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.

The Boston Marathon & The Cycle Of Violence

meditationMy heart aches for the victims of the explosions today at the Boston Marathon

…just as it aches for all victims of violence everywhere, as well as the conditions that drive people to act out in violence.

I’m a longtime pacifist and aspiring Buddhist, who passionately agrees with the notion, commonly attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

The belief, held by some, that injuring and killing people is ever warranted, for any reason, is just about the most alien, incomprehensible, indefensible concept that I can think of.

For sure, outrage is an understandable reaction to acts of this sort, and yet allowing that outrage to transform into a desire for revenge is at the heart of a cycle of violence that we humans are so tragically susceptible to.

I pray for peace.