There is no shortage of jokes with Kentucky at the butt-end, like the one which says in Kentucky a toothbrush really is just that—a tooth brush (because keeping a single tooth is an accomplishment). Speaking of accomplishments, most Kentuckians consider reaching high school or buying a pair of shoes to be activities of the “upper crust.” — You get the picture.
But even by Kentucky standards, my neighbor is a little backward. (Backward is not a bad word in Kentucky. Parents use it to describe their shy children. It just means they are noticeably shy or to themselves.) My neighbor keeps to himself. Yet, he is very noticeable for his hobby. He has a hobby that draws attention to his place like no other hobby I could imagine.
My neighbor collects army tanks and artillery. I have grown accustomed to seeing tank turrets swing around in the direction of my garage. I’ve also posted a couple of FB pictures recently of the tanks in use at our church’s VBS this year. Realizing that it is somewhat unusual for a church to sport machine guns, tanks, and troop carriers, I asked my neighbor what he thought about it. His answer reminded me of why I love the backward and backwoods people of Kentucky.
When asked about artillery at church, my neighbor replied that it made perfectly good sense to him because the church still understands there is such a thing as evil, and evil must be confronted. In fact, his exact words were, “Corralling people like animals and shoving them into ovens is not a misunderstanding. It is evil.” He is right about that. It is also evil to strap bombs to people and blow them up while they are at pizza parlors, subway stations, wedding parties, and public transit.
The tragedy of the situation is that in America he cannot any longer display his tanks or share his message in public schools. My neighbor spoke of years gone by with a lost fondness in the face of a new reality which rejects his message now. He is not welcome at the public schools—for the protection of the children. He says parents and administrators are not interested in such a “controversial” message. In his words, the prevailing attitude is that the enemy is not evil, just misunderstood. Therapy is now the weapon of choice, not tanks.
Yet, the truth is a stubborn thing, and it will continue to challenge our false assumptions. Case in point? Major Hasan of Ft. Hood, Texas. He was a therapist. Yet, he was also a Muslim sworn to jihad against the army which employed him. The army sought to placate and appease him. He sought to kill American soldiers. Therapy did not work with Major Hasan. He needed to be confronted long before he murdered our military personnel.
In a strangely ironic way, we might actually agree that the enemy is misunderstood. We think our enemies need empathy and understanding—but that is a misunderstanding. They need to be called evil and confronted. Otherwise, they will feel justified (as Major Hasan did) in executing justice from their perverted view of reality, thereby killing us in cafes and on buses.
At the end of the day, I’ll take the mocking for being a Kentuckian. As a matter of fact, I am a Kentuckian of the worst kind: A Bullitt County, Kentuckian. And I can rest comfortably at night because I know that my neighbor’s got my back if worse comes to worse. In a real world with real evil at work in it, give me tanks and the common sense ways of Kentucky.