Boston Marathon Bombing: More On Violence & Pacifism

meditationAs a follow-up to my post from yesterday about the bombing at the Boston Marathon, I find I have a little more on my mind on the topic.

I had a thought last night that really stunned me: As I was pondering this heinous act, it occurred to me that I could almost hear some talking head on some “news” program calling the bombing in Boston an act of cowardice…

…but, just let that sink in for a second…

…it was an act of cowardice…why?…because it would have been an act of bravery if the person or group had stuck around and fought and probably injured or killed more people?

Of course not!

And it seems to me that this rhetorical failure says something about the utterly irrational and destructive nature of violence.

At the same time, we seem to reserve the right to call someone brave for committing some acts of violence, such as acts of self-defense, or acts of rescue.

Yesterday, I referred to myself as a pacifist, but I really should clarify, for the sake of honesty, that I have never been able to confidently answer the questions inevitably asked of anyone willing to identify as a pacifist: What would you do if someone was trying to hurt someone you love? Or, as someone raised Jewish, anti-pacifists tend to LOVE throwing this one at me: Don’t you think it was justified to kill as many Nazis as possible in order to end the Holocaust?

It’s one of the great philosophical dilemmas. Is it not unethical and immoral to stand by and refuse to protect someone who is under threat of violence, even if it requires violence to repel the threat? Additionally, don’t humans, like other animals, have primal genetic encoding that drives us to fight for our survival and the survival of our families, clans, tribes, packs, herds, etc.?

Oh, you could dodge the question and get all intellectual, as I’ve tried to do in the past, claiming that the real solution is to rid the world of all violence, in which case, then, there would be no one attacking someone you love. And, while I’d still argue that it’s self-defeating cynicism to passionately insist, as most do when they argue this point, that ridding the world of violence will never happen, I know that violence cannot be abolished with a snap of the fingers.

So, there it is. The grey area of my pacifism. I only hope that one day the grey will clear and the sun will shine on the answer to these difficult questions.

7 thoughts on “Boston Marathon Bombing: More On Violence & Pacifism

  1. For about an hour yesterday I would have gladly ripped to shreds the person(s) responsible for that horrible act, technically I probably still would. My daughter was supposed to be there with some friends. Thankfully she overslept and missed her ride into Boston from school. Because the phone service was spotty throughout the incident we were unable to get her on her cell. Finally we did get through and found that she was at school and okay. Her friends had left that area about 10 minutes before the explosion so they were all okay. My friend was there in the VIP bleachers directly across the street from the explosions, he was okay and had to shield a 4 year old that they had with them as they took the child away from the horror show that was unfolding. If you asked him today, though he is a pacifist and peacemaker, he’d gladly strangle the person that caused it with his bare hands!

    • Hi Judi!

      I’ve been thinking of you and other Boston-area friends/ResNetters.

      Thanks SO much for sharing your thoughts on this topic, especially given your close proximity to the event.

      It brings to mind my experience of attending my 20-year high school reunion in 2003, my first time back in New Jersey in 10 years and the first time, obviously, since 9/11, where I heard numerous former classmates speak about their experience of 9/11 with so much more intensity than anything I could muster, precisely because they were SO much closer to it, because of where they live, where many of them work, in or near NYC, and/or because of how many people they know and love who were touched by the attacks.

      Like I said, this is an unsettling grey area for me, and I really hope that I did not come across as too judgmental and critical of folks who disagree with me. I certainly understand your feelings about this and I know that you and millions of others in the Boston area must be reeling from this horrible act of terror.

      • Hi Howard! You didn’t come across judgemental at all. As it turned out throughout the week my neighbors and family were forced at many levels to react to this incident. A local girl (who went to school with my nephew) was one of the three killed on Monday by that bomb. Our cousin was the first responder that gave chase on Thursday night and ended up in the gunfight with Suspect #1 (i’ve decided he forfeited his right to a name) then on Sunday while that cousin was being celebrated by our Beloved Bruins my husband was playing a fundraiser for the family of the 8 year old boy that was murdered by the acts of these animals. (incidentally his mother and sister are both still in the hospital). We buried Krystle on Monday, I stood there shoulder to shoulder on the street with local Teamsters and many other community organizers to block the threatened visit by the Westboro Baptist Church. It’s been one hell of a week.

        I think proximity, in these cases, does affect how we react. The younger brother is in jail now (after causing a lockdown of the whole damn state), and I hope that he recovers so that the courts can sentence him accordingly!

  2. I am firmly against war and the definition of Pacifism is this –
    1. The belief that disputes between nations should and can be settled peacefully.
    2.
    a. Opposition to war or violence as a means of resolving disputes.
    b. Such opposition demonstrated by refusal to participate in military action

    It is wrong to think it means you would not defend your immediate loved ones of course you would..

    • I think you are right, Helen, but I’m so used to having my beliefs in non-violence challenged and argued against, usually by folks trying to claim that pacifism is naive, flawed and hypocritical that I sometimes find myself in the grey area I mentioned.

      • absolutely.. I suffer from exactly the same thing… naive is always the word that is thrown at me too.. if being a pacifist is naive then I fully intend to stay that way!
        War is big business and it’s not in corportations interest to have early resolution of conflict. The fact remains that if a conflict can be ended by talking and negotiation ( which it always is) then it could be prevented by the same means.

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