First, an unrelated and minor gripe. I have currently loaned out all my Heather Dale Cds to three different friends, except for Call the Names, early and rather rough versions of SCA songs, and This Endris Night. And I got a craving. So currently I'm going through Christmas music even though I don't traditionally play Christmas music (at least as Christmas music) before December First.
And I just discovered the big scratch on it makes the Huron Carol skip. Waaah! (I do have a copy of it in my Christmas mixed CD, but still.)
I've been having some wholly navel-related thinking going on about the direction of my life lately. Today, thank God, that's not the fodder I want to talk about.
For various reasons
, James Loney ended up speaking at my church yesterday after the service, in a hastily set up replacement for his planned appearance at a Catholic-based human rights conference from which he was disinvited.
James Loney, for those who don't know and don't feel like clicking the link, was one of four members of Project Peacemakers captured and held hostage in Iraq. One of the others, Tom Fox, was murdered before the three survivors were rescued. The survivors then made a point of publicly forgiving their captors, because the only sentence for kidnapping and hostage taking in the Iraqi court would be death, and as pacifists, they opposed this -- even for their immediate enemy.
The first thing about this, for Colin and I, was that this was the first time ever that the balcony has had to be cleared of the boxes and lumber usually stored there, and opened to public use; even with the short notice, so many people from so many different human rights groups and religious groups came to listen. We went up there, naturally, to get the new perspective on our home church. I've only seen the main floor that full on Christmas Eve, or Easter Sunday, and the useable parts of the balconies (Some areas along the side were still full of lumber, old piano parts, etc.) were likewise stuffed to the point where a few people chose to stand.
The talk itself gave me much fodder to think on. For one thing, Jim Loney is very critical of the Just War attitude, which I believe; that there are, in fact, times when one must fight. He's not blindly or stupidly critical of it; he agrees that situations like the Rwandan Genocide, where the fact that military was blocked from action may well have led to the slaughter (or the old Chestnut of World War Two, which wasn't brought up, but which I've heard raised before) are complicated situations, and that thus far, humans haven't come up with a response to such things that isn't violent in its turn. What he refuses to believe is that humans can't *develop* a new response that would work, if they stop looking to violence as the answer and start trying to commit money, time, science, and general thinking to coming up with a new answer.
That being said, I found myself agreeing with him more often than I disagreed; because some basic facts he has right:
- Violence does beget violence. Self-defence and just war may be justifiable, and restrained, but they are violence nonetheless, and violence that happens because of prior violence. And all too easy to turn into violence for its own sake, because there is a justification behind it, and knowing when to quit isn't exactly humanity's strong suit.
- We are as a species too quick to say "There is no answer besides fighting back physically." (Except in those circumstances where we are too quick to say, "I can't do anything at all, so why bother?" But that's another conversation
.) We find it too easy to say, "Here, now, I must hit back."
And his prime example of how violence begets violence is exactly how his captors - ordinary, non-evil people - got into a mindset where taking peace-makers and pacifists hostage and murdering one of them seemed eminently justifiable and reasonable a course of action. How it could look like self-defence for them. How before the invasion they were considerably more ordinary people, who had now lost kin, friends, lovers, to various military actions.
Jim showed great sympathy for them. Not Stockholm Syndrome sympathy; he was not won to their cause, nor willing to agree that they were justified in their actions against him and his fellows, or their attitudes of extremism. But he could, in fact, describe them as humans, see their motives, and what made them turn to what he feels is terrible wrong and terrible violence.
And the thing which struck me most was his description of a movie night.
As he tells it, the captors sometimes got bored, sitting and guarding prisoners all day and night. The youngest, called Junior by the captives, would go out and buy whatever movies could be found in the black market. Especially action movies. And sometimes, for a change of pace, or someone new to talk to, they would allow the captives to watch with them.
One such movie was Transporter 2
. Which, quick plot summary, involves the Transporter trying to rescue the kidnapped child of a US official from some drug cartel.
What Jim noticed - couldn't help noticing - was that his own captors, the people who had kidnapped him, who hated the US and the rest of North America, were cheering for the hero, the good guy. Against the kidnappers.
As cognitive dissonance goes -- actually, I wasn't surprised. It's too human. Too real. That, actually, was the detail that made these captors the most human, and the most frightening to me. That and the phrase where one in fact expressed respect for their mission: "I love a peaceful man." And he didn't, from the context James Loney gave, mean "Because he's easier to cow/destroy/beat up." he meant it as it was said; he liked, and wanted peace.
We writers talk a lot about how "Everyone is the hero of their own story." But this was the real world. A man died because these people were the hero in their own story. Three others were held in captivity, kept chained up, kept in conditions where an empty bottle to urinate in when the captors were disinclined to let one go to the real bathroom, and a rag to clean oneself with were important and desired items. Because they were the heroes in the story. Because their war was just and justified, in their own head. Because the violence they had seen bred violence inside them, and they couldn't stop to look for another, better way.
I still believe in a just war. I still think that as long as someone out there is willing to use force to get their way, regardless of the innocents in the way, then someone, somewhere, must be willing to use enough force to deflect that off the innocents, to put a stop to it. But I also think, and have thought, that there are other things to try first, and that once someone lifts a hand, they must aways, always, before every single shot, decide within themselves if that shot is still justified, or if it's the one that tips them over the edge, turns the protective warrior into the torturer.