Evil knows no borders

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The story of who killed Iowa girl Mollie Tibbetts is nearly complete. Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been charged with her murder and is going to trial. Authorities initially said Rivera was an undocumented immigrant, but now even that is being challenged. Nonetheless, the left is telling the right not to politicize this case, just as the right told the left not to politicize school shootings earlier this year. We all hold our preferred causes quite dearly.

I'll let the courts play out as they will (not that I had any say to begin with). I'm more concerned with the people. I'm concerned with the clout this case seems to give to the ever-looming-never-coalescing border wall for which some of us are calling. I'm concerned with the wedge this case drives between an already divided American people.

The good news is we pretty much all agree murder is legally, ethically and morally wrong.

But, for some reason, it seems like our society is willing to let some murders fall by the wayside in favor of those that play to a specific narrative. Case in point, Colorado man Christopher Watts was arrested and charged on Aug. 15 with the murder of his pregnant wife and two daughters. About a week later, Rivera was charged with Tibbetts' murder. In one case, we ask why someone would do such a thing. In the other, we ask why he was here. It doesn't take much effort to find coverage of either case, of course, yet it doesn't seem like the Watts case is really part of the national conversation at this point. And it hasn't even been a month since he was arrested.

The gut impulse here, of course, is to say Tibbetts' death could have been prevented, as Gov. Kim Reynolds (among others) implied, through immigration reform. But we can paint ourselves into a corner with that brush. If only the second of two recent high-profile murders spurs us toward preventing future bloodshed on a national scale, then one must question what's so different about that first murder. One must question why our outrage in the face of murder is not equal -- that is, of course, unless our society no longer supports the idea that all men are created equal.

I don't mean to diminish the tragedies that we've seen this month at all. I've simply been pondering why no one's reaction to the Watts case was to build a wall around Frederick, Colorado. No one asked if Christopher Watts should have been allowed in the country. No one ever would. We natural born citizens don't have to prove our worthiness (though, in preparation for this column, I did take the U.S. citizenship practice test several time and never failed). I submit to you a painful theory -- it is simply easier to believe we can stop evil from entering our country than admit it's here within us. Not among us. Within us. Granted, we don't need more of it, but I'll guarantee you, even if we build a wall and a dome and a space force to keep anything and everything we believe to be evil from entering the United States, we will still kill each other, we will still deal drugs, we will lie, cheat and steal because evil doesn't come from without.

It comes from within.

It comes from within every one of us. We all have the potential. Some of us learn to overcome it, silence it or otherwise avoid its coming to fruition, but it is always there, and no one outruns it forever. It's just a matter of scale. It pops through the holes in our filters. Small jets of bitter action escape the pressure tank of our souls from time to time and the droplets trickle down to the floor. The potential is always there.

I guess what I'm saying is, while Rivera may have come from Mexico and a court may find him guilty of murder, remember that we in this country smoke the same brand of evil as the rest of the world. Some think this outpouring of society's addiction is trucked in by "the other," so we keep them as far away as possible -- ask where they came from, how they got here, whether they've earned the right to be here among us. But they aren't the only ones who need to change. We all carry evil inside us. It's not that "they" are evil and "we" are good. We are all the same. We aren't lacking the darker side of our humanity just because we were born on this side of an imaginary line. So, instead of asking how we can keep evil away, maybe we need to look inward, recognize that it exists there as well and help each other overcome it.

But we don't stand a chance against evil, if we only oppose the evil outside ourselves.