The local TV anchors had grim looks on their faces as they dutifully read viewer email about the big story of the morning.
I was watching the local morning newscast on the NBC affiliate in Chicago where I was in town for another “Obama: The First 100 Days” tour stop, hosted by my radio affiliate there, AM 560 WIND.
The story of the morning was the awful tale of the Army sergeant who killed five of his fellow soldiers in Baghdad. As usual, hands were wringing and psycho-analysis was being conducted on the airwaves trying to determine what could cause a man to commit such a heinous act.
The viewer email was maddening. It was the military's fault, said one. This poor man shouldn't have been on three tours of duty. And of course there was the obligatory “blame Bush” email, a dopey claim that President Bush and Vice-President Cheney should be held responsible for the murders of the five soldiers. After all, if we hadn't decided to go to war in Iraq, this poor, misunderstand soul would have never been over there in the first place, reasoned the unreasonable nincompoop.
I wish I could understand why so many people have a nearly manic desire to excuse, defend, explain or condone evil.
It seems to me to be the typical liberal cop-out: let's all study the environment of a killer, wondering if he (or she) wet the bed as a child before torturing pets and murdering people.
And now, it appeared that a handful of NBC5 viewers in Chicago were in full “it-must-bethe- system's-fault” mode.
I decided to continue this discussion on my radio show.
Little did I know that these emailers to the TV station were not an anomaly.
The first caller I took was from a guy who was really fired up with me. “Jerry” said that he was a military vet, and there was just no reason for this alleged multiple killer to have been deployed on three tours of duty. He said it was easy to understand why the guy snapped.
I couldn't believe my ears. “How can you denigrate all the men and women who have spent multiple tours of duty?” I asked. “Do you honestly think that soldiers who have had multiple deployments are just a moment away from getting out a weapon and slaughtering their fellow soldiers in cold blood?”
He was furious. “You just have no way of knowing”, he said. “You've never served in the military, you have no right to judge this guy”, he snarled.
When I attempted to point out how many consecutive years many members of the “greatest generation” served in WWII or even the constant perils and dangers police officers experience on a day-to-day basis, he just got angrier. “The only thing cops have to worry about it how many sprinkles to put on their donuts each day”, this selfproclaimed military veteran announced.
And some people were surprised that I got angry with him.
For years, I have been criticized for supporting the military because I have no military experience. It's one of the craziest complaints I've ever experienced in over 30 years as a radio talk show host.
Let me get this straight: I can't defend the military because I didn't serve. So does that mean I can't support police officers or firefighters because I've never been one? How about teachers? Can I support them since I've never taught a class before?
No, I never experienced the honor or privilege of serving my country in the Armed Forces. I'm not brave. Far from it. As a guy who has worked in the broadcasting industry since he was 17 years old, maybe I just figure I can serve my country safely from behind a microphone.
And more importantly, perhaps it's because I haven't served that I constantly give my country and the U.S. military the benefit of the doubt.
My admiration for the military runs deep; my pride in knowing that we American citizens are safer because of the actions of those who do choose to enlist is immense.
And I am not about to blame the Army for the actions of a rogue killer who viciously turned on his fellow soldiers.
Being a part of our all-volunteer military is anything but easy. But it's a decision that has been made by thousands and thousands of people, folks like my Dad who served proudly in the U.S. Navy during WWII, often spending years away from their loved ones to fight for the country they love.
To complain about multiple tours of duty as an excuse for an act of sheer evil is wrong. There's nothing rational about evil.
And there is certainly nothing rational about blaming commanders or the military or the government or the country for what one lone gunman did to those five innocent victims in Baghdad.