Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Very Human Face

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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.

13 comments:

the Contrary Goddess said...

This may come as a huge surprise to my favorite group of detractors, but this is one of my huge things -- that we are ALL, given a certain set of circumstances, capable of ANYTHING.

However, that doesn't mean there is an excuse for everything. We're still responsible for our actions. Or lack thereof. And the ball is played where it is, not where it might have been or should have been or any such thing.

good thoughtful post. thanks.

voixdange said...

Thanks!

madcapmum said...

My horror is that I'd be one to just stand on the side and not do anything out of fear, or worse, apathy.

voixdange said...

Awe MCM!!! Your picture. You are as cute as can be! Maybe I'll get brave and repost one of mine.

madcapmum said...

CUTE!!!??? Goldarn it, I was trying for elegant. The ding-dang freckles betrayed me again! Maybe I shouldn't have posted the photo - who's going to take me seriously now?

I like the real pictures, simply because it gives me some kind of hold on who I'm talking to. I'd like to think it personalizes the whole experience, too, so we treat each other more like human beings. That could be a pipe-dream, but I'll hold onto it a little while longer, I think.

Not that I don't like your icon, BTW!

voixdange said...

I'll consider posting some photos. I did have my real picture but I changed it when I posted the link for my church. Didn't want to give potential psychos too much info...

I'll still take you seriously...

Dr. Mike Kear said...

Wow. Outstanding post, Ange!

On photos... I love the pic, Madcapmum! (And yes, Angevoix, you should post one of yourself!) I've gone through various icons myself. I've been the dissident Jesus, Bodhidharma, Elijah, etc. Right now I actually have a pic of me and my grandson, Edric. There's something about a photo that brings a real momentousness to our conversation. We are real people sharing real dreams, fears, tears, ideas, laughter.

Peace,

Mike

madcapmum said...

I was wondering who that sweet baby was! Congratulations, Grampa!

Leslee said...

Wow. The beginning of your post-- well all I can say is wow. I've been dealing with a person at work that has been quite a monster to me. And you are so right. Just because he's my current monster doesn't make him all bad and I should let the air out before he gets too big. You've really helped me more today then you'll ever know. Thanks again.

voixdange said...

Thank you. I'm glad that I could help. As far as the picture. Still debating. My pastor gets serious death threats all the time over his views.Militant racist can really be ugly. It may seem a little paranoid...but I'd rather be safe than sorry...

madcapmum said...

Don't worry about it, Angevoix. Sounds like you have a good reason NOT to.

Constantine said...

Angevoix,

Be safe instead of sorry. Better to err on the side of caution.

olympiada said...

Thank you for this point of view. I understand. I have started to come down to earth and look at the reality of suffering upon the earth and I agree it is not profitable to demonize other human beings. Demons are spirits. Humans are persons.