My former mentor, historian John Patrick Diggins, once told me a story about the Marxist historian and former communist party member Eugene Genovese.
When Diggins implored him to see that the flower children were on to something with their views about peace and love, Genovese cold-bloodedly said, “Stalin would have known what to do with them — have them shot.”
The murder of the flower children that Genovese may have fantasized about had its twenty-first century equivalent on July 29.
Four cyclists, among them Jay Austin and his girlfriend Lauren Geoghegan, were murdered in an area of Tajikistan near ISIS territory.
The murderers were five men, later identified as ISIS supporters, who drove up, got out of their cars and stabbed to death Austin, Geoghegan, a cyclist from Sweden and another from the Netherlands.
Idealistic at best, naive at worst, Jay Austin did not see ISIS as evil — or anyone else for that matter.
While in Morocco, Austin recorded these beliefs in his blog:
“You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.”
“I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own — it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it.”
Austin continued: “Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.”
If there was one person Austin did not like, however, it was President Trump.
“As a clip plays of a sullen Trump waddling across the screen, I do my best to disappear into the soft plush of the couch cushion behind me.”
Two days after the murder, the five men responsible made their allegiances known.
According to the New York Times, “Two days later, the Islamic State released a video showing five men it identified as the attackers, sitting before the ISIS flag. They face the camera and make a vow: to kill ‘disbelievers.'”
The murder of Austin and Geoghegan shows how an idealistic belief that evil does not exist can get you killed — even among terrorists.
The reason for this is that terrorists do not believe that evil “is a make-believe concept” but something that is very real — and it is contained in anyone who does not follow their religion.
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