I was plunking through the channels last night and came
across this guy in glasses and an Eisenhower jacket talking to Alec Baldwin,
and he said something like, "I've come to realize evil as the absence
of empathy." I thought, sure friend, and evil in the presence of empathy
becomes lacking the courage to act.
So, I acted. You see, I'd read this article in a Reader's
Digest or Harper's, somewhere important, and the whole thing
was about a little boy with Down's Syndrome who lived in Missouri and
cashed in aluminum cans and plastic bottles, sending the money to an
orphanage for the blind. The article went on about the altruism of the
weak, blah, blah. I immediately recognized this for the crock of shit
it was and wondered how the little pop can beggar could be so arrogant
as to believe that blind kids needed his pity and came to the conclusion
that I would visit the punk and find out for myself whether he was the
second coming or another etch-a-sketch rendering of reality by the modern
press. I had my doubts that it would be anything in between.
I packed up the Electra with an extra pair of underwear and
some tuna fish and apples and headed up Highway 71 over the Ozark Plateau.
It wasn't long before I realized that getting through Missouri was going
to be easier than the tabloids had predicted for the year 2000. Three
more hours up the spine of the Midwest and I found the - yes damn it,
I know - trailer park where the kid lived. He sat in the middle of his
dirt lawn pawing through a black garbage bag, empty Spam cans strewn
around him like Lincoln Logs.
Before I could get out of the Buick though, the Missouri stillness
broke with a commotion piled high in tire screeches, car door clicks
and helicopters whomping the air with the familiar sound that had nagged
Koresh into self-immolation. It was the FBI. They were everywhere in
a matter of seconds. A burly, blue-jacketed agent body-slammed the kid
flat, and evidently the Spam cans, knocked helter-skelter, reproduced
the sound of a semi-automatic weapon, because as soon as the kid's old
lady appeared beyond the screen door on the front porch, a full minute
fuselage decorated the trailer with tufts of the woman's back. Everyone
was shouting, clear, clear, running through the gun smoke, over her
body, and into the trailer except for one little guy, about five foot
four, who pulled me, hair first, from the car, and consequently I found
myself demure as a debutante, trussed up in tie-straps, stuffed in the
back of his prowler.
What I've learned since is the kid wasn't a Down's Syndrome
kid at all but an idiot savant who micro-engraved in Braille on the
flip-side of pennies national security information gleaned from VCR
codes in the T.V. Guide. Unreadable by the naked eye, technological
secrets were leaking from the spaces between the columns of the Lincoln
Memorial in rolled lots of fifty, destined for an orphanage fronting
for the PRC.
It all sounds too pat to me, but that is not the real problem
here. Evidently, in 1851, my great-great-grandmother was deposited on
a San Francisco pier after several months stuffed in the hold of a packet
ship from Shanghai. Proof enough for the FBI of my intrinsic involvement
in this national security catastrophe and the reason I am currently
writing this confession while a burly, blue-jacketed agent hovers on
the other side of the table, ostensibly to prevent me from taking my
life with the sharp-edged paper before me.
And I'm thinking about evil and empathy and wondering how far
it really flies in answering the question of evil's nature, because
if it's true and I am now surrounded by a government agency that like
the government itself doesn't recognize empathy as a core instrument
in the virtue toolbox then I'm pretty much Spam.