Tuesday, January 7, 2020
An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.
Attributed to Gandhi, but more likely a description
of his philosophy by Louis Fischer
Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
Isaac Asimov, Foundation
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Gandhi
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth. But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Jesus (Sermon on the Mount)
The son of a President tweets
“Don’t mess with the best”
A few days later a drone kills a person
I suspect in the coming days more people will die
This is the way it works in this world
Retaliation and retribution
Violence responded to with violence
Death begetting death
This is the way we think in this world
If you have the power, you have the right to use it
The more power, the more powerfully you respond
Might makes right
And if you are America?
Ah, well, we are exceptional
We are the best
And you don’t mess with the best
I stayed awake last night thinking about violence and war
Thinking about our blind acceptance, in America, that any violence
we perpetrate is in the cause of freedom, or at least safety
About our almost idolatrous love of military might,
and the military itself.
I recognize that it is complex
Did we need to fight against Hitler? Yes, we did
And Japan, yes
I cannot simply say that in those instances we should have simply watched
as powerful nations assaulted, enslaved, and killed
I struggle with the idea that violence and war are normally the best response
And I suspect that in many cases, war was not the only answer
And was not the best answer
And I suspect that in many cases the cause of war is not a threat to freedom or “the right”, but is instead greed, and a lust for power.
Jesus understood human kind very well
And he understood how it works
He understood that the way of retribution was the path to destruction
He told us not to do it
Not to insist that an affront to our exceptionalism is an excuse to kill
Instead he insisted that we address the cause of the violence directed toward us
If a person tries to take our shirt, we remove that persons need for shirt by giving
him or her a shirt.
If a person needs safety, asylum, we don’t round them up and put them into camps (violence), we give the asylum.
If a person is hungry, we feed them, so they do not have to resort to acts of theft or robbery to get food
If a person is homeless we don’t round them up and throw them into jail (or as proposed, into buildings that will be little better than jails) we help them find a home. We pay them a living wage. We deal with the cost of housing. We treat their mental health issues.
I know there will be politicians today cheering our retributive, preemptive violence
Perhaps some pastors too
Many others will cheer as well, refusing to look in the mirror and see how our
behavior as a nation has shaped the response of the middle east toward us as nation.
I am not cheering
Instead I am sick at heart
In 1944 Henry Powell Spring in his book of aphorisms, “What is Truth” talked about the way of retribution. He wrote.
“The Spirit and Beings continue unselfishly to maintain life upon our planet, restoring us nightly, and forgiving us our wilful blindnesses far beyond our spiritual or bodily capacity of repayment. If the Spirit, Who is Life, exacted an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth, this world would indeed be peopled with the blind and the toothless.”
On this one I am not going with the leaders of our nation, who decided to use a drone and strike. I am going to side with Jesus
Who challenges us to respond with generosity
Not with violence
Who challenges us to overcome evil with good, not with more evil
And I am going to pray
Pray for peace
Pray for those who will be harmed or killed, if peace does not prevail
Pray for those in leadership, that their hearts may be stirred
Pray that we abandon our arrogance and exceptionalism
And pray that the better angels of our nature (Lincoln) might be awakened
God, help us all
Have mercy upon us