Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan quit their jobs in Washington, D.C. to experience the world in their late 20s. Austin wrote on the trip how he had found great decency everywhere they had gone. He wrote: “Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own… By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.” That inspiring world adventure came to the end in Tajikistan when they and two other cyclists were hit by a car filled with ISIS fighters who jumped and stabbed them to death as “nonbelievers.”
Austin worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development while Geoghegan worked at Georgetown’s Admissions office. They both felt that life was passing them by — a point Austin wrote about on his blog:
“I’ve grown tired of meetings, of teleconferences, of timesheets and password changes and Monday morning elevator commiseration. I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige. I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed. There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world, and I’ve long since scooped up the last of the scraps to be found in my cubicle.
I know there’s another way to live. I’ve dabbled in it. But now it’s time to commit. To go all-in. I’m thankful for this privilege. The privilege to commit. The privilege to walk away from a well-paying life of comfort. To charge headlong into indulgence, rough but ultimately temporary.”
Much has been made about Austin’s writing the following:
“You watch the news and you read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place. People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil. People are axe murderers and monsters and worse.
I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own — it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.”
However, this passage was written in the context of the couple staying as guests with a family in Morocco. Moreover, there was not a travel advisory on this country until after this heinous crime. According to Snopes, when they set out, the U.S. State Department listed the country as a relatively low-risk destination for American travelers, giving it a Level 1 “travel advisory” o “exercise normal precautions.” On terrorism, people were advised:
While terrorist organizations are known to have a presence in the region, terrorist attacks have been infrequent in recent years and focused on local government targets, such as law enforcement and security services.
After the attack, it was upgraded to Level 2 for travellers to “exercise increased caution.”
Whatever their view of evil, they found it along that road when they were savagely murdered with two other cyclists, one from Switzerland and the other from the Netherlands. ISIS celebrated the murders as the killing of “disbelievers.” Of course, the cyclists were the believers. They believed in humanity and decency, but found men who believe that God loves those who torture and murder others.