Rage and Anger

Yesterday morning I read Anna’s post about the death of Tom Fox in Iraq. I have been struggling very hard not to feel angry and outraged about this. It’s the first time the war in Iraq has affected ‘one of my own’. I never met Tom Fox, but I know people who worked and trained with him.

Even more so than Harmeet Sooden who is a New Zealander, I seem to be affected by this happening to a Quaker. The threat of a similar fate befalling Harmeet also weighs heavy on my heart.

During the controversy with the Danish cartoons, I had my first stirrings of anger. Previously I had considered the Iraqi’s the ‘innocent oppressed’. But to see people killing each other, and reacting so violently, to what seems to us in the west just some cartoons, I found very difficult. It just seemed so ludicrous, such a ridiculous overreaction. It made me really start thinking about the harm we can cause by assuming that everyone thinks the way we do.

I was horrified to hear that Tom Fox was tortured before he was killed. In wanting to find out more, I googled ‘Tom Fox tortured’. The first result was from Tom’s own blog Waiting in the Light. It described the torture of four palestinians by the new Iraqi secret police. In reading this my anger abated. It seems so clear that the cycle of violence is so intertwined, feeding on itself, and consuming all in its path in its rage and anger. That Tom could still speak to this issue, could speak to my condition even though he had passed was a true wonder to me.

I think I now understand the Quaker Peace Testimony better. I found this statement on peace from NZ Quakers to make a new, deeper kind of sense to me.
“We totally oppose all wars, all preparation for war, all use of weapons and coercion by force, and all military alliances: no end could ever justify such means. We equally and actively oppose all that leads to violence among people and nations, and violence to other species and to our planet.”

I was also heartened by Tom’s own words, and felt them softening my outrage:

“We reject violence to punish anyone. We ask that there be no retaliation on relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. We hope that in loving both friends and enemies and by intervening nonviolently to aid those who are systematically oppressed, we can contribute in some small way to transforming this volatile situation.”

I see that this path we as Quakers and peacemakers choose has no guarantees, it might not even work. It might be slower, or cost more lives in the short term than going to war. But it is the only way that is right. I am convinced it is the only path that will lead to peace. If we have the courage to keep following it perhaps we can turn rage and anger into love and light.

Julian

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2 Responses to “Rage and Anger”

  1. Pete Says:

    Tom’s life stands to me as a demonstration of love, where we are called not just to love those who love us back, or those who are our neighbours, but to love our enemies as well. The bible says nobody shows greater love than one who lays down their life for their friends.

  2. Nancy A Says:

    Julian

    Thanks for the inspired post.

    But I think nonviolence *will* work. I take South Africa as an example. At the fall of apartheid, the angry oppressed black majority should have overwhelmed the white minority, taking revenge, taking back what had been taken away. But the very pacifist church in SA took a strong lead, preaching the same sermon in every church, joining the government in leading the transformation, creating an alternative to heal the wounds of the past.

    There was no bloodbath. Words were flung instead of weapons. The television stations ran nothing but the truth commission for weeks on end. And the truth, not violence, set people free.

    I think the sentence from the NZ Friends testimony that no end is worth these means sums it up very well. Nonviolence is not a dreamy ideal cut off from reality. It’s a very effective political tool. Those who promote violence as a solution to problems are the ones who are disconnected from reality: for when has violence ever solved any problems?

    I have pondered what task the death of Tom Fox has given to me. I think that task is to work to make every church a peace church. The christian church needs to speak in one voice.

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