September 12, 2002

there she goes, pontificating again

Somehow, the opposing suggestions I've been reading in various places, that people
should care less about victims of attacks in this country because we pay too
little attention to the masses who die of war, famine, AIDS, earthquakes, and
other forms of genicide in other countries, and those that we are justified in
caring about our own tragedies and to hell with other countries strike me as
equally stupid.

Here's a suggestion instead, derived more or less
from the ideas behind the celebration of Passover, but it's not limited to Jews
and it's not limited to this attack. Care about those who died. Think of them.
Remember them. Try to get your mind around the magnitude of 3000-some deaths. Try
to get your mind around the magnitude of one death -- the concept of a living
person suddenly ending is almost as mind-boggling as the concept of birth.. And
then next time something awful happens anywhere in the world, remember how it felt
when it was you who were suffering. The point of Passover is that if you remember
how it felt to be a stranger in a strange land, you will now how to treat the
strangers in your land. Similarly, if you know how it feels to be bereaved,
mourning, shocked, or suffering, you will know how to help those who are bereaved,
mourning, shocked, or suffering.

On to forgiveness. I confess I have
seen a lot more objections to forgiving bin Laden and crew than actual proposals
that we do so, but it's a timely topic in the ten days of repentence between Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Judaism teaches that offenses against another person
cannot just be confessed and forgiven by God; they must be atoned for and forgiven
by the injured person. God only forgives for sins against God. Clearly if God
cannot forgive a sin that did not harm Him/Her, then certainly a person cannot do
so. Also, God will not, and a person is not expected to, forgive unless the person
asking forgiveness repents sincerely and does his or her best to repair the

OK, now take it out of religious context. Forgiving someone
who has not repented is not saintly, it's illogical, and fairly stupid. Forgiving
someone who does not want to be forgiven only annoys them, and tempts them to a
greater attack in the future. In the case of the September 11 attacks, of course,
some of the perpetrators are not in a position to atone, being dead and all.Since
they are either completely irrelevant or in some afterlife where they are learning
of their errors, depending on your belief, forgiving them might be all right, if
you think somehow it will help you feel better, except for one thing. You
can't forgive them the harm done to someone else.
If you have not been
injured, you do not have a right to compensation for injury, so you also do not
have a right to waive that compensation (whether it be in hard currency or the
currency of apologetic words). Forgiving an injury done to someone else is not
only logically inconsistent, but intrusive, selfish, and presumptuous. It does the
true victim the additional injury of not being taken seriously.

related topic is justice. If the injurer does not repent and atone, justice may be
visited -- though justice needs to be effected by the society, not the individual
victim or else what you have is a lynch mob. The thing about justice is that it
only lives up to its name if the penalty is extracted from the actual person
guilty of committing the injury. Which is something we need to make damned sure
we're careful about if we go into Iraq.

Posted by dichroic at September 12, 2002 04:59 PM
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