Forget Jesus. What Would You Do?

‘To the bitter end.’

I had this conversation once with my mother, about why “those people” can’t stop killing each other. If someone killed me, I asked her, would you forgive him?

No, she said.



Why do they hate us? Why do they hate each other? Why do we hate each other? If someone killed you, would I forgive him? No, no, never, never. The point isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong, the point isn’t even in the neighborhood of who started it, either, so the arguments about provocation and response are pointless. What would you do, someone killed your children? Your friends? Your neighbors? Your family? What would you do to him? To his children? To his friends? To his neighbors? To his family? This is the oldest story there is, and it isn’t a foreign one, no matter what the names on the news tell us. We have our blood feuds here, too. What would you do? If you say you know, you’re a liar.

This piece argues Israel and Palestine can’t solve this on their own. I’d go further, spin it out to its end: Nobody can solve this on their own. Don’t look at what’s happening there and say it’s particular to there, don’t stop yourself from considering it as if in the mirror. They aren’t them. We aren’t us. It’s all one thing.

Be honest. I’ll start. There are things about which I am not rational. There are matters on
which you can argue until you are blue in the face with me and you will
get nowhere becauseshut up, that’s my family you’re talking about, somebody who sat at my dinner table and fought my fight and fuck you,
basically, you might be right but you might as well be talking to a
wall. Those things I’m not rational about, it would take somebody
physically shoving me backward, chaining me up, to get me to stop. It
would take someone convincing me that I couldn’t be the one convincing
others, and that would be hard, but it would need to be done.

would you do? The lure of history and family and loyalty, what would
you if it was you? Would you forgive? No, my mother said, never. Multiply by thousands and you have a war. Multiply by millions and you have the human race, loving one’s enemies be damned. We say there’s a we and a they and an us and a them? How dare we? When we casually declare every day that you ruin the life of somebody I love and I’ll spend the rest of my life ruining the rest of yours, is it any more civilized we do it with economics instead of with rockets? Are we really so different, over here?

I’m barely talking about Israel and Palestine, is that making sense?
I’m talking about how we as Americans watch this shit on the evening
news and think to ourselves, “Why can’t those people stop killing each
other?” Why don’t they just nuke each other into oblivion? Why don’t we
let them? Hell, why don’t we help? I’m talking about how we look at
this, how we separate it.

How we say we know what we’d do.

How we lie.


14 thoughts on “Forget Jesus. What Would You Do?

  1. I think about how radical Jesus’ message. Disregard his “godheadness”. As a human he said in Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel of Luke:
    But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
    How can you call yourself a Christian if you don’t you do that? (I know how, you just ignore it as you pick and choose to go with the pissed off Jesus turning over tables in the temple or if you don’t turn the other cheek you say, “I’m weak, forgive me.” or “What if the smoking gun was in the form of a Mushroom cloud? We really have to kill them before they kill us, it’s the only way to be sure.” or “Let’s turn the whole area into a glass parking lot!” or “They hate us for our freedom, so let’s kill them to bring them those freedoms at a point of a gun.”)
    Not only was Bush a bad President he was a crappy Christian.
    I was watching the new Batman last night and thought about the various “prisoners’ dilemmas” that the writers set up. The Rachael/Dent one, and the ferry boat one.
    Could I be that strong? Yes, given the right guiding principle to hold in my head. But if the only guiding principle in my head and others is an eye for an eye, well we are all doomed.
    The RW talk radio talking point about closing Gitmo is “Where are they going to put them? In your neighborhood?” they are expressing the fear that is, “If they did that to me, I’d spend the rest of my life trying to get back at the people who did this to me.” They know how THEY would act if they were tortured and imprisoned. So they are probably justly afraid.
    And that is also one of the great tragedies of the Iraq war. All those people who, for the rest of their lives, might be just like your mom and never forgive and never forget. Some of them will also act on that.
    The Right wing got us into this situation with their decision that violence is always the answer. They are the ones who should reap the whirlwind of violence, but sadly we all will, even those of us who said, “NO! Don’t go to war! Innocent people will die!”
    Police actions don’t satisfy people with blood lust, but the problem with satisfying blood lust is that there really is no end unless you wipe out everyone. That would be the final solution.
    Remember, TV and the media love a good X vs. Y story. Turing the other cheek just pisses them off. In some of the Star Trek the Next Generation stories Picard worked on diplomatic solutions. In the end people survived and each got something of what they wanted, but it wasn’t as much fun as Kirk doing that thing where the jumps into the air and kicks the guy with both feet. TV Drama! A fist fight! Ripped shirts! vs. “Number One have the Orion delegate meet me in my ready room.”

