Sunday, October 11, 2015

Good Guys and Bad Guys

They are experts at social media. They know how to use it to recruit our teenagers, to prey on the most vulnerable among us, the young, confused and socially isolated. They live among us, we don't see them but they sneak into our homes convincing our loved ones that they will gain respect if they join their ranks. No, I am not talking about terrorist groups or other radical groups, I am talking about a group sanctioned by our government and paid for by our taxes. I am talking about the military recruiter ... the peddler of glory, phony heroics and "Be All You Can Be" jingoism. Convincing the young and vulnerable that there is glory to perform in horrendous acts under the guise that we are the "Good Guys."  The Good Guys invaded Iraq in 2003, a country that was not bothering us, whose government had no ties to terrorism. The Good Guy destabilized an entire region of the globe.

I see the Good Guy/Bad Guy rhetoric everywhere in the media. Our public discourse over war, heroism and ethics has been thrown into the intellectual realm of comic books. I am not talking about modern complex comics. Graphic novels and plain old comic books are far more sophisticated than the crap on the 24 hour news cycle. I am talking about the old corny comics. As if there are good guys like Captain America and bad guys like The Red Skull. In the 24 hour news cycle our only  choices are between white or black. Gray is not an option. The bad guys are the terrorists, the school shooters or the looters. The good guys are the American soldiers and the person who took down the shooter.  But we know (don't we?) that life is more complex than that. Situations are bad, not people. There are exceptions of course, but there are a lot more factors involved rather than just the polemic good/bad dichotomy. Yes, surely, the act of a terrorist is bad, but is someone who has been living in extreme poverty, who has been isolated and radicalized, bad? Or are they just victims of a really shitty situation? What good is the media doing, by labeling the "good" and the "bad" rather than just telling us the facts and letting us decide? Are they just being lazy or do they believe in this simplistic view of the world?  Are they properly performing their duties as the fourth estate or are they simply contributing to the noise?

If we are going to split the world into good guys and bad guys, we need to change the rules.  Lets agree to call someone, on-line, who convinces your child to join ISIS to be a bad guy.  But we must also agree to call the recruiter for the US military who is using the same tactics, appealing to the same emotions and needs ... a bad guy. The recruiters are not only on social media, but they sponsor events in your community, they recruit in schools, they have booths at NASCAR races and sporting events. Their biggest selling point, we'll pay you to get educated, you get to travel and oh ya, you can carry a gun and kill brown people. Then when you come home, we'll clap for you when you attend baseball games in your uniform and call you a "hero," ... if you survive that is. They'll call you one of the Good Guys ... even if you spent your days in the military kicking in doors of completely innocent people, terrorizing them or perhaps shooting them from a rooftop. Like most Western nations, our nation's record is not even close to being good in the Middle East. If you volunteer to help our government commit their crimes, I see nothing good about that. It is just not that simple. Labeling them "good guys" and "bad guys" is oversimplifying the issues to a dangerous degree.

The bad guy nomenclature is also used in reporting of our many mass shootings here in the states. Of course, most of these people aren't "bad" people but mentally ill. Calling them bad is a good way of not confronting the issue. We have a very poor health system here in the United States, particularly when it comes to mental health.  We also have a lot of guns and extremely lax laws. This is the real "bad" here, a bad combination.

Then of course, the worst use of the "bad guy/good guy" dichotomy is when head douche-bag at the NRA (National Rifle Association), Wayne Lapierre, stated that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." I would suggest that if you are in a church, college campus, elementary school or movie theater and you have gun ... then you are the "bad guy."  The "good" guy with the gun is out hunting or wearing a uniform playing defense.

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