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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 4:28 am | Fair 38º


Ken Williams: The Prince of Death Strikes in Oregon, Afghanistan and Syria

The high priest of the Culture of Death clamped his dreary hand on the world this week, and we are all a little less for it.

First in line was Oregon, where once again a loner with way too much access to firearms, made the innocent pay a horrific price for his estrangement from society. 

Students who one minute were excited about the start of a new school year found themselves staring down the barrel of America’s love affair with guns.

Somehow, somewhere some of us began to embrace guns to overcome our own weaknesses, our perceived need to arm ourselves to the teeth. This is what we have done for the last 30 years, yet we see more and more death via guns than any other country outside of a war zone. 

This year alone there have been more than 200 mass shootingsPresident Barack Obama asked the media to publish the number of deaths caused by terrorists versus those killed by guns.

In 2010, 13,186 people died worldwide in terrorist attacks, which included raging wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. In that year alone 31,672 Americans died from gun-related violence.

Murder. Suicides. Accidents. We are much more likely to be murdered by a family member, accidentally killed by a discharge or intentionally by our own hand via a gun than we’ll ever use one to defend ourselves from a mass shooter or intruder into our home.

But we continue to shake our heads in sadness, verbally blast those who call for reasonable gun control while embracing myths coated with the blood of the innocent, including not only the students in the Oregon shooting, but peaceful people praying in their house of worship, and most painful of all, small children sitting quietly in their classroom.

Then there is the Russian bear that has been reawakened by the power-hungry Vladimir Putin. I can’t say I was exactly surprised by his naked aggression or his use of the Russian military in Syria.

Putin’s actions are exactly what one should expect from a man who rose to the rank of colonel in the KGB, an organization with a rich history in torture and suppression of human rights.

Seeing the rubble of Syrian cities jump with the pounding of Russian bombs added heavy weight to my heart, but like I said, hardly unexpected.

The bombing of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan was the most gut-wrenching handiwork of the Prince of Death for anyone to face.

The description of patients crying out in pain as they burned to death in the operating room was excruciating. The thought of those children killed by our armed forces was simply too much.

It was personal, too. I know from Vietnam exactly what kind of damage gunships like the C-130 can inflict.

In that war, we called those airborne platforms that caused so much damage via automatic Gatling guns “Spooky” or “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

The song, “Stairway to Heaven,” always brings me back to a battle when our armored support had inadvertently set up their night defensive position on top of a tunnel complex.

The night’s quietness being torn to shreds when the North Vietnamese army’s claymores exploded, shredding the tanks and APCs as they launched their attack is still with me.

The sight of thousands of rounds with red-tracers floated down from the circling aircraft, pouring unimaginable death and destruction upon the NVA looked to me literally like a Stairway to Heaven.

Now I hear the reports of a hospital, one that had given its GPS coordinates to all sides and that served all sides but mostly civilians, has put me in a dark place, taken me back to a time when, like now, collateral damage was accepted as a necessary evil.

The deaths of patients, the death of innocent children, is never acceptable — especially when our sons and daughters are left in harm’s way for purely political reasons.

The Prince of Death had a very productive week. He managed to use Russia and American air strikes at his disposal.

He reached out to a small rural community, and tore the heart out of it. The Culture of Death built on the altar of guns was fed anew.

Yet for many of us, far too many, his antics caused hardly a ripple in our cocooned existence. To the innocent of Oregon, Syria and Afghanistan, I have no words of reason or moral comprehension to share with you in a world gone mad.

Ken Williams has been a social worker for the homeless for the past 30 years, and is the author of China White, Shattered Dreams: A Story of the Streets and his first nonfiction book, There Must Be Honor. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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