Monday, October 16, 2023

Justice and Mercy

My thoughts on the events of the past week:
  • It is possible to condemn the barbaric actions of Hamas as evil without saying that all Palestinians are evil. 
  • It is equally possible to say that Israel's actions to combat such monstrosity are necessary without endorsing all of the Israeli government's actions in the past, present, or future.
  • Humans are flawed creatures, and the institutions they create are equally flawed. Neither side is wholly innocent nor wholly at fault. 
I do not think this is a controversial statement, because I have frequently spoken against the actions, both at home and overseas, of my own government. It is possible to dislike a government without disliking the people it represents; if that were not so, then I would have to dislike my fellow Americans because they are Americans, and I do not. 

What I do is grieve for the innocent lives lost on both sides, and fervently hope that actions taken now will prevent the loss of further innocent lives on both sides in the future. Quoting from the season 3 episode Dust to Dust of the science fiction masterpiece Babylon 5:

G'Kar: "The Centauri started it."

G'Lan: "And will you continue until there are no more Narns and no more Centauri? If both sides are dead, no one will care which side deserves the blame. It no longer matters who started it, G'Kar. It only matters who is suffering."

Like G'Lan, I only care about who is suffering. Unfortunately, an early peace which doesn't prevent future horror is no peace at all. I want an equitable peace which preserves as many innocent lives, present and future, as possible. I pray that the guilty are brought to justice and that those harmed by the actions of the guilty are made as whole as is possible. 

I also know that neither of these prayers will be answered with 100% satisfaction, because  we live in a fallen world where the guilty often escape punishment while the innocent suffer without restitution. To quote another great writer, Sir Terry Pratchett, in his novel Hogfather:

Death: "Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape."

Susan: "With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?"

Death: "Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies."

Susan: "So we can believe the big ones?"

Death: "Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing."

Susan: "They're not the same at all!"

Death: "You think so? Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and THEN show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet... you try to act as if there is some ideal order in the world. As if there is some... some rightness in the universe by which it may be judged."

Susan: "But people have got to believe that, or what's the point?"

Death: "You need to believe in things that aren't true. How else can they become?"

We -- all humans, everywhere -- must struggle to make justice and mercy become real in order to end suffering. 

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