  2. There are lots of examples where “we” forgive those who kill our family. For example, “we” forgive the Japanese, we forgive the Germans, and the Vietnamese forgive us. But, we sure did have a go at killing each other off a few years ago. I think what it takes is genuine remorse on the part of “them” who killed. Once we see that “they” are very sorry for what they did, our forgiveness is possible.
    Even on a personal level, there are news stories every week about families forgiving a person who murdered a member of their family, but that always comes only if the murderer is genuinely remorseful.
    What is missing in the Middle East is the remorse. Neither side ever expresses remorse, acknowledgment that they did a bad thing and are deeply sorry for it. It takes extremely good national leadership to bring a nation to that point, and even moderately good leadership seems to be totally lacking in that area of the world. The past 8 years of our one sided approach in the Middle East, and our own complicity in murdering people, have shown the utter lack of leadership in our country too.

  3. A…
    Interesting post.
    What would I do??? I’d fight until I could not fight anymore.
    Indeed, what we are witnessing is the conundrum of absolutely crazed populations going at it. But you know, it is not (nor has it ever been) a really fair fight. I mean really, a nuclear armed state like Israel has so demonized a subjugated, walled in and starved population and convinced even their most liberal citizens that the “Hamas” is going to get them, that no one there is going to be able to stop the slow motion train wreck. Its as bad as a nuclear armed and terrifyingly powerful USA deciding a bunch of cave-dwelling boys in Afghanistan could really DESTROY OUR NATION!!! OMG!!!!!!!!!!!
    Only an outside power has the capability to end this nightmare– but who will? The U.S.?? The “recognized leader” but now way to compromised. Europe?? Too divided to do anything, too wracked with Shoah-guilt to oppose Israel. Russia?? War down there is good for their arms business; besides, they hate the Arabs and Jews equally so why bother? China??? No money to be made by getting involved and no Chinese-heritage communities on the ground to worry about.
    Sadly, I think it will go on forever – or as Spocko says, until you wipe out everyone. (Personally, I think this latest round is all about Israeli elections and goading the Iranians into doing something; its too far away from elections to matter and the Iranians are too smart to get directly involved.)
    One group who will remember – and who will act – is the global, Sunni takfiri extremists. I can almost picture Ayman Al Zawahiri rubbing his paws in glee over this latest escapade. Its even better than Summer ’06 because its the Sunni Palestinian prisoners in Gaza taking the full effect (instead of hated Shi’i Hezbollah) and not only are the Christians (Americans/Europe) helping the Zionist Crusaders, the hated near enemy Arab despots are too. Yes, we will see blowback where there are juicy, soft western targets and we’ll probably see it soon.
    @Spocko – really liked your comments too. As for re-locating GITMO prisoners, if I were “King for a Day,” I’d re-settle everyone of those unlucky and abused schleps in Rushbo’s and Hannity’s mansions. And encourage them to have little “frat boy tricks” with those boys.

  4. pansypoo and spocko are on the right track.
    I’ve see game theory studies that more or less show people would refuse a single free cupcake if they learn their opponent is getting two free cupcakes, yet they will gladly reduce their own lot if they are told an opponent will be forced to reduce even more. It’s not so much lying to yourself as a kind of hard-wired lizard brain stupidity.
    Diplomacy is getting people to change from ‘drop dead’ to ‘drop dead but…’ and it’s an ongoing, engaging, slow process. It doesn’t translate well to TV and therefore DC elite speak.
    Think about how much resistance Obama gets from the left for saying positive things about Republicans. I think Obama is trying to break a cycle and change behavior but lots of smart people think he’s naive because of his overtures to Republicans. Somebody has to risk going first.
    As for Israel being a special case in world affairs because of the holocaust I’d say they have less than 20 years left before they become just another nation. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006 all of the tired old WWII jokes were just that, tired and old. English fans and others finally let the past go and Germany was entirely forgiven. That will happen about a generation later in Israel and probably rightly so because of they were the victims but the holocaust will become about as relevant as the Battle of Hastings in modern politics one day soon and Israel is going to have to do a little forgiving of it’s own.
    Obama has a passive route to change Israel’s behavior and that is simply not vetoing UN resolutions. That’s obscure enough to most Americans that it’s not taking the side of “terrorists” or some such crap but I don’t expect 4 days of airstrikes against an impoverished people is the kind of audacious hope that Obama is looking for on his watch.

