I have been planning to post my condolences for those who were in any way connected to the shooting in München a few days ago; but I had difficulties finding the words, as I was also still trying to find the words to express my condolences for those who were in any way connected to the ax-wielding attacker on the train near Würzburg. These words were already long-overdue, in part because I was still trying to collect my thoughts regarding the truck-driving murderer in France. As it would turn out, the words I would offer now are not so different from words I have offered before.
As seems the go-to reaction, I watched the news as people immediately started looking for connections to the murderous militants in the Middle East; and in each case, shook my head as I still feel like we are missing the bigger picture: we can blame militant organizations all we want, for whatever we want; but the truth remains that at the heart of all of this is a yawning pit of hatred that seeks to swell itself by drawing in as many as it can. I wrote about this last year, in a post titled, “When hatred takes and takes.” I feel like while it’s important to mount a strong defense against such people and their organizations, more important is to cut off their supply of willing fighters by addressing the situations that make people vulnerable to supporting such organizations or causes in the first place.
As well, as I wrote in another post, “Speaking out against ‘religious hatred’,” I feel like religious people, representing the moderate mainstream from all walks should be doing more to make it clear that our beliefs and our gods aren’t about hatred. We need to be explaining why this is the case, as well as pointing out exactly where we and the hate mongers split. If this involves challenging certain aspects of religious tradition, then so be it: the gods do not change just because we say one thing today and another tomorrow; but our religions, having been created by us, can change according to our priorities and choices.
We can fight fire with fire, as the saying goes – and I certainly have no issue with the idea of using violent force as a means of self-defense – but at some point, we have to remember that fire is traditionally fought best by depriving it of its fuel, and by confronting it with water. Violent force as a means of self-defense against hate-filled people intent on doing harm is one thing, relying on violent force as a solution to this kind of hatred is madness. Allowing the enemies of freedom and a democratic way of life to succeed by accepting a reduction of our freedoms and democratic processes is madness. Forgetting who we are and what we stand for, and thus trading in our very identity as a culture while getting caught up in the currents of intolerance and retribution isn’t just madness, it transforms us into our own enemies at the same time.
What has happened in France, in Belgium, in Germany and other places around the world, to include the United States, is madness. It represents an attempt by hatred to sustain itself. The question I think we need to be asking ourselves at this point is just how mad we would allow ourselves to become in our response, or would we instead choose a path of sanity? My condolences to anyone and everyone who has ever become a victim of such attacks – such things are not fair, they are not just, and there is no way to replace a life that has been extinguished. I regret as well for those who have allowed themselves to become consumed by hatred … these people made a choice, no matter what their circumstances; and in doing so, failed to remember that even in anger and sadness, life is worth loving and living. Instead, they allowed themselves to be seduced by the notion that life is best-lived by taking the lives of others. My prayer then, for the survivors of such attacks, from the individual to the cultural level, is that we keep this failure on the part of our attackers in mind; and that we have the strength to hold onto our values and our identities, as well as our ways of life, in resisting the urge to succumb to the same kind of hatred that we have been attacked by. May the souls of those who have lost their lives as a result of such hatred find peace – and may those of us who have survived stand together, remember who we are, and eventually find and spread peace throughout this world.