Sunday, July 12, 2020 -
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Is there anything new to learn from the terrorism in New Zealand?

Despite the terrible terrorist pattern, there is much new to learn.

It really boils down to a simple question: Does the terrorist gunning down of 50 innocent people in two mosques in New Zealand tell us anything that we don’t know already?

We know all too well the horror, the inhumanity, the fanatic adherence to hatred of one kind or another. We know the pointlessness — these terrorists dream of ridding the world of Jews, of whites, of blacks, of Westerners, of people of one nationality or another, of Muslims or of others, but even Hitler could not eliminate an entire group. Certainly a lone gunman, or even a pack of them, cannot do so. But this does not stop them. Is there, then, anything new to be learned from the most recent outrage, the one in New Zealand?

Perhaps we learn something about human solidarity. Perhaps we learn that to the great majority of human beings, we are human beings above any other characteristic, and so when human innocents are attacked, empathy takes over. Be it blacks in Charleston, Jews in Pittsburgh or Muslims in New Zealand, empathy takes over.

Perhaps we learn about an apparently instinctive outreach across religious, racial or ethnic barriers. We learn, for example, that Jews — so often the victims of Muslim terrorists, including the cold-blooded murder in Israel just last week of a father of 12 — will reach out to Muslims. We are all human beings. We retain the capacity to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent. If the Muslim murderer of an Israeli father of 12 is one of the guilty, all of the peaceful Muslims praying in New Zealand (and  elsewhere) are innocents.

Perhaps we learn to shake the hand of an ethnic brother of one of the victims in New Zealand. Perhaps we learn that the shared pain of a group can itself be shared with strangers.

Perhaps we also learn that human solidarity in the aftermath of a terrorist outrage is not enough to stop this scourge. Perhaps we learn that to stop this scourge, we must, first of all, not despair, not give up. Then perhaps we must learn that if there is no single solution, that does not mean that there is no solution. Perhaps we learn that we must think broadly. We must respond with  everything from the most focused, precise targeting of evil people, such as the ISIS fighters, to the most amorphous causes of human breakdown, such as mental disturbance.

Perhaps we learn that the real enemies out there are not those who disagree with us politically but those who would end our lives literally. Perhaps we learn that a fresh ray of sunlight or a single smile from a friend should remind us of the attitude of gratitude.

Perhaps we learn that the pain and the loss of the families and friends of the victims do not go away due to some “closure” such as the trial and conviction of the murderer. Perhaps we learn that there is no real closure for such a damning incident.

Perhaps we learn that it is natural and respectful for the family or friends of the victims not to “move on” by some date or occurrence or time period. Perhaps we learn that impatience with extended mourning is a form of cruelty.

Perhaps we learn from Aaron the High Priest, who, faced with the sudden death of his two sons, fell silent. Perhaps we learn that not every occurrence has a neatly wrapped explanation.

Perhaps we also learn the value of sustained anger in the aftermath of such an outrage — that if it takes anger to motivate each of us to summon at least one way to decrease the possibility of the inhumanity that brings this scourge of terrorism, then let us be angry.

Perhaps we can learn something even more direct from our anger, something more concrete in our effort to decrease the inhumanity. Perhaps we can learn something about the mentality of these perpetrators from Norway to Las Vegas, from Pittsburgh to New Zealand. Perhaps, by going beyond calling these perpetrators “crazy” or “sick,” we can compare them and come to understand something of what makes them tick, and something of the signals they give off via social media and something of their other habits, and thus spot them in advance. Perhaps we can learn how to close them down before they strike.

Perhaps, indeed, we learn many things from this latest attack on human beings and on humanity, this time in a Muslim shade.

Copyright © 2019 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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