Sunday, September 16, 2012

Libya, Crowds, Violence & Love


We don’t get violence very well – in large part because we’re unwilling to think in advance of how to diffuse violence.

And, we all too easily become victims of our own ability to mirror violence – or create the mirror for others to perpetuate violence.

And, we always want to blame our violence on some other – someone else.  “They” – some other group or some other person – “they” are the ones responsible for violence. 

By our refusal to recognize our own tendencies to violence – and by blaming “the other” – we fail to recognize our own culpability in the systems and patterns of violence that continues to fuel violence.

I think a 1st Century Galilean peasant taught us something about crowds, culture and violence -  a man who became victim of violence in order to expose the violence of each one of us. 

Note this news from today – September 16, 2012.  It reads as follows, with lines I’ve underlined for my purpose here:

 UN ambassador says Libya attack was spontaneous   -By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press –
WASHINGTON (AP) — A deadly assault on a U.S. consulate in Libya was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Sunday, even as Libya's president insisted the attackers spent months preparing and carefully choosing their date — the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Unnerved by the rapidly escalating raid on Tuesday that claimed the life of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, the Obama administration last week launched an investigation into whether terrorist groups had exploited outrage over an anti-Muslim video to trigger an attack long in the works
But Ambassador Susan Rice said evidence gathered so far shows no indication of a premeditated or coordinated strike. She said the attack in Benghazi, powered by mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, appeared to be a copycat of demonstrations that had erupted hours earlier outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, spurred by a YouTube film attributed to a California man mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
"It seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons," Rice said, adding that such weaponry is easy to come by in post-revolutionary Libya.
Whether those extremists had ties to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups has yet to be determined, Rice said, noting that the FBI has yet to complete its investigation.
Rice's depiction of the chain of events contrasted with one offered by Libya's Interim President Mohammed el-Megarif, who said Sunday there was no doubt the perpetrators had predetermined the date of the attack.
"It was planned, definitely. It was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago," el-Megarif said. "And they were planning this criminal act since their arrival."
Brushing aside el-Megarif's assessment, Rice said it wouldn't be the first time that Western works critical of Islam have triggered spontaneous unrest throughout the Middle East.

The article continues – but what I noted in it include the fact that each party is trying to find the “person” or “persons” to blame for the attack.  What one party claims was pre-meditated, the other party claims was “triggered” in a moment.  

What neither mentions is the fact that all violence is “copy-cat” violence – no matter how spontaneously or how planned the attack was.  The violence did not emerge for nothing nor from nothing!  The violence came in response to the kinds of violence that is repeated countless times the world over.  

Whether “planned” or “spontaneous” – the violence emerged from a culture of unrest – itself framed by deeply ingrained hostilities.  And the violence found an outlet in a moment – and it will always find an outlet – as we seek another person to blame for our violent tendencies – as we find the scapegoat for the crowd’s rage.

In response to the violence on this one day, persons are being questioned, interrogated and some will be prosecuted.  Perhaps some have already been “taken care of” by other groups of people, wanting to insure that their testimony will be silenced.  

Whether “spontaneous” or “planned” -  crowds gathered in Libya for violence.  

And crowds have gathered for scenes of violence in every age.   

A crowd gathered for violence the day a 1st Century Galilean was killed.  That Galilean challenged the violence of the crowd - by instilling hope in a group of followers who would retaliate with love.  That Galilean challenged the violence of the crowd, not by reciprocating the endless pattern of retaliatory violence, but by receiving the violence in order to expose victims of scapegoating tendencies.

We can hunt investigate, hunt down, and prosecute those who perpetuated violence in Libya the day U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and others died.  And, I hope there will be forms of accountable justice that emerge that might quell all forms of violence.

But will we change as the result of this day?

Only when we can admit that whenever we call for the death & annihilation of any person – we’re *all* - each & every one of us – part of a crowd gathered somewhere.

Planned – or spontaneous – the crowd acted in Libya.  And a crowed acted in Jerusalem many years ago – and the victim of their violence – that 1st Century Galilean peasant calls us to mirror love to our enemies so that the world can be transformed by a new Order.

Toward eupan ~

~ marty alan michelson, ph.d.

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