When you’re young and you think you know

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I’ve written on this subject quite often, but when I was young I thought I knew.

I thought I knew how to write.

I thought I knew how to report.

I thought I knew perfect lines to meet women.

I thought I was smooth.

I thought I was worldly.

But, truth be told, I was a 20-something dumbass. I didn’t understand writing until confronted with genuinely great writing. I didn’t understand reporting until confronted with genuinely great reporting. And I didn’t understand the frailty of the life-death line until faced with the life-death line. Writing about a woman dying of cancer. Watching my grandparents leave the earth. Having one of my mom’s close friend’s commit suicide; having another of her close friends also succumb to cancer. There are two quotes that, in my life, dwarf all others. One, from Charles De Gaulle, is “Cemeteries are filled with ‘irreplaceable’ men.” And the other, via George Bernard Shaw, is “Youth is wasted on the young.”

And, truly, it is. You’re physically potent, sexually alive, mentally sharp—yet you lack the knowledge to know you don’t have the knowledge. Or, put simpler, you think you’re the shit, but you’re nothing of the sort.

I bring this up because, in the aftermath of today’s heartbreaking terrorist attack in Brussels, we once again find ourselves trying to understand ISIS, and the mentality behind such savagery. We refer to an anti-Western bias, and the teachings of radical Islam, and a warped world view. But the one thing I keep returning to—time after time after time—is the youth of the alleged murderers. Hell, look at the photo above, which features the three prime suspects from the latest catastrophe. Yes, they’re all pushing carts, and they’re all (we now know) of Middle Eastern descent. But they’re all also young men.

This matters because, double nod to Shaw, youth is wasted on the young. You’re these guys. You’ve been embraced by ISIS. You don’t merely believe you’re right. You know you’re right. The West is evil. Death to capitalists. Death to America. Allah wants you to rape women and kill infidels because—look!—it’s written right here! See the words? Right! Here! So you do as it says, and you do so with conviction. Because your heart insists it’s righteous.

But the one thing you miss is this: You’re fucking stupid. You don’t know shit about shit. You’re a kid and, in all probability, a sheltered kid. You lack the depth and experience to think—in detail—about those you’re killing; of expunged lives belonging to people who almost certainly did nothing to you and yours. Know why there are so few 50-year-old ISIS fighters ever pictured? Because when you reach a certain age, you see things through traveled eyes. Yeah, maybe you think ISIS has some good points. But travel to Brussels and blow up people? Eh … what’s on TV?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m overly simple. But I wish these people … these kids could take a minute to comprehend a different perspective.

Alas, it ain’t happening.