Of Strong Men and Weak Ones

The virtuous dead command our respect; those who do evil are not to be feared, but held in contempt.

“No man hath greater love than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” —John 15:13

Aaron Salter and John Cheng were men. They lived as men, family men, fathers. They died as men, facing down evil. Flaws they no doubt had, as all men do, but none so abundant as to be clear for the world beyond to see. What we could see of these men was their courage.

They were probably afraid to some degree, at first, from the danger of the situation in which they found themselves, but they mastered this fear. And they could master it because they were not afraid at the core of their being. Not thoroughly afraid like the weaklings who could not bear the existence of those living outside their self-pitying view; not like they who attacked children, the elderly, or the defenseless and then skulked in prison or threw their lives away to flee the justice due them for their crimes. The men did not feel sorry for themselves and turn inward with malice. They saw danger and turned outward with compassion—and acted to save those around them.

For them, a glowing afterlife: the reverence of their compatriots, the love of their families, the undying gratitude of those they saved. They were strong, and the action they took made their strength immortal.

For those others, a guilty death: the disgust of the world, the shame of their relations, and unending torment from the accusing faces of those they murdered. They were weak, and the action they took made their weakness permanent.

This is not a eulogy; I did not know these men and could not do them justice. This is rather for those reading to remember that the virtuous dead have no need for our pity, but command our respect; and that those who do evil are not to be feared, but held in contempt.