While the details are inappropriate to share in this space, I have spent the last two years of my life learning more about cancer than I ever wanted to. If I could sum it all up I would have to say that we know a lot about cancer, enough to have an even better handle on what we do not know, none of it is conclusive, we just know we have to kill it before it kills us. Some cancers, a few, we know more about and the treatment can be targeted. But for many cancers the treatment is to almost kill the patient in hopes of killing the cancer in the process, and then nurse the patient back to health, hopefully cancer free. It’s an ugly process, and unless you have sat with someone at the end, dying of cancer, it seems cruel – even inhumane. It is only with the perspective of the patients actual, and excruciatingly painful, death that the radical therapies for most cancers become remotely tolerable.
I have thought about this a lot this week as I have watched the media endlessly, almost nauseatingly, debate Islam, connections, and generally how to talk about what happened in Paris earlier this week. As I write this “event” appears to be at an end game. Guy Benson last night published a bit of a synopsis, with much of his own opinion sprinkled in, on the entire “discussion.” All I know is I am very weary of the discussions. There is much, much we do not know and much we will find out as things progress. But we can and do know that there are people trying to kill us.
Like cancer, they come in many forms and varieties. Some are part of an organization. Some are highly trained. Some have almost no training but are highly organized. Some are just crazy, but inspired in their insanity by a virulent and ugly viewpoint with religious roots. They all spring from this common root, no matter what the actual connection is.
I have learned in my sojourn of the last two years that some cancers are now so treatable that one almost hesitates to hang the name “cancer” one them. The name carries with it a dread, a shadow of death so pronounce, that to hang it on some thing that is rarely fatal seems to abuse the term. But they are still cancers and left untreated they will be as ugly, painful, and deadly as the ones that still invoke complete primal fear. All cancers, treatable or not, spring from the same root and will, left unchecked, kill you.
So it is with the rash of attacks that have plagued us for several decades now. Some may be more easily dealt with than others, but they all will kill us if we do not deal with them. Even George W Bush, who was infinitely more aggressive in his efforts to treat this terrorism cancer than the current administration, seemed hesitant to admit that the cure may be far uglier, and least before the end stage, than the disease.
Here is what the events of this week in France make quite, quite plain. Like cancer, they will kill us unless we first kill them. If we keep trying to fine tune the diagnosis and pinpoint the treatment, the disease will simple progress beyond the point where we can do anything but manage our own death. There is no more time for debate or discussion. Yes, the researchers can continue to research and experiment and try to make the treatment less ugly. But they must do so in parallel with efforts to aggressively kill the disease with the tools we have at hand, blunt instruments though they may be.
Decades ago, I took a journey with some friends through the leukemia death of their son. I forget how many rounds of chemo their were, but it was several and each one was uglier than the one that proceeded it. That boy suffered in ways that were previously unimaginable to me. And then there came the time when all involved knew the chemo would do no good and there was only making the young man as comfortable as possible until he went to a better place. The pain and agony of those last weeks made the years of chemo seem like a trip to Disneyland. Until those last weeks I had wondered if the chemo was really worth it. Those last weeks blasted all such questions from my mind. No one should die like that.
War is ugly. But war is what we have handed to us. Deciding it is too ugly to contemplate is simply to invite an even uglier death. It is time to get very, very serious about prosecuting this war.
Of course it will not happen on Obama’s watch. He seems impervious to the pain his policy creates. But this should deeply affect the campaign that now begins.
The campaign for the presidency, 2016, should not merely be about candidates positioning themselves to get elected. It should be a test of leadership. That leadership will be expressed in the candidate or candidates that can get the nation to understand the terrorism cancer that threatens us and convince us that we have to do what we have to do to survive. I know, national security elections have seemed a thing of the past. I am looking for the candidate that can make 2016 a national security election. Anything less threatens our very existence.