Thursday, March 24, 2011

An End

I've always believed that every person should have the right to end their own life if they choose. It isn't something that comes up a lot nowadays. I think that's due to the fact that the zombie plague burned away the people most prone to killing themselves, leaving only those with the strongest survival instinct.

There are some pains, however, that are too much for any person to bear.

This morning one of our guards didn't show up for his shift. It was the guy who was manning the heavy gun the other day, when the group of starving people were killed at our gate. When his room was searched, his body was found.

I'm deliberately not mentioning his name here, because it isn't important. His actions were his to take right along with his life, but that doesn't mean that he will be named as some kind of example to others out there, for good or ill. His note was short and to the point, describing the sleepless nights he had over the last several days. He felt overwhelming guilt about killing those starving people, and he couldn't live with it any more.

I can understand that. I think all of us can. No one feels good about what happened, but the rest of us are realists enough to understand that while the deaths of those people were tragic, ultimately they were unavoidable. The hunger had damaged their judgement, as far as we can tell. They were, from our perspective, a threat that had to be eliminated. It doesn't matter what the truth of the situation was--they were at our door with weapons drawn. Action was needed.

I'm of two minds on this man's choice. On the one hand I recognize the pain he was in and his inherent right to make the decision to end his life. On the other, I see his reaction to the threat as completely reasonable given the circumstances, and committing suicide only weakened the compound. His loss is a loss to all of us, which makes me angry. It makes a lot of us angry.

Again, it's one of those situations that you can't just feel one way about. The zombies outside the walls have destroyed the world, made it almost impossible for us to manage. We've buckled down and worked our asses off to get where we are, and we've lost a lot of good people in the struggle along the way. I hate to think that the hard and awful choices we've steeled ourselves and made over the last year plus have been toward a purpose. This man's death seems to cheapen that in my mind, as if to say that there is some upper limit to the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

I hate that those people had to die. All the same, I would have killed six times as many starving people in the full knowledge that they weren't in control of their actions, if they posed a direct threat to my home. Honestly, I can't imagine many things I wouldn't do to protect this place and the people in it. I feel like I've failed them already by running with the other refugees when the Richmond soldiers came. That's a scar that runs deep, still red and swollen, and I lose some sleep myself with the ache of it.

I have no intention to let the people here down again. My resolve is strong on that. I choose to live, because that is the only way that I can make sure that everything possible is being done for the residents here. I choose life, though it is harsh and painful, because it gives me chance after chance to do better. To balance the guilt I feel for running away, little by little.

The gunner will always have a negative balance. He folded under the pain, and chose to go quietly into the night. His debt to the people he killed can never be met now. Instead of choosing a life with purpose, to make amends for the lives he took, justified though it was, he gave up. I see people around me every day that shoulder heavier burdens than mine by far, heavier than his was. They try and try to do good. Sometimes they fail, but I see them push themselves harder every time they do.

They're better people than me. Better than the nameless body that met the fire this morning, his duty forgotten in the midst of the turmoil in his heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment