I've spent a lifetime being foolish.
I naively believed in the good of man; I truly believed that we are all born good, and while circumstances can cause some of us turn a little bad, for the most part we remain basically decent. It pains me to admit that I was wrong. People are born evil.
But what a flower-sniffing sap I was. Once, in a college writing course, my professor asked us to pick one of two viewpoints--that people are basically good or basically evil--and write a paper defending that viewpoint. Naturally, being the wide-eyed young idiot that I now realize I was, I ranted on about how of course people are basically good, and only through extreme influence do we sometimes, tragically, take a misguided turn for the bad. What an idealistic little Mary Poppins asshole I was.
Today, cold, hard truth smacked me in the face. I was sitting around minding my own business (probably musing about how the world is one big happy Brady Bunch episode) when I overheard a cherub-faced little boy of about 8 chattering away to his father about a cartoon he had seen on TV recently, featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The distracted father was trying to do some work on his laptop while the kid yammered on, excitedly describing one of the coyote's elaborate anvil-as-weapon attempts on the road runner's life. The father muttered the occasional, "Mmm-hmmm," or "wow," in a flat, monotone voice. The kid was too young to understand that his father wasn't listening to a word he was saying, so he took his time meandering to the end of the story, wherein, as you might imagine, the road runner escapes once again, leaving the frustrated coyote steaming. The kid was the picture of childlike innocence, so excited about this silly cartoon...until! He wrapped the whole thing up by wistfully commenting, "I hope someday the coyote catches the road runner." To which Father Clueless mumbled, "Yeah, that'd be great."
What? This adorable little serial killer in training wants the coyote to catch the road runner?! What kind of parents raise a little monster like this? That'd make for a fun cartoon, wouldn't it?
Scene One: Coyote chases road runner; road runner narrowly escapes, a sweet, innocent smile on his beak.Scene Two: Coyote devises new plan to catch bird; road runner narrowly escapes once again, emitting an exceedingly cheerful, "Meep, meep!" and continuing to look angelic and huggable.
Scene Three: With grim resolve, coyote chases road runner again, this time with a fresh look of wild-eyed determination. At the end of a long, feverish chase, Coyote catches road runner, ripping into the bird's delicate throat with his teeth, amid the bird's tortured screams of agony. Blood-spattered coyote gleefully feasts on road runner's tattered carcass by the side of the highway, while cars whiz by, the occupants indifferent to the carnage.
Scene Four: Crazed from the taste of blood, the coyote goes on a maniacal killing spree, butchering and devouring every animal and man that crosses his path. Eventually, when he has decimated the entire population of the dessert, he begins to infiltrate other cartoons, slaughtering Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, the Powerpuff Girls, the Afflac duck, the Geico gecko and the Energizer Bunny, as well as scores of others. The 8-year-old boy mentioned above sits in front of his TV cackling with demonic glee, rubbing his chubby hands together as he begins to map out his own plan to kills his parents, neighbors and classmates and boil them all together in one massive stew pot.
So there you have it; my rosy view of the world has been shattered. I now admit that yes, the world is a steaming cesspool filled with villains and cads, and when empty-headed hayseeds like myself stubbornly insist that people are innocent and kind, our foolish naivete only makes it easier for the scoundrels to pillage and plunder.
Well, no more. From this moment on, I will no longer bumble through life with a fairy tale notion of the goodness of mankind. I will approach every stranger with the belief that he is not a friend, but a bloodthirsty killer on a rampage, more likely to gut me like a fish than say hello. I will sleep with one eye open. From here on out, it's kill or be killed.
And I'm starting with that little 8-year-old, cartoon-loving murderer-on-training wheels. Next time he looks up, he's going to see an anvil blacking out the sky.