  5. The problem, boiled down, is rationality or lack thereof. Locke’s Letter on Tolerance talked about how there are two kinds of knowledge–knowledge based on fact, things that can be proven empirically, and knowledge based on faith, that cannot be proven empirically. Arguments over the first kind of knowledge–does George W. Bush exist–are pointless, because his existence (more’s the pity) can be proven. Arguments over the second kind–is George W. Bush the dumbest human being ever to walk the earth–are equally pointless, because they are matters of opinion, and cannot be proven one way or the other.
    It would be lovely if the whole world could live by Locke’s approach. The problem is that when it comes to arguments–and their extreme form, violence–it’s more often about emotion, and rationality goes out the window. You could talk all day about how if only they would sit down and talk out their problems, this would all blow over, but these are deeply angry people. Talking is not on their agenda. Just ask the loony Zionist who has Mr. BuggyQ do her prints for her (loony not because of her Zionism, but because she hunts for arguments like squirrels hunt for nuts–the Zionism is just an excuse for her to find another fight).
    I think joejoejoe is right–this isn’t going to be resolved by this generation. Israel has to get past the “our people suffered more than any other, so we can do whatever the hell we want” mentality. Suffering doesn’t give you a get-out-of-jail-free card–just ask the gazillion people in U.S. prisons.
    I wish this was like the Star Trek that was on Saturday night, and Kirk could just waltz in and blow up another evil computer, and suddenly the two sides would have to negotiate peace. (Bonus points if you can peg the episode from that description) Too bad life doesn’t resolve its issues neatly in 50 minutes.

  6. Part of the problem with people in the United States understanding the issues between Israel and Palestine rests with the fact that the message is controlled over here. Israel is always protrayed as the victim and those A-rabs are portrayed as the bloodthisty Jew-haters. Until we start hearing ALL sides of the story over here, the American public opinion will always be skewed in favor of Israel. Why, last night one of our stupid local TV news outlets ran a telephone survey on whether the U.S. should support the air attacks by Israel on Gaza. The majority of those calling in were in favor. Do you think they even really knew what they were advocating–considering all media here parrots the Israeli line that they are only attacking missile launchers? Now that Israel has banished journalists from even being close to Gaza, it is going to be open season for atrocities. So sad.

  7. BuggyQ: “A Taste of Armageddon”
    My favorite exchange from that episode –
    Anan 7 – outraged: “What kind of man are you?”
    Kirk – flippantly: “I’m a barbarian, you said so yourself.”

  8. Athenae,
    Rationality hasn’t got a lot to do with the way this tastes.
    Time after time — from Carter to Clinton, for catsakes — interventions were successful, and hailed, and … tossed.into.the.trash for the sake of — what? Superstition? Vengeance?
    But if they come for my family and I can get back up off the floor, as many of them as I can take out before they get me will die.
    I am that much redneck, that much hillbilly, that much cavewoman. It’s not about Christian or Moslem or rich or poor. It’s about family.

  9. BuggyQ – I think there is something beyond what Locke’s faith vs. empiricism. It’s how human beings are hard wired as animals. I remember hiking one time on a fall day and I was alone on a pretty easy hilly trail when all of a sudden less than one stride away in the middle of the leaves in the trail I saw a glint of light off of something that looked like flesh and in an instant I had cold sweats and my heart was racing so fast I couldn’t believe it. I thought I saw a snake.
    It was a slug.
    When you are afraid you don’t think rational, you think fight-or-flight. A lot of politicians get caught up in it and are genuinely afraid but a lot of them just use the fear to stoke reactions in the people out of pure politics.
    This stuff going on in Gaza reminds me of a bloodier version of the Oct. ’02 Iraq War resolution – just before the US elections. Israel has an election on 2/10/08 and the current Israeli Defense minister Ehud Barak heads Labor ticket, Foreign minister Tizni Lipini (sp?) heads the Kadima ticket (the sitting govenment is led by Kadima but Ehud Olmert is plagued by scandal), and Bibi Netanyahu heads Likud and is a neocon’s wetdream of a leader.
    So a lot of this blood is part of a political campaign. I hope for all parties, Israeli and Palestinian, that the blowback isn’t as great as it was for the US after that Oct. ’02 political decision to wage war.

  10. Absolutely, joe. Locke was operating from an Enlightenment rationalist point of view, with an *ideal* approach to argument in mind. The irrationalities of the real world don’t exactly mesh with that, unfortunately.
    And that whole fight-or-flight thing is one of the many, many reasons I’ve been so angry with the Bush administration over the last eight years. They have stoked our fears so we don’t think rationally. Here’s hoping the Obama approach helps to restore rationality, at least in terms of an American gestalt, if not on an individual basis.
    p.s. Geeno–woohoo! Points for you. Remind me to tell you my theory about the four basic Star Trek plots someday.

  11. BuggyQ. Please email me your theory about the fout basic Star Trek plots.
    spockosemail at gmail com
    I love to know stuff like that.

  12. I have a friend who once dragged me to her mother’s women’s Bible study group. I’m sitting there listening, and her mother comes up and slaps me in the face – not really that hard, but hard enough. (Apparently I was the object lesson.)
    “Now, you’re in a fighting mood and the first thing you’ll do is hit me back,” she said. “Right?”
    “No,” I said. “I’d ask you why you hit me.”
    But then, I’m a double Libra.

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