Hate is easy. Love is hard. Intolerance is easy. Tolerance is hard. Violence is easy. Non-violence in response is so hard as to be almost unbearable. So when Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, he was asking us to do something that most of us resist doing with every fiber of our being. When someone hits us, we want to hit back, and we want to hit back even harder. I guess that’s the part of being a Christian that truly tests just how deep your faith really goes.
In our memories, Dr. Martin Luther King and Gandhi stand out as the two most visible proponents of non-violence. I find myself wondering what their response would be to what happened in Paris last week. I know that no matter how much I fight the impulse, I would be lying if I said that some part of me didn’t want us to bomb the mid-east into oblivion and start all over. I know that impulse is heinous and wrong and is nothing more nor less than a response to the heinous acts of last week perpetrated by Islamist extremists. I know there are decent people, Muslim, Christian and just about every other religion on earth, living there. If I give in to that impulse, do I allow the extremists to win because they have dragged me down to the lowest level of existence in which they seem to live? Have they succeeded in making me just like them?
Good people all over this world condemned last week’s occurrences. Those of us in the media who make a living offering our opinions to the public were probably particularly affected by what happened. You want to think, as you write your opinion for the world to read, that whether everyone agrees or not, there is at least agreement on your right to express yourself. But clearly there are people for whom only their expressions are valid and all else must be eliminated. I’m guessing if you want to know what a world like that would look like, you don’t really need to read science fiction. You just need to look at life in North Korea. And even as I write that sentence I find myself thinking, “Screw you, Kim Jon Idiot. You can hack my computer all you want. Enjoy the seven thousand videos of cute dogs, cute kids and my family’s 1950 home movies.”
The Middle East has, for much of the past two centuries, been viewed as the property of Europeans, to be carved up and used as needed in order to access the resources in which the Middle-East wallows. The people there have been treated as something less than human because we did not consider them as civilized as we were. In fact, we viewed ourselves as bringing civilization to them. If you think about it that way, you can start to understand why there might be some anger out that against us. But that does not justify the slaughter of people for expressing an opinion or shopping in a grocery store for Shabbat dinner. Nothing justifies that. Just as there are probably people in Pakistan and Syria mourning the loss of their loved ones and thinking there is no justification for the drone strikes that killed them as collateral damage when the US was taking out a terrorist cell.
Killing begets more killing. It’s pretty much never the answer. Seems amazing to me that the same species that can figure out how to put a man on the moon can’t figure out how to stop the slaughter.