The city government of Lawrence, Kansas is in the planning stages of how to mark the 150th anniversary of the “Lawrence Massacre.” On August 21st, 1863, members of the Missouri militia, lead by William C. Quantrill, rode into Lawrence and burned much of the town, killing approximately two hundred men and boys. The attack was said to be revenge for the attack on Osceola, Missori, which had taken place two years prior to “Quantrill’s Raid.”
The question of how to mark the anniversary was the topic of discussion at one radio station this past evening, and one listener was apparently offended by the language used to describe the event. He asked “Can we stop calling it murder?” He then noted that the deaths happened during war, as if killing innocent people is somehow transformed into morally acceptable behavior when done in concert with a war.
As it turns out, it’s not; killing is not made tolerable simply because some guys vote to go kill other people. Ethical norms may not be suspended by any government, for any reason, and it’s offensive to suggest otherwise. The fact that young boys were murdered, young boys who had no part in sacking Osceola two years prior, is not made just by virtue of a white paper issued by the state regarding hostilities between waring factions.