Thomas Wictor

Sanctimony is very attractive

Sanctimony is very attractive

I’ve developed a theory: The level of actual concern a person has is inversely proportional to the sanctimony they show. Therefore the louder people bleat about an issue, the less they actually care.

The inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, Mikhail Kalashnikov, just died at the age of ninety-four. The AK-47 is the most-manufactured weapon in history. C.J. Chivers wrote a book about it titled The Gun. I can’t recommend it because it’s so sanctimonious that it’s unreadable. Chivers seemed terrified that someone might think he supported killing people with assault rifles, so he went far beyond the call of duty in editorializing. I found it tedious and boring.

What I wanted was to read about the AK-47. I was completely uninterested in C.J. Chivers’s assurances that he’s not a racist, or an imperialist, or a gun lover.

So far I’ve published three books about World War I flamethrowers and assault troops. There’s one more in the hopper. The books are entirely factual. I trust readers to understand that writing about flamethrowers doesn’t mean I want to burn people to death or that I’m a “warmonger.” I’ve never monged war in my life. In fact I wouldn’t know how to even begin monging war. Since I have no power whatsoever, my monging would be completely ineffectual.

I could go out right now, stand in front of my house, and shout, “BOMB EVERY NATION ON THE PLANET!”

Nothing would happen.

I could write letters to Senator Diane Feinstein, Senator Barbara Boxer, and my congresswoman Grace Napolitano, demanding that we bomb every nation on the planet.

Nothing would happen.

My novel Chasing the Last Whale is a black comedy about love and suicide in contemporary wartime America. It takes place sometime between 2001 and 2013. The United States is at war. One of the main characters supports the war, and one is violently opposed. I made both of them likeable, intelligent, non-crazy, flawed, attractive, complex, sincere people. My goal was to tell an entertaining story, not create a manifesto. To write the most effective novel I could, I had to present both viewpoints respectfully.

I have my opinions about things, as we all do. But I want to be a novelist, not a lecturer, nag, or finger wagger. Or—God help me—an “opinion maker.”

Sanctimony is very attractive

The reason I wrote this post is because I saw a tweet.


Yes, the boy is eight years old. Do you think there’s any chance that he’s capable of firing an AK-47? Here’s video of grown men firing one. Note the recoil.

Look at the size of that Syrian eight-year-old’s hands. Could he grip that weapon firmly, pull the trigger, and actually bring down an enemy? Or is this propaganda, since the child—Ahmed—is said to be the son of a Syrian rebel fighter?

Also, the weapon has a damaged muzzle brake. Even if Ahmed got his tiny hand around the pistol grip, squeezed the trigger, held on to the bucking rifle, and wasn’t knocked flat, the bent muzzle brake would cause the barrel of the weapon to rupture.

It’s clear to me that Piers Morgan cares nothing about Syria or even Syrian children. His tweet is so sanctimonious that it’s a parody. It’s also smug and self-congratulatory.

“[Heavy sigh.] Once again I am the only one intelligent and sensitive enough to point out that while the inventor of this infernal machine has died of old age, the weapon continues to live, in the hands of young children, which is ironic yet horribly horrible.”

Well, the children are being killed because of religious ideology, a fascist dictatorship, tribal hatred, ancient enmities, and geopolitics. Without all of those, the gun that Ahmed holds wouldn’t be any different than a camera. To make the gun dangerous, you have to want to use it on others. Both my parents were gun owners. My brother-in-law is a gun owner. If I’d walked into Mom and Dad’s house and found them and their son-in-law holding guns, I wouldn’t be afraid.

On the other hand, if I was parachuted into Aleppo where the photo of eight-year-old Ahmed was taken, I’d curl into a little ball, cry, and pray. Context is everything. My parents and my brother-in-law holding guns would mean that they were cleaning or comparing them. Syrians in Aleppo holding guns means they’ve got killing on their minds. Since most of the Syrian rebels are now jihadists, my being parachuted into their midst would be quickly followed by my demise from all the brand-new holes they added in me.

The sanctimonious always point to issues that every single normal human on the planet would find horrible, but the attitude is, “You goons wouldn’t even be aware of this atrocity were it not for me, the only one who cares!”

Piers Morgan has a net worth of $20 million and an annual salary of $2 million. How much charitable work does he do? Do tweets count as charitable work?

Both my parents were teenagers during World War II, a conflict Piers Morgan can’t even comprehend. They were intimately familiar with mass death. In their old age, Mom and Dad didn’t tweet about children in war zones; instead, they sent them medicine and backpacks full of school supplies. They sent police uniforms to the Iraqi cops. Here at home they supported several Native American schools and physically—in person—donated furniture and appliances.

The only thing worse than sanctimonious people is rich sanctimonious people who tweet and talk but do nothing to solve the problems of even a single human being. My gun-owning parents changed actual lives for the better. Other than squeal his outrage, what has Piers Morgan done? Is he like the United Nations, condemning and then going off to a sumptuous lunch?

I don’t need to be told that eight-year-olds shouldn’t be involved in wars. That’s like telling me that the ocean is wet. It’s a truism even the dumbest among us can understand. Sanctimony makes the egester of it feel good, but what does it actually accomplish? At least real manure is a fertilizer. No living thing benefits from sanctimony.

Sanctimonious and vain. Who could resist that?

I collect World War I postcards. Many of them show soldiers who are mere boys. I may publish a book of them. My dream is to have an art show, with blowups of the images. They speak for themselves. Nobody needs a sanctimonious twit belaboring the point. Doing so would make it about me, and that’s the motivation behind sanctimony. Calling attention to yourself.

My preference is for you to pay attention these boys who fought and died a century ago.

British infantry.


Canadian Bantam infantry (men five feet tall and under).


German assault infantry.


Austro-Hungarian assault infantry.


French mountain infantry.


Russian infantry machine gunner.


Czech shock infantry.


American infantry howitzer company (trench mortars and trench cannons).