Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NRU - on stoicism and forgiveness

I bristled over and over while reading this piece on President Obama's showing of late his emotions in public.  I understand that many people pretend to live their lives through social media where private emotions are often exposed.  Though I often wonder how many of those comments are made for the sake of attention. If they were merely spoken, would they be taken as a real display of emotion?  Whatever the case, I would like to know why it is that we imagine that just because someone does not show emotion means that he or she has no emotions.  The word STOIC has long been a part of our vocabulary, so this is not a new concept.  And this piece, though it gets around to acknowledging that all people have feelings, it never addresses the fact that as a Black president, Obama doesn't have the luxury of showing all his feelings.  Regardless I have to say that I support his not having ever to show his feelings unless he wants to.  I don't force you to cry in public, neither will I shame you for it.  Why do you judge me for not crying in front of you?  Why don't you ask me how I feel instead of making assumptions?

Much has been made of the forgiveness bestowed upon the Charleston killer by his victims friends and family.  I, too, am impressed with their grace and resilience, and their ability to understand that anger and hate only cause more injury.  I think it is always in our best interest to forgive, which does not mean that we forget or that we do not pursue justice or that we do not work to resolve the issues, in this case deep-seated racism, that contributed to the problem.  My issue with the media coverage is that it has not been analyzed in terms of how unwilling we are to forgive others who have perpetrated atrocities in the name of hate or rage or mental illness.  We should have compassion for all beings.  For all beings.  Not just those that we find cute and cuddly or pitiful or forgivable because they are white. For all beings. [In fact, if you feel drawn to forgive the Charleston shooter or the Aurora shooter or the Tuscon shooter (etc.), but not the Boston bombers or the Twin Tower bombers, I ask you to call yourself on this.]

So, I draw your attention to the words of the Boston bomber at his sentencing:
"I am sorry for the lives I have taken, for the suffering I caused, for the damage I have done – the irreparable damage,” he said.

In a slight voice and apparently racked by nerves ahead of his formal sentencing, Tsarnaev thanked his defense team and praised the survivors and relatives who spoke in the courtroom earlier “with strength, with patience, with dignity.”
“They told how horrendous this was,” he acknowledged.
It is not that it is remarkable in any way ... it is the least he can do to acknowledge his culpability not only in the crime but in its lingering, long-term damage that no amount of restitution can correct.  It is that he spoke, and in his speaking, those who have been long speculating as to what he was thinking while he did not speak had to acknowledge that he has feelings.   
Wednesday’s remarks were a departure from Tsarnaev’s behavior during his trial and even earlier in the day, when he showed no emotion during heart-wrenching testimony from victims and the exhibition of the photographs and videos from the bombing. He did not testify.
This follows the previous rant about judging people's thoughts -- we cannot, we are not able to judge a thought that has not been uttered or acted upon.  We cannot know what lies inside of someone's heart or mind -- unless we inquire, observe an action or become mind readers.

Unfortunately not "seeing" someone's remorse becomes our excuse for not extending compassion or forgiveness.  Once again, the survivors of the Charleston angels gifted us with an example to follow.  They did not *wait* or expect for the hateful young man to describe his remorse, or to find it.  They did not look at the screen and speculate as to what might be in his heart or his head.  They merely forgave -- and they did it for their own hearts and for the peaceful resolution to a horrendous turn of events.  They forgave even though forgiveness, for them and perhaps for us, comes at a cost.  As a country, we have much to learn from these folks.  Whether it is their faith or years of having to live with hate, the fact that they protect themselves with peace is a beautiful lesson. 

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