Trial by Fire

I occassionally wonder after the stupidity of people, not out of any genuine surprise but, rather, because it’s hard to believe that anything that has evolved through the millenia to dominate the world could possibly be capable of actions of such utter and complete senselessness. A report on the wildfires in California on CJOH News tonight included mention of the suspicion that some of the billion-dollar conflagrations were set deliberately, immediately bringing to mind the fires this summer in Greece, which were also the products of arson.

What could possess a person to do something as brainless as setting a destructive wildfire? In Greece, the arsonists were apparently expressing some sort of political angst or protest. That’s truly genius; if you don’t like who’s running your country, set fire to it and destroy it far more completely than the politician you feel is doing it symbolically ever could.
I can’t see that being the case in California, though. I mean, even though I like Arnie and all, I’ll still say that I wouldn’t vote for him, but that doesn’t mean I would set fire to the state to try and give him the boot. What is really accomplished by setting fire to your own surroundings out of protest, political or otherwise? Isn’t that sort of like the idiot toddler who destroys his own toys in a fit of temper?
And it’s not just one person setting the fires, either, nor have the arsonists stopped now that the fires have destroyed everything in their path for days, killing some and leaving many more homeless. MSNBC reports that police shot and killed a man on Tuesday when they caught him in the apparent act of setting a fire and he refused to be detained. Even the Chinese are reporting on Xinhuanet that a 41 year-old man was arrested today on suspicion of arson.
To his slight credit, Bush is at ground zero warbling through his sympathetic drawl and pledging support and assistance and divine intervention and blah blah blah. Even FEMA appears intent on going by the book in an effort to remove the “mis” that was apoended to “management” after their Katrina debacle.
It’s not much of a wonder that people would turn to destruction as a means of expressing their angst, though. Turn on the news any time of day or night and there will be mention of the many acts of state sanctioned violence and destruction that are perpetrated as a means of “solving problems” and contributing to “peace efforts”. I don’t know who said it first, but I still like the quote “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity”. And it’s true that we’re far too apt to turn to the mechanisms that are direct antitheses of our goals by some sort of irrational reflex.
By that logic, maybe the best punishment we can dole out to the arsonists is not incarceration, but prompt release; right into the middle of a neighbourhood full of displaced and angry California citizens.

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