Imagine if Attila the Hun had video equipment at his disposal. Do you suppose he could have resisted filming his barbarous tendencies for posterity?
You don't have to imagine it. No, they couldn't transport video capabilities back to his day. Instead, they've simply brought the barbarians to the present.
The gruesome beheading of American innocent Nick Berg by Islamic terrorists has to rank as the most heinous act ever caught on videotape.
A close second might be the murder and desecration of the bodies of four other Americans in Iraq. Is there a pattern here?
Yes. In fact, there are two.
One is that the pre-medieval terrorists in the Islamic world love to exhibit their barbarousness for the world to see on video. They're no different than the contemporaries of Attila the Hun - except that they're "wired."
The other pattern is escalation.
As with any attempt to shock or terrorize, the line keeps moving. After an image or an act becomes digested, further attempts to shock must be more outrageous in order to get attention.
It's difficult to imagine anything worse than seeing someone being beheaded slowly. But rest assured, the madmen in the Islamic world will come up with something worse.
Two important things to keep in mind, then and now: The barbarians' use of video to advertise their savagery should convert any reasonable and civilized mind into a warrior against terrorism. You would have thought that the people of the United States, and those of other decent societies, would have been joined forever in this fight after the monstrous day of inhumanity on Sept. 11, 2001. But even in this country, there are those without the will to engage this battle for freedom and civilization.
Will the vicious and sadistic beheading of an innocent man finally unite us? Don't hold your breath.
It's hopelessly naive to entertain any notion that these people understand anything other than strength and the willingness to use it. They don't want anything short of the elimination of America and Israel. It really is that simple.
Is there anything to negotiate under those circumstances?
The inescapable conclusion is that there is no alternative but to fight these people to the death. The longer we carry on and argue and debate and snipe at each other in this country as if there are options other than finding these people and killing them, the more we'll be fiddling while civilization burns. And the more of us who'll die.
How many of our sons and daughters and buildings and institutions must be attacked without provocation before we fully commit to fighting this evil? How many more beheadings?
Here may be the problem:
We're just not angry enough.
Americans seem to have forgotten how to get angry, at least about the right things. Oh, we get hot and bothered and have million-whatever-marches on Washington if we think we're not getting what we deserve from our government. But when it comes to defending our lives, our freedom, our way of life - our sons and daughters - why aren't we more committed? Even our president's reaction to the Berg killing - that it was "unjustified" - was spiritless milquetoast.
Why aren't we livid about Nick Berg's beheading?
"That would bring us down to their level," some would reflexively say. That's so much hooey. There's no moral equivalence between an outraged American and Attila's soulmates in the Islamic world.
Moreover, anger isn't necessarily a bad thing; it can be very useful, especially as pertains an organism's survival. Righteous anger can bring perspective; clarity; impetus; and resolve.
These are all things America and the civilized world desperately need at this moment in history.
Maybe - just maybe - our news media are protecting us too much. Perhaps, rather than sweeping the sight of the beheading under the rug, Americans should watch the ghastly deed in all its horror.
Otherwise, we'll never be dealing with the world the way it is.
(Editor's note: The writer is editorial page editor of The Augusta Chronicle.),