Jon Krakauer was on The Daily Show last night, not that I could stay awake to watch it. I watched it on the website this morning. I (voluntarily) moved my work hours from 9:00-6:00 to 8:00-5:00 a couple weeks ago. I like having that extra hour at home in the evening, because it’s my favorite time of day. However, this necessitates getting up at 6:00 in the morning, so these days I’m lucky if I can stay awake for Jon Stewart’s opening bit.
Anyway, Krakauer was promoting his new book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. I heard he was writing a book about Pat Tillman a couple of months ago and was immediately interested; Tillman is exactly the kind of iconoclast that Krakauer writes so well about. When I moved I got rid of about 2/3 of my books, and Krakauer was one of the writers I elected to keep. My criterion was: “Do I read this book over and over again?” If the answer was “yes”, I kept it. I’ve read Into The Wild twice and Under The Banner of Heaven 3 times. I’ve still never read Into Thin Air, though. I hear it’s good.
Pat Tillman was from the South Bay — a little community outside of San Jose called New Almaden — and it seems like I’ve been hearing about him for years, even before he walked away from a multimillion dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers. The guy was practically an Übermensch: In excellent physical condition and a top athlete, almost ridiculously square-jawed handsome; but also extremely intelligent and independent-minded, possessing of inflexible ideals and a staunch moral code that came not from fear of punishment by some mystical sky demon, but from his own desire to do good.
That’s what I found so infuriating about the remarks made by the Lieutenant Colonel who led the second investigation into Tillman’s death by friendly fire. He basically said Tillman’s family was only making a fuss because, as atheists/agnostics, they couldn’t just accept that their son was with Jeebus and get over it. Well, no, you asshole, that is kind of the essence of athesim: You search for the truth, no matter how painful it may be or how many people you piss off in the process, rather than retreating into some comforting delusion.
Pat Tillman is who I silently point to when religious conservatives say that without fear of god, we’d all be anarchists spending our lives wantonly raping and pillaging. Maybe you would. I’m a law-abiding, contributing citizen, and I don’t need fear of god to make me so. That belief says so much more about the person holding it than it does about people who don’t believe in god.