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Julia Steiny: Bloodlust For Boston Bombers Won’t Aid Healing

Thursday, April 25, 2013

 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in custody, under heavily-armed guard. His body is in shambles. He and his now-dead brother were acting as though they were in their own violent action movie, complete with a car chase and shoot-outs, trying to be macho heroes to God only knows who.

Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old engineering student, sustained gunshot wounds to his head, legs, hand and throat. He can not speak, communicating only by writing. Whatever life he might have had is probably over. The courts have video surveillance tapes and other evidence already. We can be fairly confident he'll never be free again. Except in a prison context, love and joy are over. Hard to imagine what sort of peace he'll ever have.

It was a horrible week for Boston, and the nation is fresh from Sandy Hook. Seemingly, there are more frequent acts of random, senseless violence. Not surprisingly, officials and the public are expressing themselves with strong, righteous, sometimes enraged emotions.

I totally understand Boston's mayor wanting "to throw the book at him." And if I were the mother of the murdered 8-year-old, or the wife of the MIT cop, or one of the nearly 200 maimed victims, I'm sure I would be crazed with rage, grief and a thousand other emotions. That's only human. The victims' stories must be heard and honored. My deepest condolences and sympathies go to them and their families. But I'm finding the bloodlust currently flowing from the blogosphere and the "comments" sections on the conventional press to be scarier even than the next act of unpredictable violence.

U.S. Senators want Tsarnaev tried as an enemy combatant, which is not even legal. I understand how emotionally satisfying such a suggestion may be, but surely it's irresponsibly inflammatory. The sensation of righteousness is strangely pleasurable, but it can encourage bloodlust. If we indulge in expressing vengefulness out loud, we'll reap what we sow with our kids, because no retribution will bring back the dead or heal the injured. And retribution all too often reaps yet more retribution. Wanting vengeance, while understandable, is itself a fierce enemy. Such feelings threaten our social fabric as much if not more than the offenders' acts of violence.

I cringe when urban children express their right, even obligation to be aggressive, even violent. Their parents taught them that whenever they feel under attack, to attack right back, only harder. Don't be weak. Don't do anything so stupid as walking away. Even though a lot of these kids are at least nominally Catholic, turning the other cheek would be for chumps. Survival depends on being more aggressive than the other guy. Get vengeance quickly and fiercely, or the other guy will get you–that's certainly the message of a lot of the action movies.

Of course, half the time, the "attack" that got the kid in trouble in the first place was entirely imagined. "She disrespected me" might have been just a jostle in the hallway, a joke gone wrong, or perceived dirty look. Feeling attacked matters more than what actually happened. Kids don't know that feelings are just feelings, and that acting on them can have serious consequences.

So, however understandable, indulging in highly emotional expressions of vengeance only gives kids and others license to be vengeful themselves.

Retribution is endlessly cyclical. Tit for tat. An eye for an eye. But Mahatma Ghandi said, "An eye for an eye ends in making everyone blind." We need to step back, take a deep breath, and try to understand what on earth the Tsarnaev brothers were thinking, because rational understanding is the obligation and discipline of civilized people. It's too bad that common enemies unite us more easily than common understanding. Because ultimately, understanding why these atrocities are happening is our only real shot at preventing them.

 

Julia Steiny is a freelance columnist whose work also regularly appears at EducationNews.org. She is the founding director of the Youth Restoration Project, a restorative-practices initiative, currently building demonstration projects in Rhode Island. She consults for schools and government initiatives, including regular work for The Providence Plan for whom she analyzes data. For more detail, see juliasteiny.com or contact her at juliasteiny@gmail.com or c/o GoLocalProv, 44 Weybosset Street, Providence, RI 02903.

 

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Comments:

barnaby morse

Obviously they did not have the opportunity to be part of a "restorative circle."

Gov- stench

When this country kicked that basket of snakes over, we created a major problem in this country. Now we have to deal with that elk of society. They engage in terrorist acts, just turn them over to Smith & Wesson.

Captain Blacksocks

Did you notice in the Koran where it says all Christians should be loved by the muslim community, and the diversity of all faiths should be celebrated? Ummm. No. Give it a read sometime. For Peace to work, it needs to be a two-way thing. Does the muslim world even want or appreciate peace between them and the "infidel" world? Show me the evidence of that. I don't think 99% of American's have any "bloodlust." I think they are tired of seeing their blood spilled, often by people we welcomed into the country to share our great opportunities and freedoms. Defending yourself from a known enemy is not bloodlust or intolerance.

Kati Loreen

Its not about healing its about revenge. East Side liberal crap.

Kati Loreen

I believe its a real mistake to confuse Jihadists with Muslims. Just like here, religion is hijacked for political reasons. We are not a war with Muslims, were at war with terrorists/Arab Nationalists.

David Conroy

OK Julia here's what to do, Crawl out of your cocoon of paperwork filled with PC stats all wrapped in good intent and go to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan and teach a girls school. If you are not blown up raped or mutilated or stoned to death (not necessarily in that order) you can then come back and teach us all about whatever it is you're trying to say here. Make no mistake the Muslims in those and other countries want to bring that nonsense here and turning the other cheek doesn't cut it. By the way I suggest Saudi Arabia, I here they just decided to let women ride bikes there.




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