One is the constitutional trial of the century so far, which started Monday but may forever reshape how we police freedom of speech. The other is a bloodthirsty reminder of our failure to police our post-millennial resource wars.
While there are some mass murderers who are mentally ill, the vast majority are simply angry, frustrated, violent, young men. They have been with us since the beginning of time, and until we implement stronger nationwide gun-control laws they are likely to commit more atrocities in the future.
In the years to come, neuroscience may evolve to yield solid predictions about how genetics and brain conditions can influence a specific individual's particular choices at particular times. But for now, the tools of neuroscience should not be accorded the deference of mathematical certainty.
In one more Afghanistan tragedy, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is accused of the heinous crime of murdering 17 Afghan civilians. It offers a moment to pause and reexamine what our continuing purpose is in this longest war in U.S. history.
Clearly, the counter to "too many wars with too few soldiers" is fewer wars. And how do we reduce the number of wars America has been lurching into? By requiring far more stringent and sturdier premises for going to war.
In the days since we first heard the news I've lost track of how many times I've read or heard the sentiment that somehow the culture or conditions within our U.S. military made him do it. Or that the military "taught him to kill."
Sgt. Bales should not go into the dock alone. Many of us should be there too, charged with willful ignorance, with acting as if war was not what it is -- a series of relentlessly horrific acts destroying bodies, psyches and souls.
The time has come to challenge the military at the level of its reason for being. The time has come to add up its suicides, its war crimes and the rest of its horrific legacy. How long can it survive an honest accounting?