19 February 2010

Compassion and violence: a continuum

I thought it odd that one man could be a humanitarian worker in eight countries, a Rhodes scholar, and a Navy SEAL. So after his briefing, I decided to ask him what he thought about violence vs. compassion: which one works for peace?

He told me of a Bosnian refugee he met once in a refugee camp. Although the Bosnian man was very thankful for the aid he'd been given, he said what his people really needed was for the Serbs to stop burning down their houses. Violence and compassion are not separate: we need, at the same time, to be compassionate towards the oppressed and violent towards their oppressors.

As another example, he said it's like caring for a small child: we love that child, we care for and nurture them. But if someone tries to hurt the child, we become the protector, ready to "do violence on the child's behalf, if necessary.

I'm reminded of the Reverend's quote in The Patriot. The militia, meeting to go to war, is surprised to see Reverend Oliver joining them, a rifle over his shoulder. As an explanation, he says, "A shepherd must tend his flock. And at times... fight off the wolves."

I'd rather tend the flock - and the other flock - than fight off the wolves. After all, aren't we all sheep?

But if it comes to fighting, I'll pick up my rifle and fight. Doesn't mean I'll like it.

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