Gazing At the Bomber With Fear and Fascination

April 22, 2013

Over and over, CNN and ABC, CBS, NBC (I am repelled from Fox) show me the face of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: the slightly sad, uncreased face of a man-boy, crowned by an appealing mop of hair.  These channel-constructors of reality endlessly replay the events, lionize and scorn, and hint darkly at things that ought to have been done or ought now to be done in the name of safety.

I believe he did something terrible, but honestly I still want to hug him, still want to reassure him that he will find a way through this bewildering time.  I know that’s as far beyond the bounds of likelihood as the bombings themselves were. Perhaps I react this way because I have two sons myself, one older and one younger, but I imagine there are others who are not fathers of boys who feel like hugging him.  Of course we also feel like comforting the afflicted, the families of the murdered and those with shattered bodies

I find it hard – and perhaps you as well – to avert my gaze, just as I find it hard – and perhaps you as well – not to stare dumbly at terrible auto accidents, searching the crushed and crumbled cars for what, some glimpse of a dead body? Is that becoming? Is that what I should be doing. Of course not, and yet the temptation is so strong.

What is our part in the Boston Marathon bombings? I mean, what is the part of those of us who are not immediate victims, perpetrators, first responders or law enforcement officials?  There is nothing much we can do, but the media invite us to be voyeurs, alternately filled with fear, fascination, sympathy and outrage.  Should we enlist in this army of watchers, hard as it is to refuse?

I do not know the answer to that. If the answer is that I should avert my gaze, I am failing utterly. Don’t I want to be well-informed? What does God ask of us in such times?

When we are in the grip of strong emotion, like fear, like anger, like sadness, I believe we most need to search for our spiritual bearings. Fear is to be wrestled with, aided by the certainty of God’s love. Anger, too. These are emotions that will naturally grip all of us, but we need to find ways not to be mastered by them. The impulse to comfort others, even the doers of terrible deeds, is very much what God asks of us.

Each of us carries around with us narratives of possibility, pictures of what might happen in our lives, images of the normal and likely. Events like the Boston Marathon bombing shake up (perhaps shatter) those narratives of possibility. They tempt us to have a different understanding of human sinfulness.

We are tempted to believe that wickedness is even more common than we had expected, lured to believe that evil lurks in the house next door, our classrooms, or in the unseen recesses of joyful, ordinary activities.

I’m thinking that our part in this, the part of we the bystanders, is to resist that reframing of what we think possible. We know, do we not, that ordinary selfishness is so common as to be in each us, to be found this week in our “innocent” gaze? We know, do we not, that cruelty can come from any of us, usually because, finding ourselves in the grip of fear or anger, we succumb to the temptation of some false narrative about the putative wickedness of others and succumb to a narrative of righteousness that opens the door to violence? We need to resist the resculpting of our narratives of human possibility by torrents of anger and fear. 

As we gaze into the face of this young man, let us stare down the urgings of fear and anger. Let us ask instead what love can do. 

Also posted in River View Friend.

Views: 111

Comment by Clem Gerdelmann on 4th mo. 23, 2013 at 6:06am

Along with explaining(defining experientially) violence, Rollo May in his book, "Power And Innocence", shows how modern/post-modern society has lost a sense of evil as such. We have simply replaced(updated visually) evil with fear and anger towards "evil ones". Thus, philosophically speaking, that which is a parasite(evil) is given power by us to be a predator instead.

Comment

You need to be a member of QuakerQuaker to add comments!

Join QuakerQuaker

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.


You can also make a one-time donation.

Latest Activity

Forrest Curo replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"I'd rather encourage people to examine the Bible sympathetically than discourage them from…"
3rd day (Tue)
William F Rushby replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"Instead of floundering and thrashing around to find a way to conceptualize God, Turn to the Bible…"
3rd day (Tue)
Forrest Curo replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"Masculine _nouns_? A word like "Godd-ess" would imply that 'God's were normally…"
2nd day (Mon)
Patty Quinn replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"To hear God referred to in masculine nouns and pronouns feels to me like a slap in the face to the…"
2nd day (Mon)
Forrest Curo replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"It's probably best to talk about many Biblical concepts of God. What they have in common is…"
7th day (Sat)
William F Rushby replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"Some Christians try to stick closely to the Biblical concept of God.  Of course, we know that…"
7th day (Sat)
Thomas Maxwell replied to Thomas Maxwell's discussion 'Concept of Diety'
"Yes I agree. I believe we can be fluid in our conception of our Higher Power. I love Kuan Yin but I…"
2nd month 19
Ronald Gordon updated their profile
2nd month 19

© 2021   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service