We have been blessed at our church to have Archbishop Desmond Tutu come and speak twice. If you don't know who he is, shame on you! Truly an awesome presence. One of the things he told us was to be careful not to demonize our enemies. C.S. Lewis speaks of this as well in Mere Christianity. He wrote about how when we have problems with people, we tend to begin to see them as all bad, when in reality, no one is all bad, or all good for that matter. And it is true, we tend to do that, see people we dislike as larger than life monsters in our minds eyes. There are monsters among us, to be sure, but most of us fall somewhere in the in between.
Last week, for the first time, I saw the face of a would be suicide bomber. The young man was in his teens. He was from Jordan and had come to the West Bank to visit. While there he got caught up in the politics of the current situation and after seeing the smiling faces of two martyrs decided to volunteer to become a suicide bomber. After strapping on explosives, he came to his designated target. But as he approached he saw children playing in a park. He changed his mind. He walked into the middle of a field to blow himself up. He pressed the trigger. Nothing happened. The next day he was picked up by Israeli police. The interviewer asked him, " Are you sorry the bomb didn't go off?" He looked at the reporter like he was nuts and said, "No! Of course not! I want to go back to Jordan and get on with my life!"
What struck me about this young man was how much he talked and acted just like any other young man of his age. He could have been one of my sons. He was so...normal! That is the problem with labels, such as terrorist. They erase the human identity of the accused and turn them into a monster of irrational proportion. They allow us to tell ourselves that the bearer of the label is void of all human decency and lacks the ability to be reasoned with. They absolve us from bearing the responsibility of trying to work out our differences in a mature and rational manner.
I wonder, if when we watch the news, and see the horrors that other people have lived through, if we ever stop to put ourselves in their situation. If we imagine what it would be like to live in your family home for hundreds of years, only to be driven out and watch it bulldozed. I wonder if we imagine what it is like to watch your children go hungry. I wonder if we put ourselves in the shoes of someone watching a loved one wasting away with disease. Do we really truly try to understand the depth of the pain that people endure or do we, as the reporter in Hotel Rwanda stated, say, "Oh that's a shame." and go on with our dinners? Or do we only empathize with those who look and sound like us?
The young would be bomber has 15 years before he will be able to go home to Jordan and get on with his life.