9. Martyrs and Demons

Disclaimer: This is a journal for my class on Religious Violence. It is generally written as if it is addressing my teacher, Chuck, and is written in relation to the book Terror in the Mind of God by Mark Juergensmeyer.

Martyrs and demons.

Hmmmmmm. I feel clever. I’ve said a few times that we demonize our enemies. It’s a shame that I don’t think I pointed out that we glorify our own fallen–then I would have really been clever.

There are a few separate things I want to say, so bear with me–this journal is going to be slightly disorganized.

First off, is the issue of martyrdom. While I find it hard to think that anyone WANTS to be a martyr, I realize that it IS true. BUT, if someone wants to become a martyr, how do they do so appropriately? These young men who strap on bombs and walk into grocery stores to blow the place up, are they martyrs? What about the people who flew the planes into the twin towers on 9/11? Are THEY martyrs? People of their religion/cause seem to think so. It’s funny, though, because I always thought martyrdom was being KILLED for your religion, not dying for it. These people made the choice to, in essence, kill themselves for their religion. Had they not made that decision, it is unlikely anyone would have murdered them for their faith. Doesn’t that kind of nullify any claims to martyrdom they might have?

Another issue I thought of (let’s call it the Batman issue), starts with the idea of us versus them. Good versus evil (totally dependent on perspective because without perspective there is no such thing). Isn’t there occasionally times people WANT to be the bad guy? Or does that only happen in comic books and adventures in Gotham City? Can it be effective to be the bad guy? Machiavelli appreciated being the bad guy–or at least the kind-of-bad guy. Do modern people ever appreciate it? And can you sometimes accomplish more by doing so? I’m thinking of the dad making his daughter brush her teeth when she doesn’t want to. Can that be enhanced to an international level?

Next, I’m American. That IS our nationality. In elementary school when you do those genealogy projects, the teacher sends home a sheet for your parents to fill out about your ethnicity and where you come from. My mom wrote “American” on the page and sent it back with me. The teacher, far from appreciating the truth, made me do it over. I ended up sneaking the sheet to my dad one night after dinner and he filled it out. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate the simple truth my mom demonstrated that day. I am American. Perhaps it comes from having international friends or going abroad, but I’m not Irish. I’m not Polish or English or Roma or anything. I am an American. I said that it was our nationality, but sometimes I think it can also come off as our political affinity–which I really don’t want it to. Sometimes I feel a little sorry when I say that–which is horrible, I know, but true nonetheless.

I’m going to close with an issue that’s been on the verge of my mind since the beginning of this class. Watching the interplay between Jennifer-and-Anna and Michelle, especially, I can’t help but wonder who understands more. Faith v. no faith. Compassion v. dismissal? Understanding v. confusion?

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~ by spim on October 23, 2008.

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