We watched "A Mighty Heart" (2007) last night. It's the story of journalist Daniel Pearl's murder in Pakistan by Al Qaeda in 2002. But it is told from the perspective of his wife Marianne -- also a journalist in Pakistan.
Daniel Pearl was beheaded, his murder videotaped -- one of the first of these crimes to shock our modern sensibilities. When the video of one of these murders became widely available on the internet, I watched it. Just to bear witness. It was truly horrible -- none of the poetry of a samurai movie, none of the derring-do of "Kill Bill 2." It was butchery. Ugly and evil.
But "A Mighty Heart" was not so much about evil, but about the gathering of good people supporting Marianne and searching for Danny during the 10 days he was missing. It was an instant community of men and women of all nationalities and faiths, fighting evil.* But you know that these are not superheroes, just ordinary people. You know from the start that they are going to lose.
This is my worry -- that evil always seems more powerful than goodness. Goodness has guidelines. Evil is unfettered. Being good is a lifelong struggle to clarify and communicate. "Virtue as its own reward" really is not that inspirational. But evil goes on sprees, like running up credit cards, smoking the whole pack of cigarettes, eating the whole box of candy -- it feeds on itself, turns people into maniacs.
Or have I bought into the national psyche? That you can only fight evil with more evil. Goodness is for wimps. Nuance is for ninnies. Just listen to our tough talk.
Hmm... I was going to end with something hopeful, but I think I need another cup of coffee and a bath.
[P.S. This is not Marianne Pearl's message I think her message is that terrorism wins only if it terrorizes. She and the good people who surrounded her were too strong to be terrorized.]
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* "A Spirit of Defiance" is an interview with Marianne Pearl on Speaking of Faith.