Do Americans Crave Justice or Revenge in Wake of Boston Bombing?

Matthew Dowd

By Matthew Dowd

Apr 17, 2013 2:22pm

What is strength?  How does one define standing tall and strong in life?  Why do we often confuse patience, kindness and gentleness with weakness?

Many of these questions come to mind as I watch the horrific scene in Boston in the aftermath of the horrible bombings.  The same feelings came to mind in the midst of the fallout of tragedy in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary.  As anger justifiably rises and a demand for justice is called for, the question surfaces, Where does this end?

The line between justice and vengeance is a very thin one.  In the aftermath of 9/11 we all wanted justice, but at some point vengeance seemed to take over and it blinded many to the reality of decisions about going into the Iraq War.  We ended up spending more than a trillion dollars and, far worse , thousands of lives were lost or forever changed.  None of us feel safer or closer to a world where all people respect the rights and freedoms of each other.

We believe it is strength to fight on behalf of innocents and to do whatever we can to track down the awful perpetrators of acts of violence like what happened at the Boston marathon.  And it is.  But at what point do we celebrate and encourage revenge instead of justice? Is it strength to allow all emotions to take control and erupt in a variety of different ways or is strength defined in calm and a more measured, gentle way?

Yes, justice should be served and we need to track down who is responsible for any dastardly act and let the full weight of the law come down on them.  I am just concerned at times that our demand for justice often times becomes a hunger for revenge.  Passion doesn’t have to be defined in a way that is the opposite of gentleness.  We can have a passion for the good and kind.  And this is what is missing considerably in our political discourse and on our television sets.

Passion is often only seen in the polarized sides of the political debates that happen.  Each side gets rapped up in their dogmas and fights like heck on behalf of their positions.  Anger rises, verbal pushing and shoving happen, and we think this is where the passion and answers are.

Maybe the search for truth and justice and love actually is found in a different kind of strength and another form of passion.  A passion and strength wrapped in a clear hunger for the truth no matter how it upsets our own preconceived notions.   A strength, which stands tall in compassion and kindness and believes justice isn’t achieved through violence whether sponsored by a government, a gang or some terrorist organization.

People are looking for passion and strength in their lives whether in politics or their partners.  A passion and strength that has at its core a desire for truth and treating people kindly and gently.  Strength is not held by the loud, angry, abusive and rage filled, though often this is confusing for us.  True strength is held by those who can stand in the midst of life storms and sometimes awful tragedies and hold a position firmly of kindness and justice.

Where do we start with all this and defining strength differently? Before we can change our politics and institutions, we first need to change who we are ourselves and what we value in others that are part of our intimate circles.  When that begins to change, then the world changes.  Every we has to start with an I.

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