Human Dignity

Given the ongoing events in Boston, it's hard to know what else to post about. I keep hearing sirens outside my window as I do everyday, but this afternoon I keep thinking something terrible is happening or is about to happen in New York, too. I also keep thinking back to an Israeli case we read in our law and religion class this semester, written by Justice Barak. In it he argues that people who engage in terrorist activities keep unlawful combatant status even when they are not taking a direct and active part in hostilities. Considering the nature of terrorism, that makes sense. But the most interesting part of the opinion focuses on human dignity. He emphasizes that unlawful combatants are not beyond the law: "They are not 'outlaws.' God created them as well in his image; their human dignity as well is to be honored; they as well enjoy and are entitled to protection. . . by customary international law."

I find it very difficult to forgive on a personal level. Half lies and small cruelties make me angry and resentful. They are so hard to forgive. But when I see that two young boys from a volatile region in Russia decided to fill pressure cookers with shrapnel and set them off at the finish line of a marathon with the intent to maim and kill, all I feel is sympathy for them and for their victims. I search for reasons to explain why they would do something so terrible because I want to forgive them.

Morality is often black and white in our personal lives but it is so complicated elsewhere. Terrorism can never be justified, but its roots often lie in the wrongs others see in the world. Perhaps they were motivated by American imperialism or Western values or drone warfare, things that are so personal to some terrorists but abstract for us. Maybe these boys were just angry. Maybe they were tired of not fitting in. Maybe they thought it would be fun to wreak havoc on a city. Maybe they're not guilty at all. The manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will eventually end and we will get the answers in the weeks ahead. As that happens, I think we should keep Justice Barak's words in mind: human dignity applies to every person.