Friday, June 21, 2002

I've come in a little late on this... it's a "thought experiment" by file13 about what it would be like if it were your classmates on the other end of a terrorist bombing.

Oddly enough, I know exactly how he feels. Literally. You might be surprised, but I've had my own brush with suicide terrorism.

A friend of mine is actually in Israel right now, and was very nearly one of the victims of a terrorist bomb. She's Jewish, of course: one of those students who has gone over to Israel to see the situation for themselves, instead of just reading about it in the newspaper or seeing it on television. She came very close to becoming one of the people in those newspaper articles and television stories. In fact, the only reason she's alive and well right now is because she zigged instead of zagged- went to visit a friend, instead of shopping, as she usually did on that day of the week. I still remember getting the email from her... remember how terrified she was that it could have been her. I was frightened too, more than I had been in years. So, yes, I know exactly what he's talking about, probably better than he does.


One of Niccolo Machiavelli's dictums for any democratic leader was that he had to "kill the sons of Brutus". This refers to Brutus, a Roman legislator who proved his loyalty to both the rule of law and to the roman republic by convicting and killing his own sons for treason, despite their cries for clemency and the citizenry's amazed shock that he could do such a thing. The reason why Machiavelli considers this so important is that statecraft, on some level, transcends the questions of friendship, family, and kinship... that leaders must be willing to put such things aside in order to do what is best for the people that he leads. This holds true as much for those who seek to advise the prince as the prince himself... and since pretty much everyone who comments on politics in the "blogosphere" is in the role of courtier to the prince in some respect or another, it is a valid point to make. When I first read this it had a profound effect on me... more so than Hobbes' exploration of the tragedy of equality, Locke's calls for religious toleration, or even Mill's proof that freedom of speech needs to exist not just because it could be right, but because it could be wrong and, in being disproven, reaffirm what is true... a concept that I consider more important to the concept of political discourse than anything written before or since. It had such an effect on me because it was the final proof that a government or a leader is more than just a person or group of people, and they need to think differently, behave differently, and engage in behaviour that for private individuals would be monstrous in the name of a greater good. Jefferson was wrong. Liberty isn't renewed by the blood of patriots- it's renewed by the blood of your own sons. Statecraft isn't a pretty game.

Rage, fear, and horror are only natural reactions to suicide bombing, and I can understand and empathize with those that just want it to STOP. Right now. No nonsense, just end it. The problem is that all the rage in the world won't do a damned thing to end this conflict, to bring peace to the Israeli people, or to end the violence of the Palestinian people. Those who want to figure this out, who want to find a solution to the problem, need to "kill the sons of Brutus"... realize that they need to put aside their fears, rage, and horror, and do what needs to be done. All the blogs I've read demonizing the Palestinian people and calling for their eviction or wholesale slaughter are understandable, but SOLVE NOTHING. They don't calm the violence or end the hatred.. they simply stir up more, and more, and more.. until sooner or later the unthinkable becomes inevitable. This is why I have continuously advocated a Palestinian state or, at the very least, a reasonable response to the problems and violence at hand, instead of the animal rage that I understand... that I felt, and had to put aside. If a Palestinian state is to be created, it isn't because the Palestinians deserve it, or because it's right, or because it's "rewarding the terrorists"... all those things are utterly meaningless. We need to do what is necessary- what will, in the long run, cause the least violence, the least evil, and the least injustice. If, in the end, that solution is violent expulsion, then so be it. I doubt that's the case, however, and I think that those who advocate it do it not because it will create the least evil but because their rage is clouding their thinking.

I'm sorry, File13, but your "thought experiment", while gripping, is in the end useless. All those who say "I don't know what we should do, but we should do something"... should stop, pause for a moment, and think about whether your rage, whether justified or not, contributes anything but yet more hatred and fear to a mental environment already polluted with more rage than one can easily contemplate. At this point, we need thought, not rage. The Israeli people understand this, which is why many of them still believe that a Palestinian state is inevitable not because it is moral, but because it is necessary. Would that their American brothers, like File13, could understand this as well.

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