Eye for an Eye

I know, I know, I’ve been horribly lax in my posting habits these last few months.  I have a dozen half-finished drafts waiting to be finished and posted, and I just haven’t found the motivation to do so.  I’m sorry about that.  I will try my best to be more diligent.

But in the wake of the day’s big news, I felt the need to post, well, something.  Because amid all the exultant expressions of Western victory, I’ve found that I truly am a pacifist to the core.  I cannot find joy in the death of another, or even a sense of justice served.  I am saddened — even hurt — that this, this eye-for-an-eye justice, is the recourse of a supposedly enlightened, humanist society.

Fundamentalism, in all its shapes and forms, terrifies me.  The extremes of hatred, cruelty, ignorance, and violence that are possible only when backed by the single-mindedness of the starry-eyed idealist … this is, unquestionably, humanity at its worst.

Bin Laden, Al-Quaeda, all of the various terrorist leaders and organizations the world over:  they are examples of the evils of fundamentalism.  And I desire very much to see those ideals wiped, permanently, from this earth.  For all that I try, constantly, to see the best in every person and to never condemn or feel hate, I too am human, and I sometimes fail to see how some of these twisted, depraved individuals could ever be made to see reason and kindness.

But by the same token, when I see the exultation in people’s eyes, see them smiling, waving flags, hear them singing, cheering, laughing — because of a violent death?  This doesn’t solve anything.  If anything, this only teaches that it’s okay to hate.  It reinforces the idea that there are no peaceful solutions, that there is no common ground.  What have we accomplished, that we should be celebrating?  A human life, snuffed out — no matter that this particular human was, without doubt, a depraved psychopath.  While life remains, there is hope of change.  Of teaching, and learning, and talking, and maybe coming to understand things about the world that we had never encountered before.  Killing Bin Laden doesn’t teach him — or anyone else — a thing.  If anything, it only creates more hatred.  Violent death creates martyrs, gives people a rallying point around which to consolidate and strengthen the very fundamentalism that I would see wiped out.  And, on the other side of things, it reinforces the “us vs. them” dichotomy that much Western fundamentalist thought is based upon.  We must see this man as unequivocally evil and irredeemable, or else we must feel guilt at his death.  Too many will convince themselves that this was right, and just, and even necessary.  And they’ll demand more blood, to further justify their rightness.  To bury their guilt under a building mountain of bodies, until even utter genocide will not seem enough.

The death of another should never bring us joy, because it is the value we place on life that makes us human, and kind.  To take joy in the death of another requires hate … and today, I simply see too much hate in the world.  It saddens me.


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