What’s this? Selective humanity? Selective mourning?
The horrible death of some 359 Christians at the hands of terrorists in Sri Lanka ought to arouse the mourning of good people everywhere, as should the murder of innocent people anywhere, of any ethnicity, any religion, at the hands of any evil ideology.
Yet, we discern an invalid and, frankly, a shocking distinction. When 50 Muslims in New Zealand were murdered by a white supremacist there, the outrage in our community, and the rush to support and empathize with the co-religionists of the victims, were immediate. This was fitting. This was right. Why, then, is there no similar rush to support and empathize with the co-religionists of the victims in Sri Lanka? Are 321 Christian victims of terrorism less equal than Muslim victims of terrorism? Is terrorism perpetuated by Islamists less reprehensible than terrorism perpetuated by white supremacists?
Is the difference that the victims in New Zealand seem to fit more comfortably into a narrative popularized in some circles, including some American Jewish circles, that the enemy, the purveyor of hate, the practitioner of terrorism out there today is the white supremacist and only rarely some other type? Is there an ostrich-factor at work here, which would relegate hate and terrorism purveyed by Islamists to some unseen corner?
The evil in Sri Lanka, like the evil in Pittsburgh and New Zealand and, oh so regrettably, in so many other places, had its especially inhumane side. The attack was intentionally timed for a major Christian holy day. At least one of the terrorists deliberately targeted children.
Here we are, 20 years after Columbine, and people whose evil is unfathomable still target children.
We weep for all the victims. We weep for the families ripped apart. We weep for the depths of inhumanity to which the full spectrum of terrorists — regardless of ethnicity, religion or ideology — have fallen.
We weep for the blindness that would categorize some perpetrators of terrorism as more worthy of condemnation than others. The Palestinians jailed for multiple murders of innocent Jews in cafes and on highways, the white supremacists who saw fit to kill innocents inside a church in South Carolina, inside a mosque in New Zealand and inside a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Muslims in their clashing Sunni and Shiite denominations who launch massive suicide bombings at Christians in Sri Lanka and at other Muslims across Iraq Syria, Indonesia and elsewhere, the Buddhists who raise the specter of genocide against Muslims in Myanmar — they are all terrorists. They are all major threats. They are all reprehensible. They all require extreme scrutiny and fierce condemnation. Most paradoxically, they all require, for their execrable defamation of their own Divine image, pity. They were not born this way.
When we remove the drop of wine from our goblets at the seder table for each of the 10 plagues, do we really regret the loss of the wicked slavemasters of ancient Egypt? Do we regret the loss of the ancient version of the Nazis who offered Jewish children candy then shot them in the mouth dead? Or, do we remove the drops of wine because we mourn the depths of wickedness to which the “human face Divine” can fall?
All victims of terrorism, regardless of the perpetrator, should send us rushing to mourn, equally so. Because (with apologies to John Donne) no man — Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Sunni, Shiite, Sufi, Hindu, the lists of the flavors of humanity stretches forth — is an island. Entire of itself.
No man is an island.
Entire of itself.
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.