Dé Sathairn, Nollaig 29, 2007

Driving Home Yesterday

My father, Dennis Lyons, spoke of his days as a deputy sheriff in Oregon. To be specific, he told me of the incidents in which he slaughtered people as part of his duties as a deputy sheriff in Oregon.

In 1971, a group of liquor-store robbers in Bend Oregon had taken hostages after being cornered by police. My father helped to diffuse the situation by shooting the head negotiator five times in the chest and neck. After this failed to knock the robber down, my father shot him in the head.

"He was so jacked up on PCP he didn't even notice. They say I scrambled his brains so bad there was no way he could get up. But he was still twitching when the coroner showed up. He still had that energy. They used to give that shit to the North Vietnamese. Not the regulars but, the, you know, the Cong. I remember shooting Cong straight in the heart, and the blood was spirting out five feet in front of them, and they just kept loading their rifles."

A few months before this the Bend area was apparently plagued by the so-called Bible Bandits. The bandits would walk into a gas station, lead the clerk to a backroom at gunpoint, make him get on his knees, lay a bible at his feet, and shoot him in the back of the head.

My father went undercover in a local service station armed with a .357 Magnum. The bible bandits came after a few days. One went in to rob the station and kill my father while the other stayed at the ready in the getaway car. After being led to the back room by the bandit, my father surprised him by pulling his Magnum out of his coat and pointing it at the assailant.

"I told him not to make another move if he wanted to see the next thirty seconds. He raised his gun-hand but he never had it pointed at me. I lifted my hand and shot him through the left temple.It came out through the right-rear and covered the wall behind him. I went outside and caught his partner from behind. I held the barrel against his head and told him the same thing I had told the other one. Now you may not believe this but having a gun pointed at your head will scare the piss out of you. This guy pissed all over himself, the barrel was warm and he knew I had just used the the thing on his partner."

Now, I have no way of knowing that any of this is true besides my father's say-so. There are parts of his story that seem more than a little incredible. Still, I believe him. The way he grows about being investigated after these incidents, simply because he had killed his fellow man, is something he would do.

"I would be walking around with Kathy (his late wife) and your sister, and people would come up to me and say, "Hey, you killed the Bible Bandits." It felt kind of weird you know?"

My father was involved in an accident at his job several months ago and currently lives on worker's comp. He is bored. He watches television, plays solitaire on a computer he doesn't know how to use, eats and sleeps. His old rants about how all murderers/child molesters/terrorists/home invaders/car thieves must be executed have grown more frequent and convoluted. He sold the last gun he had eight years ago when his shoulder became too sore to use it. Still he fantasizes; that's the only word for it, about an intruder coming into the house so that he will have the opportunity to manfully spill blood in defense of his flock.

And that's why I think the stories he told me yesterday are so important. This is a man who killed criminals in defense of the relatively innocent, and he demands to be considered a hero for it without qualification. My father is not a monstrous man, he is clearly haunted by the fact that he is taken human life; but it is precisely because he is haunted that he refuses to accept the second half of the phrase "necessary evil."

My mother likes to spend her days off watching that true-crime trash one finds on Court TV or A&E. There was something about the Menendez brothers on yesterday morning. I spent the time loading the car with my things while wondering why the murder of two wealthy southern Californians drew national media attention while the murder of a prostitute, or the "natural" death of a widow who had no one to talk to for the last year of her life, is noticed by no one.

The show's narrator, some hack "true-crime" novelist named Dominic Donne, said that the Menendez brothers were behind bars "where they belonged." "No" said my father, "they deserve the same fate as their parents."

And so, of course, shall they receive this fate, along with all the rest of us. My father was not the least bit curious as to why he should know the details of the deaths of two total strangers on the other side of the country twelve years ago. He does not question why a single sexual assult of a child somewhere in Montana or what have you should be breathlessly reported by cable news for six days.

"there may be responsible persons, but there are no guilty ones" - Camus

This I firmly believe. Death and suffering at the hands of another human being is, to me, nothing but one more unfortunate possibility out of many. There are actions, murder, rape, etc. that I consider evil, but to hear somebody say that they "believe" in evil is, to me, the same thing as hearing one speak of one's belief in water or brick walls. Evil is nothing but a specific action that causes a fellow human being great harm, there is nor metaphysical force behind it, nothing to "believe" in.

My father must believe that the metaphysical force is there. He must believe that one death by murder is more significant than twelve deaths by cancer. Murder is an opportunity to teach others that murder is wrong. For he has blood on his hands, and to live, he must believe that the corruption of the blood can be cured through spilling it.

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