We live in profoundly strange times. Sometimes the weirdness of the world as it is now can become a part of the background so that we forget the moments in time, the events both good and bad, that shape the present we live in.
I said yesterday that I'd explain why I'm not as upset about the Exiles being able to freely thrive despite the horrible things they've done. As it's another dangerously cold morning and the zombie swarms are quiet, I'm going to take a good deal of time to write this post. I think it's important to give perspective and to explain how a viewpoint can change so much over time. Or rather, how a viewpoint can change with the times.
I've been turning this over in my head for the last day. I've been struggling to put in words the concept that sometimes you just have to let things be. And how you have to do that even for acts that are so contrary to civilized society that it makes you taste blood at the idea of not handing out justice.
A few thoughts. Not perfect comparisons by any means, but I think I've managed to get close enough to make my point. That being said:
When explorers many centuries ago traveled across the oceans, they lost people. Colonists and pilgrims, conquistadors and mapmakers, all of them faced the same sets of odds. Each of them knew when they left home that they'd have to beat some heavy odds in order to make a new life or a fresh discovery. Most of them chose to make those trips.
We didn't have a choice.
But like any settlers,we've moved into a world entirely different from the comfortable one we grew up in. We've done awful things to survive. Almost all of us have had to kill living people as well as the undead. We've done so without mercy when needed. Think about that for a minute. I know most of you have given it some reflection, and I obviously have over the last two years on this blog, many times.
Think hard. Could you have seen yourself burning alive a rapist or shooting an attacker in the heart two years ago? Not as an abstract, I mean. Not in your stray thoughts. I mean in the harshest, most realistic terms. Was there ever a point in your life that you imagined the things we have to do on a regular basis would even be possible for you? I know I didn't.
Now that you're in that frame of mind, another question: could you have imagined a circumstance, any circumstance, in which you'd allow a murdering rapist who ravaged the lives of peaceful human beings to get away with it?
I've said a lot about the standards by which we live on this blog. I've said that some actions, some behaviors, can't be ignored. That a response must come no matter what the cost. As much as it pains me to admit it, as dirty as it makes me feel, I was wrong. A part of me wants to believe that the Exiles are redeemable. I want very badly to hold on to some shred of possibility that our enemy, those very same murdering rapists, could come to a moment of enlightenment. That guilt could drive them to submit to justice by others if for no other reason to attain some kind of atonement.
I don't believe that, which makes the whole thing so much worse.
If the Exiles choose to make a go of building a home of their own in a truly long-term way without going back to the awful deeds that made them infamous, I can live with that. I can go on about my business for the rest of my life knowing they might never pay for all the lives they've ruined. I can suppress the rage and sense of injustice it springs from...pretty much forever.
I can do that because much like those intrepid people who left the old world for the new, I recognize that some fights aren't worth the cost. Should I push my people toward more warfare, surely to be destructive to us, possibly fatal to our community, simply to quiet the rage inside me? Should we as a community be allowed to let that rage, felt in every heart among us, to overcome our sense of self-preservation and build into an urge to destroy that can't be stopped no matter how badly we'll damage ourselves?
I know what some of you out there are thinking. I've made the arguments myself many times. People like the Exiles aren't deserving of the first grain of consideration. For the safety of everyone else, they must be eliminated.
I still think that, but the larger problem is that my own people are deserving of consideration. We've been beaten stupid more times than I can count. We've been hurt in so many ways you could write a definitive work on the subject of human suffering with our stories. All we've ever wanted to do is live our lives without more fear of the future than absolutely necessary. The Exiles have done so many horrific things, but for now they're keeping to the truce. They aren't hurting anyone right now, and it would be profoundly stupid for us to pursue a war with no possible good outcome when we don't have to.
On a personal level, I'm tired. Not in a world-weary suicidal way. I've stood and fought many times in defense of my life, those of my friends, my home, my principles. I'm not eager to do it again unless I absolutely have to. The last two years have been insane in many ways and on a dozen different levels, and I'd give anything for some peace and time to grow.
Even, as it turns out, my conscience. I'll never forget the things the Exiles have done, to us and to the victims they've preyed upon over the last twenty-four months. But like the oceangoing colonists before me, I can witness the horrors, be aware of them, and recognize the reality that trying to make amends just isn't compatible with surviving.
Nothing is static. Human beings are, at their best, incredibly dynamic creatures. We evolve constantly, (in the case of the zombies themselves, in a literal sense) shaping our views in the now based on our experiences. Holding to a set of moral standards, like not suffering people like the Exiles to live, is a very pretty and noble attitude to have.
Right up until it gets you killed, that is.
Time will tell if the situation with the Exiles will remain nonviolent. I don't expect any particular outcome. Things change, and a time might come when the enemy decides that attacking us is off the table, but they want to pick up their old habits again and go after weaker, smaller groups. If they do, we'll see what happens then.
For now, we've got relative peace. Spring isn't far off, and with it comes a lot of hard work. Too much time and effort is wasted on fighting, and it's time we make the call to set aside the more extreme elements of our principles and deal with the fact that sometimes the bad guys don't die in the end.
And for that matter, that in reality the lines between the good guys and the bad guys is often fuzzy and ill-defined. After all, what kind of heroes (if that's what we're supposed to be) allow this kind of injustice to go by unpunished?
We're people. Survivors. We do the best we can, but we're imperfect. Our ultimate responsibility is to ensure the continuation of our community, no matter how many sleepless nights it may cost us. And I do see a few of those in my future.
But I'll get over it. When you're on rough seas and the ships around you flounder in the storm, sometimes the only choice is to sail on.