It Takes a Villain
It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes a villain to demonstrate just how cruel some people can be. Villains may live next door, across the street or even in the same house as a child. A villain could be a relative, a family friend and neighbor, someone (in)famous or a passing stranger. Heroes inspire us to do good things and often have fan-clubs, win praise, and get really cool birthday gifts. Villains are monsters (ME. and OFr. monstre < L. monstrum, an unusual occurrence or marvel < L. monere, to warn or admonish) who want to cause harm and few, if any, wish them “Happy Birthday!”
Libya’s longtime dictator, pan-Islamic ideologist and frequent financial supporter of terrorism, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, recently tried to change his villainous image by renouncing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Early reports from inspectors indicate Libya’s nuclear program wasn’t very advanced (with no word yet regarding biological or chemical weapons). In the late 1970s, Gadhafi had a standing offer of a million dollars for a single nuclear bomb, but couldn’t locate a seller. Money, if misused, may be considered a WMD and though the families of victims of the 1988 bombing of a passenger jet over Lockerbie, Scotland have begun to take their payoff millions (with more to come), the agreement to admit responsibility for the bombing is a declared maneuver to get economic sanctions lifted so Libya can make billions from future oil-sales. With billions to spend, rather than millions, a villain doesn’t need developmental programs and can shop for weapons with dastardly leisure. Gadhafi remains a threat, perhaps more so now than in the past.
Media pundits and unemployed bartenders seem somewhat divided over the significance of the capture of the deposed Iraqi despot, Saddam Hussein, and debate whether or not Americans are appreciably safer or not. Sometimes my liberal compatriots embarrass me. The families of Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel have received an estimated $35 million in the last three years from Saddam as a reward for being related to murderers. Some of those bombings killed Americans. If only the Bush administration would have included money in their list of Iraqi WMD, perhaps our soldiers might feel a bit better about the task at hand. However, it’s like the "rescue" of Pfc. Jessica Lynch and how many different contradictory versions exist. The current administration doesn’t stray far from self-aggrandizing propaganda, occasionally obfuscates, but seems to generally hold truth to be a state secret. Who captured Saddam? Was it our hard working soldiers slowly and systematically closing a net around their prey or did the Kurds intercept initial intelligence, track Saddam down and tell us where to look? Are Americans anti-Kurd or just bending butt-backwards to not anger the anti-Kurdish regime in Turkey? If the planned public trial takes place in the coming months, and if an Iraqi ‘Jack Ruby’ doesn’t bring about a premature execution of this vile villain, it could clear up a few mysteries.
A glimpse of what a public trial for Hussein might entail may be had with the current prosecution of the ex-Yugoslavian president, Slobodan Milosevic, by the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal. The son of an orthodox priest, Milosevic first became a lawyer, than a businessman, before deciding politics would be his chosen field (he became head of the Serbian Communist Party in 1987). After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Milosevic was able to convince the Serbian Christian minority to attempt genocide against the local Muslim majority. The villain nearly succeeded. Iran sent weapons and supplies to the Bosnian Muslims, but for the most part the atrocities against Muslims in Europe were ignored by other Muslim nations. While NATO eventually put an end to the attempted genocide (he was arrested by local authorities in early 2001), Milosevic got away with murder for thirteen years. If I was Gen. Clark (Ret., US Army), I’m not sure I’d be too eager to discuss the 1999 battle for Kosovo. Sure, Milosevic will pay for his war-crimes, but thirteen years? And, sadly, many of his fellow criminals are still free and some are even seeking public office.
Former Vermont governor and leading Democratic presidential candidate, Dr. Howard Dean, recently continued to demonstrate that he needs to return to private practice by suggesting we hold off discussing a possible death penalty for Osama bin Laden and his role in the 9-11 attacks until a court finds him guilty. Somewhere on the Afghanistan and Pakistan border Bin Laden is busy with his Al Qaeda operatives planning a large scale attack against Vermont right now. I’m not sure how this will impact the nation’s reserve of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, but it’s something we should look into. Anywho, Osama has claimed responsibility for 9-11 (as well as other cowardly acts of terrorism) and I believe it’s healthy and perfectly natural to debate whether Osama’s death should be quick, rather slow, brought about with a bullet, a noose, several baseball bats wielded by family members of 9-11 victims, or maybe simply take him home to Saudi Arabia and let them behead Bin Laden as part of some halftime entertainment live on cable television. So many choices... Osama is an especially loathsome villain. A spoiled rich kid who hates his family, has no country to call home, uses religion as an excuse to kill Jews and anyone who assists Jews, and apparently still has enough cash after being driven into the hills to fund the death of innocent civilians. Yet another example of money as WMD.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman, Yasser Arafat, despite a passing resemblance to the affable and much beloved Ringo Starr, is a villain guilty of many horrible crimes, possibly beginning with an unknown level of involvement with the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY). With the arrest and trial of Palestinian-born Sirhan Sirhan, came the first time many Americans had ever heard the word ‘Palestine’. The massacre of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics by Black September, a PLO-splinter group, guaranteed the world would never forget Palestine again. This was followed in 1973 by the taking of hostages at the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, Sudan and the demand for the immediate release of Sirhan Sirhan from jail. The American chargé d'affaires, J. Curtis Moore, American ambassador, Cleo Noel, and the Belgian chargé d'affaires, Guy Eid were murdered by Black September when Nixon said “no” to the release of Kennedy's assassin. In 1986 forty-seven US senators believed Arafat was behind the Khartoum killings, but the Reagan administration wouldn't pursue the evidence. Sure, Vanessa Redgrave gave a nod by mentioning “Zionist hoodlums” at the 1978 Academy Awards and Arafat was outwardly polite and conciliatory in 1988 when he addressed a special General Assembly of the UN in Geneva to “condemn terrorism in all its forms,” and then there was the 1994 episode of The Twilight Zone when Arafat shared a Nobel Peace Prize with two Israelis, but our commander-in-chief, Pres. George W. Bush, continues to say that Arafat is not a terrorist and it should end there. It doesn’t. He’s been a villain all along and has prevented peace in the Middle East and seeks to drive the Jews from Jerusalem. It’s a wonder, some would say a miracle, that he’s still alive.
Sometimes I think it’s a miracle any of us are still alive. The recent discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow disease) is surely the work of villains, but who? It’s said the infected cow was born in Alberta, Canada and though South Park has set a precedent for blaming Canada for most problems, I wonder if there isn’t more to it. Many researchers point to the disgusting practice of ‘animal cannibalism’, whereby an animal is made to feed on the non-economically viable body parts and waste of its own kind. I personally would pay much more for cheeseburgers that weren’t made from cows who were forced to eat other cows and cow-crap. Oprah was officially cleared of maligning the beef industry and the vegan musician, Moby, seems too much of a milquetoast to do anything other than complain a lot. Canada would never knowingly hurt us. I wouldn’t be surprised if France had something to do with the spread of Mad Cow disease from Canada into the US.
It probably wasn’t last year’s boycott of French wines, as France encourages its alcoholics and the boycott meant more wine to go around at home. The appearance of ‘Freedom Fries’ on the lunch-menu of the US House of Representatives likewise wasn’t a catalyst to villainy, as fries are thought to have been invented in Belgium and the French have always been uncomfortable with the term, preferring instead pommes de terre frites ("potatoes cooked in the furnace" or some such silliness). Jacques René Chirac, current President of France and former mayor of Paris (1977-1995), started his political career as a street-vender whoring copies of the hoary communist daily newspaper, l'Humanité, in the late 1950s. After holding various appointed and elected offices in the ‘60s and early '70s, he became Prime Minister in 1974. It was as Prime Minister, in 1975, that Chirac had his first known dealings with Saddam Hussein. Chirac began a business association with Saddam involving oil and weapons; a financial arrangement the French president was most reluctant to forsake, even as soldiers from countries who once fought for France’s freedom began to die in the liberation of Iraq. As France already possesses WMD, it's all about the money. Yet, we must consider their disappointment of American medical science which has allowed Jerry Lewis, whom they worship, to balloon like a fatted cow because of steroid use. Disappointment has driven some to do terrible things.
No one can say with surety what drives Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s “Dear Leader” and chairman of its National Defense Commission (the post of “Eternal President” is held by Kim Il-sung, Jong-il’s father, who died in 1994). According to fragmented accounts, we can piece together an incomplete picture of Jong-il as a pathetic playboy psycho with his own well-trained “Pleasure Team” to ...provide pleasure. The image is detailed with platform shoes, strangely coiffured hair and a taste for roast donkey. North Korea’s population has been starving for decades, there isn’t a domestic pet in the entire country, as all of the nation’s resources are directed at keeping the “Dear Leader” comfortable, conquering South Korea soon and one-day taking over the whole world. They have WMD, but are short on cash. Recently it was learned that Kim took $10 million as a down payment for some medium-range missile technology from Saddam, pocketed the money and didn’t give anything in return. So much for honor among villains and thieves.
Sometimes those in whom we put our greatest trust and faith may be revealed as villains. The so-called Catholic Abuse scandal has shaken the very foundation of the Roman Catholic church and, at least in America, the damage may well be irreparable. Though well documented and played out before the global media, we still couch our terminology out of respect for the Church. Abuse? This was not merely a matter of a priests breaking their vows of celibacy and having sexual relations with either men or women; this was sex predominantly with young boys, usually just at the beginning of puberty. It’s homosexual ephebophilia or hebephilia (as pedophilia designates pre-pubescent children). ‘Child abuse’ doesn’t cover the villainy perpetrated by those priests. One such fiend was murdered in prison this past August. Few mourned his passing, though many are troubled by the perpetuation of violence. As well argued by the victims, their families and friends, just as heinous as the actual crimes was the manner in which many of those evil priests were transferred about the country and allowed to continue to prey on adolescent young boys after the Church became aware of their sick deeds. But, how do you change a religious institution? Some are attempting an answer.
