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Killing Jews, Killing Muslims, Killing Blacks

By       Message Rabbi Arthur Waskow     Permalink
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Three recent moments of horror: 

-- A Frenchman kills a Jewish family and several French soldiers (some of them Muslims) who had served the French government's interests by using violence against Muslim societies. 

-- An American soldier kills several Muslim families in Afghanistan, the second Muslim country in which he has been ordered into four tours of violence. 

-- An armed Euro-American kills an unarmed African-American for looking suspicious inside a gated community in Florida. 

Three utterly different news items? Merely, as a Secretary of Defense once euphemistically said, "Stuff happens"? Just dots, no connections? 

I don't think so. For one thing, I think all three killers were operating within a framework of what seemed like legitimate violence. Even though there was widespread condemnation of their acts, afterwards.

Afterwards. But what about Beforehand?

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The Florida killer was operating under a basic American cultural "rule" (once felt by almost all white Americans, then by a majority, and still by a large proportion of them): The lives of black folk are far less valuable than the lives of white folk.

The Florida killer said he felt fearful. And Fear in a white person is far more urgent to end than Life in a black person is important to save. 

Why did he feel afraid? Because the domination of other human beings, the willingness to enslave one class of them, lynch them, segregate them, impoverish them, imprison them, can only be undergirded by coming to believe that this class of them are dangerous. The oppression -- which benefits the oppressor -- precedes and gives rise to the Fear.

You can overcome fear by connecting, communing, with the people you fear. (But then how can you keep the benefits you get by oppressing them?) Or you can overcome fear by being willing to suffer and die for a principle. Or you can overcome fear by being willing to kill.   

In France, a marginalized Frenchman put meaning in his life by enlisting in a one-man army. An army to avenge all the killings of Muslims by the French and Israeli armies. Anyone wearing a French uniform, and anyone wearing not only an Israeli uniform but the "uniform" of Orthodox Judaism, was dangerous. Even their tiny children. 

He might have overcome his fear of these "dangerous" people by connecting, communing with them, trying to affirm his own humanity so that they would be more likely to affirm his. Or he might have overcome his fear by risking suffering and even death, directly and nonviolently challenging the governments he saw as dangerous and frightening. Or he could overcome his fear by killing. 

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And the third killer, an American soldier. He had been taught, not only in the brain but with every muscle and blood vessel in his body, that his job, and more than that his moral task, his sworn duty, is to kill Iraqis and Afghans. And certainly he fears them. They have damaged his brain, distorted his life. 

He could have transcended his fear by trying to connect, to commune, with the Afghans he feared, whom he had been ordered to kill. If his officers had prevented his doing that, he could have transcended his fear by putting his freedom, maybe even his life, on the line by nonviolently challenging them. Saying the fourth tour of duty was too much. Laying down his machine-gun. Demanding to be discharged, to be able to make love with his wife and parent his children.   

Or he could transcend his fear by killing. 

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http://www.shalomctr.org/
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (in 1983) and directs The Shalom Center , a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that brings Jewish and other spiritual thought and practice to bear on seeking peace, pursuing justice, (more...)
 

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