Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley Speaks 

Planting the seeds


I—and most of the world—was struck by the photo of young Martin Richard, tragically killed by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Martin is holding a poster he created saying simply: “No More Hurting People” and underneath “Peace.” Martin will never get to know who set the bomb or why. Nor will the youngsters killed while sitting at the Sbarro Pizza Parlor in Jerusalem in 2001.

One wonders, what, no matter their religious views or governmental concepts, would make someone actually take the action of killing and maiming innocent people who have little or nothing to do with the particular cause or causes that motivate these killers. The nation of Australia is concerned about young Lebanese émigrés and migrants who headed to Syria; afraid of them becoming “radicalized.”

Ahlam Tammimi, the convicted conspirator in the Sbarro bombing, was released from a life sentence as part of the deal to free Gilad Shalit. She has no repentance. Her “act” was to “liberate” Palestine and the death of young innocents—she feels—was a just step toward that goal.

A baby is not born with this twisted view of humanity and how to make a “point.” It has to be taught—but beyond that, is there a basic flaw in the human that absorbs the seed and permits it to grow? To think so little of yourself that you can allow a philosophy of causing death and crippling injury to permeate your being is beyond most of our capabilities no matter who is telling us different.

If you feel that the “system” is working against you, anger is a natural response. And from that the need to “get even” can come next.

“Even” with whom or what? What is it that makes a prejudice burn so deep within that a mass killing or a series of them seems justified?

Within my lifetime there was a lynching within an hour’s drive from our home. The lynchings that took place throughout the South were attended in many cases by crowds of onlookers. Why? What burns so deep within someone that an act like that feels justified?

As Jews we think that this is abhorrent behavior and we are right. Killing of the innocent is ingrained in our religion, our peoplehood and our tradition. But do we, the Jews, being human of course, have prejudice of some sort within us? Well, yes—but only if it has been taught. You are not born racist or homophobic or a religious fanatic.

All that has to be taught to you by someone else. But having been taught, as we mature and learn about real life—it becomes less sensible. We know the world is not flat in a geographical sense. We know that the world is a great deal older than five thousand years. I mean what year is this on the Jewish calendar? Climate change? Give me a break! Look at downtown Beijing and tell me all that grime headed for the atmosphere has no effect on us below.

We know that nobody is gay by choice. Most of us know that killing others who do not believe as we do will not help the future of mankind. But we are a long way from Martin Richard’s hope that there will be “No More Hurting People.”

Islam is a complicated religion. The hate between Shia and Sunni makes the arguments between Orthodox and Conservative or Reform Jews looks silly. Some ultra-Orthodox throw stones, but they do not bomb synagogues.

As this is being written, the hunt for the perpetrators of Boston is making progress. Did they really believe that there would be no consequences? They set bombs designed to maim rather than kill where the world could and would see it. Whatever and whomever, this you can be sure of. There is a basic flaw within those people. If they were taught that this is just behavior—something inside allowed that to take root.

In a world where Midrashim in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are teaching that violence and death is justified because someone does not accept your belief—something is being planted inside young minds that is like a tumor. It will grow unless it is treated and treated early. Otherwise, by the time they mature, they become like Ahlam Tammimi or Jeffrey McVeigh or those who bombed the Marathon where the internal rot is incurable.

We all have beliefs and feel we are right. I remember when it was conventional wisdom that blacks were inferior—for that matter women could not achieve what men could in business or science. Both of these prejudices had been proven false long before their rebuttal finally became conventional wisdom.

Boston is not a wake-up call, unfortunately. Too many insides have been rotted out. Best we can do is fight prejudice wherever we find it or we could be sitting in a grandstand one day when the unthinkable happens.


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