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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: May 11-May 15, 2004

Thursday, May 13, 2004:

I apologize for this rather sophomoric and probably fallacious rant, but I think I mean well. To quote Jack Handey, "I don't pretend to have all the answers. I don't pretend to even know what the questions are. Hey, where am I?"

You know those peacenik bumper stickers that say, "An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind"? They're annoying in their preachy, Jiffy-Pop sloganeering, sure, but they actually make a quite eloquent point, I think. When you hear about something like Nick Berg's decapitation- which was supposedly an Al-Qaeda response to our mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners, though I guess some conspiracy theorists see it as fishy- it's easy for "revenge" to be our reflexive response. Not simply bringing those responsible to justice, which seems imperative to my mind, but going completely apeshit and losing sight of the fact that innocent human lives are at stake because we're blinded with rage. (Thank God no one really respects what the New York Post has to say, because this sentence fragment-laden bit of demagoguery might otherwise be inflammatory.)

"An eye for an eye" is generally the rallying cry of those bent on revenge, and they frequently point to its inclusion in the Bible as justification for their mindset. (We'll sidestep the theological debate here, if you don't mind.) Well, here's a great article that interprets the "eye for an eye" standard within a Christian perspective and yet makes it clear that the saying, within its Biblical context, is by no means an exhortation to meet violence with violence. At the very least, it's a caution against disproportionately cruel punishments. While the author stops short of saying that Jesus's order to "not resist him who is evil" should be employed as the standard for public law, he does make it clear that Christ opposed the notion of violent revenge, which kind of lets all the helium out of the warmongers' balloon, I think.

That's not, of course, to say that there shouldn't be some form of legal justice, whether it's on a domestic or international scale. Justice is both desirable and necessary to keep order in society. Vengeance, on the other hand, is borne out of immaturity. Even though everyone's knee-jerk reaction to being hurt is a desire to hurt back, the score never gets evened if you actually lose your head and follow through on those desires. If you kill someone I care about and I kill you for revenge, not only will it probably not bring my loved one back to life, but now I'm going to be hated by someone who cares about you, and who will then want to come after me. And so on. And so on, until either everyone dies or (ideally) someone realizes that nothing is getting accomplished because the principals in the chain of violence have such centrated perspectives that they all think that their side is right, without considering that the other side thinks the same damn thing, and neither is willing to bend.

Case in point: Simon Reeve, in his great book One Day in September (which is not about 9/11, but rather about the Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Olympic Games that left 11 Israeli athletes dead- there's also a wonderful documentary film that was released concurrently with the book), presents a history of the tension between Israel and Palestine that erupted after the Holocaust. After awhile, the narrative simply devolves into a chilling game of terror tag, with Israel attacking Palestine to retaliate for an attack that Palestine had made on Israel to get even from an attack Israel had made... and so on and so on. It's a back-and-forth sequence of violence that is every bit as insular and pointless as a Spy vs. Spy cartoon. I'm not saying that violence was ever justified between the two nations on either side, but by now, it's simply a vicious circle of revenge that's made up of acts of stubborn pride much more than responses to any real wrong.

Of course no one wants to be the one to get screwed in any situation. Charles Atlas wouldn't be the kitsch icon he is today if he didn't get famous off the ploy of selling revenge. (Why was he the first example that popped into my head? Who knows.) But if no one is willing to back down and swallow a little pride, and to forgive even their unrepentant tormentors, the hatred is going to continue to snowball. I'm not saying we should just let the sick fucks off the hook- on any side, whether they're Berg's killers or the American soldiers at Abu Ghraib- but there's justice and then there's pride, and if we start saying things like, "Screw the Iraqi people if this is what's gonna happen!" then we're serving the latter, forgetting that the sick fucks are individuals and not entire nations or races or societies. If I were a really clever man, I could be the first person ever to quote Reginald Denny in a humorous fashion, but I can't seem to find the joke here...

I once saw another bumper sticker that said, "Trust God anyway." Let's all try that, okay? Even if you're an agnostic or atheist, just try to keep the bigger picture in mind. We're all going to die at some point no matter what. To use Nick Berg as an example because it's fresh in our minds, what happened to him was horrible, abhorrent, awful, unacceptable, and cruel in every way, and I hope his killers are brought to justice, but... we're all going to die. It's a shame that he was robbed of his life, but in the end, he simply died sooner than later. And as I see it, we have three options as far as our reaction to something so sickening: we can (a) believe that everything happens for a reason as part of God's great-albeit-inscrutable-and-frequently-frustrating-to-our-puny-consciousness plan, and just accept that sometimes people are assholes and there's nothing you can do about it, (b) believe that everything is meaningless and unfair anyway, and just accept that sometimes people are assholes and there's nothing you can do about it, or (c) get all bent out of shape about it and start swinging blindly in the hopes that hurting someone back will make things better. Personally, I choose (a). I think (b) is also a valid option if that's the conclusion you've come to. No one who chooses (c) will feel fulfilled.

That's my song about it. Sorry if it pissed anyone off.

CURRENT MOOD: A sad panda.
CURRENT REASON MY PLANS FOR THE EVENING ARE IN LIMBO: It's T-Bone's birthday but no one has yet informed me of how, exactly, we will be celebrating.
4:33 PM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, May 11, 2004:

JON: You know how lots of houses in my neighborhood have those Virgin Mary statues in the yards?
ME: Yeah. "Full of grace! Full of grace!"
JON: Yes. Well, a couple houses down, this family bought a Jesus statue for their front porch. And it's big. It's, like, as big as you. About four feet tall.
ME: Thank you.
JON: You know what I mean. It's weird big. And He's standing like this.
[JON assumes a stance that's somewhere between the Heisman Trophy and Andy Kaufman performing the Mighty Mouse song on SNL.]
ME: What's He supposed to be doing?
JON: I have no idea. I told Paul that we should sneak over there in the middle of the night, and turn the statue around to face the front door, so when the family walks outside, He'll be staring at them.
ME: That's really funny! You totally should! It'd be on the news!
JON: "It's a miracle!"
ME: Ooh! You know what else you should do? Turn Him to face the door, and then use cotton balls to make a spider web that spells out "SOME PIG"!
JON: That's really bad.

Jesus gets Charlotte's Web jokes, right?

CURRENT MOOD: Trying desperately to believe that there is more good in the world than evil, despite stories like this. Which was apparently the result of the horrible things in stories like this (not to say that I feel the actions of the terrorists in the former story were at all justified or acceptable, of course). Is it really that difficult to just live your fucking life without intentionally hurting anyone else? Honestly? Am I naive for thinking that it's unacceptable to harm anyone- physically, emotionally, etc.- on purpose, for any reason? Or is it truly that fulfilling and satisfying to abuse another human being in a horrific fashion? Not that I'm perfect or free from hatred or never cruel or anything, but I'd like to think that I could never reach a point where I actually take pleasure in hurting other people. God help us all.
Please let's all band together and vote against Rupert for the Survivor viewer's choice million-dollar prize. I don't assume that anyone who reads this journal cares a thing about Survivor, but if you've got a moment, why don't you just go to the above link and vote for Rob M. a bunch of times? (I'm no great fan of his, but he seems the most likely to beat Rupert, whose victory would cause me immense displeasure.) Please? For me? Thanks.
7:35 PM.

Doot? | |

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