometimes that makes it harder. I can trick myself into thinking that maybe no one will get hurt, that perhaps the buildings are empty, or that the people inside will get adequate medical attention. Other times, it makes it harder. Not that I want to see anyone die, no, that’s not it. I image these people sitting in building that they have no other choice but to be in. Sometimes their families are in danger, sometimes they see no other political choice, sometimes they have been tricked, some of them might just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. They all have one thing in common though, they never see me. They never get the chance to hate me, they never get that slightest satisfaction. The people I kill never even know the face that they can never forgive. I know how foolish it is, but I feel as though I am denying them a doomed man’s only mercy, his opportunity to loath and despise the cause of his fate. It would make it less painful, I think, if they could see me, see the man who does this to them. Then I could provide them that mercy! They could embody in me all their pain and anger, instead of dying confused and terrified. Or even, perhaps, it would ease my burden if they had the satisfaction of knowing how much it sometimes tortures me.

That part of my mind though, it knows that just as some of them have no choice but to be where they are, and function as they function, so am I where I need to be, and that because I am trying to do what is right, I am justified. This thought alone makes me uncomfortable, it seems to be a shadow of a larger truth that I am not ready to accept.
That part of my mind is also the part of my that noticed it. It was clear and concise and seemed to last for hours, but only seconds at the same time! Forgive my cliché, for indeed I cannot think of a better way to describe the sensation. It was as if everything in my head stopped for a moment, and put all worry aside, completely forgotten, as if the thought was a paper that had been laid aside on a desk while everyone in a building turned and looked out the window at a spectacle that could not be described or repeated. Sadly, though, all of me knew that I did not love it, for I did not know love. I longed for it, I would sacrifice all else just for the opportunity to… be it. If that happened, it wouldn’t be enough still.

Submitted by Tyler Christiansen

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