Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The Ultimate Sacrifice?
Posted by Todd Newton
In this category, I put the martyrs and, separately, the suicide bombers. Now before I jump into this, I want to point out that neither martyrdom nor suicide are solely the bailiwick of Islam, radical Muslims, or those in general who read the Quran. I don't state this for political correctness, but for truth. Many people die for what they believe in, including the soldiers who are ordered to go to war to protect USAmerican freedoms.
Someone who dies or, more accurately, is killed specifically for their faith is what I deem as a martyr. This is a very loose definition, but it's the one I'm working with. I can understand a length of this, but I think I'd need to be willing to do it myself to fully understand it. Let me tell you, I'm not prepared to die for my faith. Of all the things in this world I would die for, beliefs in the abstract concepts explained to me by someone else don't qualify high on the list. Doesn't mean I don't believe in it, just that it's not a hill I would [literally] die on.
Martyrdom goes beyond simply dying for a cause. Many protestors have died for a cause. Many soldiers have died for various causes. It's never a simple thing, nor is it something to be discounted or disrespected. Dying for something takes courage, since we'd all much rather die in our beds after a long, happy life.
We fear death like we fear illness; it's only inevitable once it's actually happening. Humans don't actively think about death and, if they do, they try to put certain safeguards in place so that "things will be okay" when it comes. Hence, religion. It's probably because I keep this stepped-back view that I can say such things, but I earnestly believe that to most people Christianity is more about what happens after death than during life. It's frustrating, but it's one of the concepts we wrestle with.
Christianity has its share of martyrs, or should I say has had them. They're all long gone, mostly Catholic, and not entirely relevant to modern times. Jesus is, of course, the ultimate martyr, though by my definition he doesn't really qualify. If Jesus was, truly, either God or the son of God, then he technically didn't have any faith at all; he had knowledge.
As I said before, martyrdom I can almost understand. Suicide bombings, however, are entirely out of scope for me, which is why I place them in an entirely separate category.
To me, exploding yourself in the vicinity of innocent people is sort of making the ultimate statement. The ultimate sacrifice, anyway, to some degree. The way I picture it is that there are no other channels available to this person to make their case. Perhaps this is because I see suicide as a last resort, one that I've never (and will never) have a need for, unless I am either already dying or unable to live.
9/11 has been heavily on people's minds as we approach the 9th anniversary of the events, and also because of the Ground Zero "Mosque" and (more recently) the Quran Burning. I remember in the days that followed, one of the things I often wondered was "what do these people want, that they are willing to go to such great lengths to be heard?" Unfortunately, I felt like I was the only one concerned about this. Various possibilities have been raised since then (e.g. they "hate our freedom," which I can't find a credible source for) but I think most people would agree that the situation, ultimately, hasn't changed a whole lot.
Whatever USAmerica was doing before 9/11 to piss off Al Qaeda and the Taliban, we seem to be still doing it, and probably with more fervor than before. And yet, suicide bombings still continue, and not just in the focus of this particular disagreement.
Therefore, the reason I don't understand suicide bombers is because the product of their ultimate sacrifice seems to be still out of reach. Neither do they get to see the fruits of their labor since, of course, they are dead. This being the case, I don't understand how someone could convince someone else to perform an act such as this. I guess I feel like my actions should have some kind of impact, particularly if I'm going to put that much effort into it. I feel like I understand the premise, but if the goal goes unattained I don't understand how the next person lines up for their very own dynamite vest and detonator.
How could I create a character who is so focused on a goal but who also knows that even the greatest sacrifice they could manage will not be enough to achieve it for themselves or anyone else? It would be much the same as convincing someone to throw their life away and, in that case, the "bombing" part becomes entirely unnecessary. If nothing is going to be accomplished anyway, why not just end life privately, where no one else can be hurt?
I don't expect an easy or simple answer to this. I'm not even sure there is an answer, but it is a quandary for the modern age. What is the point of dying if nothing is gained by it other than hurting people? What is the point of making the ultimate sacrifice if, at the end of the day, it changes absolutely nothing? Is it even an ultimate sacrifice at that point, or is it just throwing your life away?
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