I can't bring myself to call Michael Jackson a villain at this time, not without proof of homosexual pedophilia or ephebophilia, but I wouldn’t hesitate to describe him as a monster, a warning for us all. For a time he was a premier entertainer, surely one of the best our generation produced. Talent often fades, sooner for some and later for others. But, Michael went wrong at some point and I’ve yet to hear a reasonable explanation as to why. A busy childhood and getting slapped around by your dad just doesn’t do it. His slow transformation into Joan Crawford amounts to self-mutilation (read: self-hatred). The closest I can come to figuring out what's going on with Wacko Jacko is a condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), commonly referred to as "imagined ugliness." Repeated cosmetic surgeries, for those who can afford them, is one of the major traits of BDD. I think this is a far more reasonable guess than, say, he’s aiming for transgender after he had an affair with Prince Roger (s.) Nelson in Paris (hence the names of his “children”), or despite all his wealth he’s got unimaginably bad luck picking surgeons. I’ll stick with BDD, with bad luck as a backup, for now. Children can often see through masks and have the luxury of innocence to tell pretentiousness from sincerity. It’s not a mask, kids. Heed the monster’s warning and learn to live with yourself.
Most villains are cowards at heart and those with a military background, like Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing, can be ruthlessly deadly and effective. John Allen Muhammad used his sniper training to shoot a thirteen year old boy as his mother was dropping him off at school. Iran Brown survived the cowardly assassination attempt, as did two fortunate others in separate attacks, but ten innocents did not when Muhammad randomly chose to execute them. Together with Lee Boyd Malvo, a troubled lad that he’d wrongly convinced somehow that senseless evil deserved a place in this world, they terrorized the greater Washington D.C. area in October of 2002. Muhammad, a Gulf War veteran, received the death penalty for his crimes and Malvo got life without parole (though it’s believed, besides being the spotter for Muhammad’s killings, he actually pulled the trigger on at least one occasion). All of the shootings were meant to instill terror in the greater Washington D.C. area, but taking aim at a schoolboy was Muhammad’s way of communicating that he hated everyone equally. It’s rather a shame that we no longer use the firing squad.
Sometimes, under the right circumstances, we treat villains with compassion. Though a jury knew beyond all reasonable doubt that John Hinckley, Jr. shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981 outside of a Washington D.C. hotel, with other shots wounding Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy, D.C. Metropolitan police officer Tom Delahanty, and Press Secretary Jim Brady, they found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He was obsessed with Jodie Foster and he wasn’t thinking clearly when he tried to impress the actress by attempting to kill the president. Soon, perhaps as early as the middle of January, Hinckley will be allowed to visit with his parents and travel around the D.C. area without medical supervision. The psychiatrists believe he’s no longer insane because he’s taking a new wonder drug, Risperdal ®, an atypical antipsychotic said to be the “most frequently prescribed antipsychotic medication in the U.S.” The drug treats those annoying symptoms of schizophrenia and has been recently approved as a convenient remedy for bipolar mania. Okay. During his first few years at the loony bin he wrote to Ted Bundy (the serial killer) and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme (a Manson-follower who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford). He tried to write to Charlie Manson, but couldn’t get his address. In 1987 hospital staff found a cache of Jodie Foster photographs in his room and the next year he tried to order a nude drawing of Jodie through the mail. In the ‘90s he got a girlfriend, Leslie deVeau, a fellow patient who killed her 10 year old daughter and lost an arm in a botched suicide attempt. Hinckley has bragged that he can fool the doctors, however the psychiatrists who argued for his unsupervised outings insist that his mental illness is in remission and he’s not a threat to anybody. Is it possible for a villain to change? I believe it’s possible, but not this time. His life at the hospital is far better than any prison and that’s where I think our compassion should begin and end.
Not all villains are guilty of crimes or have questionable morals. Michael D. Eisner, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company for the last twenty years, is regarded as a villain to many, but hasn’t done anything illegal or had any known dealings with Saddam Hussein (though there is that Disney Studies theme park in Paris). Eisner is good at making money, but knows nothing about magic. Recently, Roy Disney (Walt’s nephew) resigned from the board of directors because he was ashamed of how Eisner had turned his uncle’s family entertainment company into McDisney, a business serving bland and cheap products. I wasn’t the least bit disappointed that no one bought me the Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical WorldSpecial Edition DVD for Christmas. Well, maybe a little. I wish Roy all the best in his quest to bring some magic back to the Magic Kingdom. Perhaps Eisner could get a job more suitable to his talents. Arnold is only good for a single term...
Every village has its villains. In fact, the original meaning of ‘villain’ (OFr. vilain, a feudal serf < LL. villanus, a farm servant) was synonymous with our ‘villager’ or someone who lives and works in a village. The twistory of the term is akin to ‘pagan’ (L. paganus, a peasant or countryman, from pagus, a local district or country), now used to denote one who doesn’t follow Judeo-Christian ways and which often carries with it savage and occult associations. Farmhands and peasants as evil-doers? They must have had some really rough villages back then.