I was walking with my wife this morning, visiting a couple of shops when we happened past a news stand. One newspaper was emblazoned with the blood-covered face of a man whose eyes told the reader exactly what was to befall him. Another paper was emblazoned with his lifeless corpse. Those papers were two feet from the ground, being pondered by a passing child who was trying to fathom what the pictures meant.
Needless to say, the man in the pictures was one Mr. Gadaffi, the now dead former dictator of Libya.
I am not a man given to fits of naivety or idealism, so I recognise that the man in those pictures was murderer, a slayer of children, a destroyer of families and a tyrant. He deserved justice in the face of the world and was answerable for the deaths of so many people around our world, including those who perished on our own shores.
Except that he didn't face justice.
The events of the last few months seem to me to have made killers of ordinary men (and women?). Plumbers and accountants have taken up arms (supplied by the enlightened West) and killed other people. It seems (even if the truth is not this simplistic) that we in the enlightened West let ordinary people do our dirty work for us while we stood on the sidelines and taunted (and threw a few jet fighters in for good measure). That is how it seems.
The newspapers that I saw this morning, and that were seen by a small child, tell us much about our own deepest instincts. We see injustice and we seek blood. We are delighting in a murder, an execution without hearing. That the man who was killed yesterday didn't' afford his victims that right does not mean that we are free of the responsibility to ensure that justice is done in a civilised way, that even Saddam Hussein received. Actually, it could easily be argued that Gaddafi got off lightly in his drain pipe.
But I wonder what that child learned this morning? Why was that man covered in blood? Why is he dead? What happened? The man did wrong, very wrong and very often, so we let him get killed. We in the West, with our law and our justice systems, we stood back and let one more man die - we became bystanders in an act of murder.
And then we sold our newspapers with the money shot of his corpse.
I don't feel very civilised at all this morning.