Sticks and Stones Will Break Your Bones, But Words Will Frame Your World
After a month of holiday posts, the elephant in the room should probably be tended to. Violence. Yes, it is still going on. In Israel, but everywhere else as well.
Last week, after I posted my entry to the blog, news came out of a shooting in Tel Aviv. It was unclear at the time if it was regular violence, Islamic State-inspired terrorism, or a mentally unbalanced individual who went off the rails. As of this writing, the perpetrator is still at large and there are still not many concrete details to be had because of a gag order on these events. (*Update: as of this posting the perpetrator was killed in a shootout with police.)
This week in Israel there is also a debate about whether torture was used during questioning of the suspects of the Duma arson attack that killed members of a Palestinian family, including an infant. A few days ago a 21-year-old Jewish settler was indicted for murder in the case.
Then there is the odd story of the militia men in Oregon who have taken over a federal building. I just read a news story that called them “Millennium Marlboro Men.” Somewhere between the lyrical, romanticized descriptions of these guys, I gather the problem has something to do with land rights and freeing two guys who are in prison.
In the midst of it all, a Facebook meme and a proper opinion piece come up with the narrative that Star Wars is the story of how Luke Skywalker became a radicalized terrorist. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there is some reasonable logic behind it, if you look at the story in a certain way.
(*Disclaimer: I don’t buy into this at all because I know that Star Wars is a Hero’s Journey story. Hero myths are present in all cultures in the world and a “hero” is not usually a conformist.)
It’s the words that make all the difference in each story.
If the events are described as “terrorism” then it’s easy to condemn the perpetrator. Throw in possible mental illness, well, then it’s a tragedy for all concerned and the finger of blame points at the perpetrator, but also the society that failed him (especially true in the US). Toss around the term “Jewish terrorism” and, in Israel, the shock and shame are palpable. iPhone-toting Marlboro Men with guns dressed in camo is straight out of the movies. They are taking over a federal (read: Evil Empire) building for freedom. And then our hero Luke. He uses the Force to fire a rocket that blows up the Death Star and kills hundreds of thousands of people. Is he in the Rebellion or is he a radicalized terrorist?
So who shapes our world? Are we swallowing what’s given to us or are we critically thinking? After all, the phrase “justifiable homicide” feels different than “cold-blooded murder.” “Terror” is a lot heavier than “random shooting.” It’s above and beyond the idea of “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” In the global society that we live in today, if someone decides that a person is a terrorist, then that can be proclaimed from the global rooftop. Someone else can decide that same person is a freedom fighter and shouts that from the global rooftop. Then it becomes a matter of who gets more social media followers, facts be damned.
Here’s the last news item for this week. Shurat HaDin (an Israeli NGO) did a Facebook experiment. They opened two pages: one incited against Israelis and one incited against Palestinians and they uploaded a bunch of content to both. Then they reported both. The one that got shut down was the one inciting against Palestinians. The one against Israelis didn’t (until the experiment was publicized).
In the end, it also matters who runs the global rooftop that you are shouting from.