Man's Inhumanity To Man

Hostages sit below explosives strung from basketball hoops in the gymnasium of a school in Beslan, Russia, in this image taken Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004, from a video made on an unknown date during the early part of the school siege. A Russian television network showed footage from inside the school raided by militants last week depicting hooded attackers in a gymnasium crowded with hostages and strung up with explosives attached to wires.
Watching the hurricane bear down on Florida this weekend reminded all of us that for all our advances in technology, we are still vulnerable to nature's awesome power. I kept thinking of the child's prayer: "My boat is so small, and the ocean is so large."

But the news from Russia, the pictures Philip Kennicutt of The Washington Post described as "adults carrying dead children from yet another site of collective human failure," forced us all to confront a harsher truth; that of all God's creatures, man is the cruelest. Only man, blessed with the ability to reason, is capable of reasoned hate.

Will Durant, the great historian, once said that, "barbarism, like the jungle, does not die out but only retreats behind the barriers that civilization has thrown up against it and waits there always to reclaim that to which civilization has temporarily laid claim." As civilized people, we can think of no cause that justifies the deliberate taking of innocent lives. But as the pictures from Russia told us, there are still those who do.

We are seeing the terrible force of nature this weekend, but we also saw something worse and even more dangerous: Man's inhumanity to man. Durant argued that, "civilization is not imperishable. It must be relearned by every generation.' For all we saw this weekend, that is the harshest truth of all, the one truth we must never forget.

By Bob Schieffer