It could happen to you

Like everyone, I mocked the tweet. Deep down, I never thought it could happen to me. Now I wish I had stopped to think things through, because I didn’t know how to respond. A terrorist had actually kidnapped my baby. By all indications, he had rigged the poor little tyke with a bomb set to go off in one hour. Somehow, miraculously, I had wound up in the same room with him. And now I faced a terrible choice: do I torture the terrorist, or let my baby be blown up, by the bomb that he had rigged the baby with, and then left the baby at some remote location while winding up in a situation where he could be tortured by me?

I couldn’t help but pause and think about the improbable series of events that had led me to this awful juncture. In a way, I was naive. As the President or CEO of a major company or important inventor or celebrity or whatever the fuck I would have to be for someone to even bother to kidnap my infant child, I had been too lax on baby security. Surely, I thought, surely no one would even want my baby. Have you ever been around a baby? They’re cute sometimes, but they also scream at random and shit themselves. You basically have to be the baby’s biological parent or primary caregiver to be able to put up with all that for an extended period of time — unless you are trying to manipulate or get revenge against or somehow make an example of the President or CEO of a major company or important inventor or celebrity or whatever the fuck you would have to be for this to remotely occur to anyone to do. That’s what I left out of my calculations, as whatever I must be for this scenario to even arise in the first place.

Thankfully, my crack team of whatever kind of security I have access to as the President or whatever I presumably am had found the monstrous terrorist — but not the baby or the bomb strapped to the baby, rigged with a detonator that was set to go off in one hour. I was suspicious that it would wind up being such a round number. It made me wonder if he wanted to get caught, if he had somehow timed this precisely to taunt me, to be able to see my face when I realized that my baby — my precious, precious baby that I love so much! — had been blown to smithereens, using said remote detonator which was strapped to it. I had to stop for breath as I thought of that terrible outcome. The scenario was horrifying and not at all comical or cartoon-like. I was trembling with fear and rage.

“Where’s the baby, terrorist?!” I bellowed. “You don’t want to mess with me, because I’m the President or something like that!” Stony silence — and an irritating smirk. “Talk, damn you!” I loomed in close to him and made a fist. “You may think I’m a weak liberal who is opposed to torture in principle, and I totally am! But in this precise extreme situation that I kind of can’t believe even happened, I am willing to get down and dirty! I’m going to, like, punch you a lot? And then I guess I’m going to look up on Google how you pull someone’s toenails out, because I heard that’s one really popular torture method. Do you use pliers? Do you need to soak the person’s feet first? I’m new to all this as a weak liberal with unrealistic moral principles!”

And then it hit me: this was what he was after! This was what the whole setup was for. He had kidnapped my baby — which again, I totally have and am just desperate to get back and unbomb — and then let himself fall into my clutches specifically to tempt me into contradicting my stated opposition to torture. That was literally the only reason that anyone would do anything remotely this convoluted. I had to hand it to the terroristic bastard: he had really put me in a spot. It was funny, if you thought about it.

I backed off and assumed a more relaxed posture. I even chuckled. “You really had me going there for a minute, Mr. Terrorist.” His smirk trembled for a split second as he asked, “Whatever do you mean, Mr. President or CEO of a major company or important inventor or celebrity or whatever the fuck you would have to be for this to remotely occur to anyone to do?” I stepped back and poured myself a drink — because presumably I’m the kind of person who has a full bar in my office or wherever this encounter is supposed to take place.

“Would you like one?” I asked, and then, without pausing, continued: “Ah, but that would be a waste, wouldn’t it? Because you don’t exist. I’m not the President or CEO of a major company or important inventor or celebrity or whatever the fuck you would have to be for this to remotely occur to anyone to do. There’s no baby, and no bomb. This is all an elaborate fantasy concocted by some sad conservative who’s watched too much 24, isn’t it?” He strained to keep his composure, as well as his ontological consistency.

Then suddenly, everything faded away. I was myself again, sitting in front of my computer, facing the temptation to waste time engaging with these stupid ticking timebomb scenarios when they’re obviously absurd and in bad faith. Thank God I stopped myself. Someone might have gotten hurt.

10 thoughts on “It could happen to you

  1. I am a Christian pacifist. If you tell people that you are a Christian pacifist, they will often smugly ask you what you would do if a terrorist (or violent burglar, or whatever the case may be) threatened your family. There are lots of good answers to this question, but my favorite in recent years has been to explain that anyone can concoct a hypothetical situation in which their interlocutor is maneuvered into an impossibly violent situation (what if zombie Hitler forced you either to act out the lurid Sadean grotesqueries of the Aristocrats or he would blow up Disney World, killing everyone inside?). It doesn’t prove anything.

  2. Sean Hannity did this very thing in his informercial visit with Trump in the WH:

    Hannity: “And I was thinking, if I had an opportunity to speak with David Muir [ABC interviewer], I’d say, ‘OK, two guys go into your house. They kidnap your child. One guy gets away with your child. You tackle the other guy. That guy knows where your child is. … You don’t waterboard that guy?’”

  3. @sy But that doesn’t answer the question now, does it?

    If zombie Hitler forced you to make a choice between acting out lurid Sadean grotesqueries of the Aristocrats or blowing up Disney World, killing everyone inside (and probably a few innocent bystanders). Which would it be?

    Wait…..I know where the baby is!

  4. I’ve sent this to my daughters high school speech club coach.
    Would like to see someone perform it as Humorous Interpretation at next month’s tournament.

  5. Ah, the ever-titillating thought experiment. What if your terrorist were tied to a trolley track and you could flip a switch to kill five other terrorists on another track….

    Would I torture the terrorist? In a heartbeat.

    SHOULD I torture the terrorist? Kant and his successor deontological ethicists would, of course, say, “No!” Jeremy Bentham and his fellow consequentialists would say, “Yes!” As for Bernard Williams and Derek Parfit, I have no idea what they would say, but I would be willing to hold a seance to find out…

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