[This article was originally published in the Charleston Gazette, Nov. 2, 1993.]
Do you sometimes think the world is half nuts?
I get that feeling often -- say, when faith-healer Ernest Angley comes to Charleston, wearing his goofy toupee, claiming to see demons and angels in the Civic Center, and believers give him buckets of money. (Before his death, flamboyant Charleston lawyer Joe Perry led the Ernest Angley Fan Club, urging friends to watch the healer's TV show as the best comedy available.)
But much of the world's nuttiness isn't funny -- it's horrible. We newspaper people see it every day in the news wires on our video terminals.
Look at Kashmir, where Hindus and Muslims have been killing each other for a half-century. New massacres are occurring because some Muslim militants have sealed themselves inside a mosque containing a sacred hair from Mohammed's beard. They contend that Hindu troops want to steal the holy hair. But Hindu authorities say the zealots want to carry the hair around the countryside to rouse Muslims into a frenzy of rebellion.
It's a hairy situation. But even without the hair, Kashmir is a nightmare. More than 7,500 Kashmiris have been killed in religious violence since 1989. Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India have fought two wars over Kashmir -- and it's feared that a third one might involve nuclear weapons. Think of that: the world's first nuclear holy war.
My favorite school of philosophy is existentialism, because it recognizes the streaks of insanity in every society -- and the urgent need for sensible people to restrain them.
Existentialism blossomed from the horrors of World War II. The Holocaust showed that madness can take over a sophisticated nation and send millions to death camps. When that ghastly era receded into the past, existentialism lost most of its horsepower.
But it shouldn't have, because plenty of lunacy remains. Here's more from our news screens:
-- Nearly all girls in Somalia are genitally mutilated to dull their sexuality and keep them "pure'' for husbands. But evidently it doesn't work entirely, because a U.N. team found a group of Somali fundamentalists, just after Friday prayers, stoning five women to death for adultery. Cheering spectators videotaped the mass execution. The women's men partners weren't stoned, of course.
-- For no reason whatever, drive-by shooters kill motorists on freeways in Florida and California. Yet the gun lobby and its politician allies defeat every plan to prevent the drive-by psychos from having pistols in their cars.
-- Protestant gunmen killed three Catholics on the streets of Belfast two weeks ago -- and Catholic terrorists retaliated with a bomb that killed 10, including a 7-year-old girl and her parents. Whereupon, Protestants replied by gunning down a dozen more Catholics, plus a couple of Protestants who got in the way. Ulster's holy war has killed 3,100 since "the troubles'' resumed 24 years ago.
-- Perhaps 1,000 times a year, the same headline appears in America: "Man Kills Wife, Self.'' Why do so many couples, who once were in love, self-destruct in mindless rage? And what ugly neurosis drives U.S. men to commit 100,000 forcible rapes a year?
-- In Cairo last week, a fanatic screaming "God is great'' opened fire in a luxury hotel coffee shop, killing an American and two others. Presumably the gunman is one of Egypt's militants who murder people in an attempt to establish a religious government.
-- America's billion-dollar drug crime ordeal would vanish overnight if yuppies stopped wanting to snort powder up their noses, and other users decided to live in reality. Their craving for a dream state keeps smugglers and killers employed.
-- In Afghanistan, fundamentalist rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar got his start by throwing acid in faces of college girls who didn't wear veils. President Reagan hailed Hekmatyar as a "freedom fighter'' against communism and ordered the CIA secretly to supply him with money and guns.
It's dismaying that religion is entwined in many of the nightmares. The Waco cult tragedy was a classic of mindlessness -- but others are just as senseless. In Bosnia, what Catholics, Muslims and Orthodox Christians are doing to each other defies logic. It's a replay of the religious annihilation that ruined Lebanon a decade earlier.
Secular horrors are just as evil. In central Africa, the Hutus (The Short Ones) and the Tutsis (The Tall Ones -- Watusis) kill each other constantly out of tribal hatred.
Former Editor Don Marsh always touted the deathbed statement of suffragette Lucy Stone: "Make the world better.'' That's a perfect maxim for everyone. But it isn't easy, with so much craziness going on.
"Lunacy on the Daily News Wires" is copyright © 1993 by James A. Haught. All rights reserved.
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