22 June 2015

Today's must read

Charleston and Amalek.

It's an essay by my brother, Bear who Swims, on Dylann Root and the ethics of whether or not he can/should be forgiven by his victims.

At his bail hearing, some of the relatives of the victims, driven by their faith, stated that they had forgiven him.

My brother suggests, convincingly IMHO, that Torah forbids such forgiveness:
I cannot criticize this on their part, and would not deny them the right to do this.

This forgiveness by the survivors may be very helpful to them, in an existential way. It can help them to choose to continue on with their lives as real people, and not as victims and exemplars.

For them, as they bear the direct consequences of the act, this is a supportable moral choice. I will say that to me rage would also be a supportable moral choice. Whatever helps them.


But it is arrogant for the rest of us to speak about forgiveness.  Who are we to forgive, who have not ourselves been injured.

I am not, here speaking about the terrorist*.  He is an irrelevant detail.  Forgive him, if it makes you feel good.

Consider instead, Amalek.

In Torah, Amalek is a nation related to the Israelites, but an implacable enemy -- see D'varim (Deuteronomy) 25:17-19**.  In later rabbinic writing, the term is used to describe all implacable evil.

The greatest of the crimes was
he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary
This passage is one of those sections of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) that makes 'modern Jews', itchy, as it goes on to say:
thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget
as it doesn't seem speak about how we would like the world to work.

However, I will suggest that this message of non-forgiveness is applicable and to the world today.
I would embrace and extend this, and apply this to people who seek to subjugate and destroy other people using scriptural justifications.

Think that Christofascists and gay marriage, ISIS and basically everyone else,  the domestic terrorists who murder abortion doctors, or the Hindu nationalists in India.  (I would note that the death toll from Hindu nationalism dwarfs that of the other three)

Not only should there be no forgiveness for people like this, but there should be no attempt to accommodate their sensibilities.

Their views are a perversion of what it means to being a civilized human being.

In any case, go read his full essay.


Stephen Montsaroff said...

I was trying more for a poetic than strictly hallachic argument, and was trying to point out who to be angry at. I am rather tired of the 'we are wounded, but forgive you' crap.

The Shakespeare explains at what point to forgive -- when what is stolen is returned. At the very least voting rights.

BTW, what do you think of the flag stuff. Like it will matter. When we forbade Nazi flags we also reeducated. That boat has sailed.

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