Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Wednesday, May 12, 2004  

Cycle of Revenge

The next round of stomach-turning video comes thanks to Iraqi terrorists who did a lot more than humiliate their captive:

An Islamist Web site posted a videotape on Tuesday showing the decapitation of an American in Iraq, in what the killers called revenge for the American mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison....

After the militants read a statement, the tape showed the men pushing Mr. Berg to the floor. As he screamed, one of the men put a knife to Mr. Berg's neck and the men yelled "God is Great!"

The head was held up to the camera.

It's almost impossible to think of a way to react to this news that doesn't involve hatred on some level. This is an extremely dangerous time, a moment where we're looking into the abyss of revenge. Here's what we should do: resist the urge.

Sitting in my kitchen with a cup of joe, I can read about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with dispassion. It's easy to observe the cycle of revenge and easy also to see the only solution--for both sides to stop, no matter how wrong the other side has been. It's easy for me to see that because I haven't passed beyond the point of reason. By virtue of my distance, I can see that alternative. But it wasn't my friend who was just killed; not my street that was just bombed. I have the luxury of dispassion.

There are volatile moments in time when that dispassion is compromised. They are the moments we should all fear--the moment when our reason is so consumed by hatred that we can't consider anything but sating it. I'm a Buddhist, and the central teaching is that we are all subject to the forces of our own confused reactive minds. The more confused and reactive our minds, the less chance we have of pulling back into peaceful dispassion. At the vanishing point, it's not possible.

In the next few days, all around us, people will have passed beyond that point. I hope that's not the mood that starts driving US action.

posted by Jeff | 7:25 AM |
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