Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Born on Nine Eleven (a late thought on Tucson and Egypt)

As has been widely noted Christina Green was born on 9/11, she was featured as a “face of hope.” That her life was bracketed by violence in such a way has some spiritual significance; it also says something to and about our present reality!
I believe it says something about a whole generation born into a world that has been set on edge by violence and threats of violence their entire life. Their lives have been enveloped in the War on Terror—worry about religious radicals and dirty bombs, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, torture at Abu Ghraib, easily accessible videos of Nick Berg’s head being hacked off, the Mumbai attacks—they have never known what it is like for America to be at peace! Having entered into young adulthood when Christina was born I can only feel an echo of what this time we live in does to the impressionable and young by these events certain cynical scaring of my own soul.
Four days before the shooting in Tuscon, Salmaan Taseer, the Governor of Punjab province in Pakistan was assassinated for standing up to extremism. I felt bad for the loss of a good man, yes, but it fit into the larger story of this last decade—the triumph of violence, so I simply shrug and thought, “Violence is essential to being human. Hobbes was wrong, it is not that the state of nature is nasty brutish and short—it is that we are.”
Yet, when I first received a text about the attempted assassination of Representative Giffords I was still shocked and sickened, and I thank God for that! My shock means my heart is not entirely recalcitrant to violence.
And now that we know more fully what happened that day in that parking lot I am impressed by the counterweight that this particular story has to the larger story of violence Christina’s generation has lived with. There were too many instances of people laying down their life for another—spouse shielding spouse—to ignore. I see soul force meeting physical force. I am reminded that self-sacrifice—sacrificial love—too is embedded in our soul.
And this helps me to look at the world around me again. It helps me to shake off the depressing narrative that has built up. It helps me raise my head up and look at those standing against violence and for mutuality and understanding. It helps me to look again at the world around us and find some hope. I draws my attention anew to another international event that happened two days before the Tuscon shooting.
On New Years Eve there was a deadly attack by Muslim extremists against a Coptic Church in Alexandria Egypt. On January 6th, Coptic Christmas Eve, Egyptians from all over the country, anticipating more attacks on Coptic Christians, attended Christmas Eve Mass. This may seem a small thing, but it conveys a collective heroism on the same level as Judge Roll pushing Mr. Barber out of the way of Jared Loughner’s bullets costing him his life. These Egyptians too offered their lives to protect others. They too, in a faithful and courageous way, met physical force with soul force.
Therefore, while I am in full agreement with the President that we should live up to the democratic idealism of Christina Green, I can’t stop there. I believe we have a deep and abiding responsibility to be an anti-violent witness to Christina’s generation. We must speak of historical counter-narratives to the violent story that has plagued her decade. We must point to, and lift up, present instances of ethical behavior and faithful reconciliation. We ourselves must speak, behave, and be, a counterbalance to the ballest and burden of violence that marked Christina’s beginning and her end.