On the death of an enemy

I’m trying to wrap my brain around how I should be feeling right now.  I feel a mixture of emotions – neither apathy nor the desire to party.  You see, I have pacifistic desires, idealist that I am, but I am also a realist who is proud of her Celtic and Viking heritage.  What would my ancestors have said about this?  Well…they were head hunters and warriors who fought with abandon.  They fought for petty reasons, yes, but they also fought to defend their land and their freedom.  If an enemy was worthy of respect, they took the head, preserved it, and displayed it for years.  Would they have considered any enemy worthy of respect?  Is one who is both intelligent but heartless worthy of respect?  I don’t know.  I do know the bards would have composed an epic yarn to be sung forevermore.

Yet I am a modern Pagan.  We don’t head hunt anymore.  And yet we still have warriors who fight for us.  Many of us still get lost in the plots of books or films and rejoice when the evil tyrant is cut down by the honorable warrior.  It is human nature.

The pacifist in me recalls Gandhi and Mr.

Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

But is it really possible to forgive one person for countless deaths and injuries?  For lives forever changed?  For injuries that cannot heal?  Is it possible not to sigh in relief when a foe is vanquished?

A few months ago, I watched the documentary “Forgiving Dr. Mengele.”  It’s an amazing piece about one Holocaust survivor’s journey to forgive the Nazis, in particular Dr. Mengele who subjected her and her twin sister to experiments.  It is interesting to see that she is in the minority of the Jewish community.  Her efforts to teach forgiveness are valiant.

Not to devalue the events of the real world, but the news is making me recall the recent episodes of Naruto Shippuden (Yes, I’m an anime fan…).  The first part of the series was more innocent and jocular, with occasional forays into seriousness.  The main themes were friendship and belonging.  Now that the characters are older, they are facing far more adult concerns – such as revenge and whether or not the cycle of hate can ever truly be broken.  What does it take to create world peace?  Naruto is not alone in this, of course.  The Japanese consider these themes in countless titles.  It is not surprising when you consider the effects World War II had on their national psyche.  Somehow, despite all the suffering we caused each other, America and Japan are allies now.  A majority of the youth, in particular, have been able to grow past the scars and embrace aspects of each culture.  Can we do that in the Middle East?  I would hope so, yet I worry that the killing of Bin Laden will turn him into a martyr among terrorists.  I’m worried about revenge and further acts of carnage…

The realist and the warrior blood of my ancestors tells me that there will always be fighting and death.  History spirals, spirals, spirals… We wish it weren’t so and wish the Age of Aquarius would hurry up!  But is that possible?  I wonder… I think of the many intimately touched by 9/11 and the tube bombing in London.  I think of the survivors of Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki…  I cannot understand that depth of pain.  I feel I have little right to talk about peace and love, war and hate when I am on the sidelines.  I hardly feel I have a right to tell a victim that they are wrong or right for celebrating the death of an enemy.  I have stayed largely silent on Facebook.

I think of the many New Yorkers with Celtic blood – the many touched by the terrorist attack.  I think of Morrigan cackling somewhere in blood lust and the cool disposition of one who understands the foolishness of humanity as we scuttle about the Earth Mother destroying her and each other…  Death waits for us all in the end.  I thought of this recently on an examination table, looking into the clouds and waiting… wondering…  No matter what, death comes for us all, some sooner, and some later. I lament the death of innocents, of course.  I lament the partings of the old and celebrate their death at the same time.  Yes, I celebrate death, even through tears.  I celebrated the death of my Aunt who died at 40 of cancer.  She escaped pain and went into another world.  I celebrated her death because it was part of her life and she wrote the final chapter with grace for all to honor.  I celebrated her death and cried like the Celtic tribes who spawned my many recent ancestors.  Celebrating death is not a bad thing.

But what of an enemy?  I don’t celebrate his death because I did not celebrate his life.  “Celebrate” is not a good word to use, at least for me.  So I continue to ponder.

There is the question of peace and the cycle of war…  I accept justice.  As the saying goes, those who live by the sword – especially so heartlessly – are likely to meet a violent end.  Chaos and destruction are just as much a part of nature as creation and order.  Stars shine and explode.  Trees rise, choke each other out in competition, and fall…

My thoughts turn to The Buddha and his realizations about life; about suffering.  I have thought of that recently too – once more on an examination table while staring at the ever changing clouds and treetops.  Why is there suffering?  What is the point of life when we have to die?  Why can’t there be true peace?  Is this life all one elaborate initiation into a beyond we can only speculate?

So in the end, my emotions are mixed.  I feel for those who died needlessly.  I feel for those who died in valor.  I look down my nose on those who died a disgrace to humanity, but I’m not motivated to parade a corpse through the streets like Achilles would.  The world is more complicated than anyone can say.  Some who celebrate Bin Laden’s death are truly peaceful people.  Some who claim pacifism have also been poor friends to others.  Nobody is perfect and nobody has the answers…

All I know is that if someone came to my home and tried to hurt my clan, I pray I could have the will to defend them.  And if I should have the strength to defeat that hypothetical enemy, I would spit on him or her – for anyone who tries to defile those I love deserves only that.  Would you accept total pacifism and let your family die or suffer rape?  Perhaps I put too much stock in family, but that is why I am a Druid and not a Buddhist – I value those attachments greatly.

One thing I do know is that there are a lot of innocent people in the world struggling with pain and worry.  I wish them peace.  I pray that life gives us the opportunity to truly live as pacifists as well as the heart to give that up in order to defend the innocent.

Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

4 thoughts on “On the death of an enemy

  1. I agree with so much of what you’ve said here, if not everything! But, should someone try to hurt those I love, I’d definitely defend them! I’ve defended my boyfriend when someone has hurt him, and I’d do it again. But I do not go out and pick a fight needlessly. I’m a pacifist up until the point someone directly attacks me or my loved ones.

    1. Exactly! Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m a huge pussycat. My bark is worse than my bite, and even then my bark isn’t very strong. Fighting is always my last resort.

  2. A few years ago I bought a Nissan Titan. I bought it because I had owned a small Nissan truck and it never gave me any problems. My father said the Titan was nice, and he was glad I got it, but he would never buy a car made in Japan- because he remembers his grandfather and uncles coming home from WWII after they had been tortured by the Japanese. I was just amazed that it was still an issue for him some 70 years later.

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