Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What makes a person do that?

Today I read of a 68 year-old great-grandmother who made fresh pita bread for her family for supper, then left the house, strapped on a suicide belt, approached a group of Israeli soldiers, and blew herself up.

I can't get this woman off my mind. I want to understand her. I want to be able to comprehend what it is that leads a person to do that. It seems important to me to be able to understand the tipping point for her. Maybe if I understand her, I can honour her in some way. Maybe if I understand her, both her pain and her hope can have more meaning than what seems like just a wasted death.

What darkness creeps into your soul and eats away at you until you are convinced that blowing yourself and others to bits is worth the pain and heart-ache you will cause your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren? Did she become obsessed with revenge, or did she really think she was contributing to a solution? If it was revenge, was it the loss of her grandson and the crippling of another? The injury and imprisonment of her three sons? The destruction of her home? Or the deep sorrow she felt after witnessing a massacre?

If she had loftier visions of helping to resolve the conflict, did she envision that the death of a 68 year-old grandmother would be a powerful wake-up call for the warring factions and those who stand by as witnesses?

Each of the things she had to endure is painful, and together they seem almost incomprehensible in their tragedy. It's not hard to understand her anger and desire for revenge. But I just can't quite get past the fact that, by avenging the pain she'd seen and suffered, she caused even more pain for all the people who loved her. You'd think that would have stopped her from pulling the pin.

Surely she knew how hard it would be to swallow her last offering of pita bread after they'd learned of the offering of her life.

Or perhaps the pain had buried her in its rubble, destroyed her capacity for reason, and rendered her only a shell of the grandma she wanted to be. Perhaps she thought the future for her family looked brighter without her bitterness and anger tainting their every waking hour.

On the other hand, maybe she was thinking clearly and knew the pain she'd cause, but she felt a strong calling from God to offer herself as a sacrifice. Perhaps, in the depths of her faith, she believed that this was what she'd been put on this earth to do.

Putting aside the complicated middle east politics that I don't pretend to comprehend, I'm not sure whether to think of her as a hero for being willing to sacrifice her own life, or a coward and a fool for not sticking around for her family. Perhaps the truth is somewhere in between.

Given the same set of circumstances, would any of us do the same?


Thailand Gal said...

Great topic, Heather. :) Each of us probably has something we would die for and acculturation has a lot to do with how we make those choices. For that woman, given her cultural teaching, being a martyr is the highest possible calling. Her family would be proud of her for doing such a thing.

Putting it to a basic level: If you believed that taking your own life would bring peace to the world, would you do it? I would. If you would, that is the root of the mindset.



Dale said...

Wow! I don't know what to say. Like you, I'm thinking she's very brave and very stupid. I reckon, like you, I'm one of those "maybe" people.

Linda said...

Unfortunately, I think that many people see her as "just another suicide bomber." I'm afraid that her sacrifice has not made a difference in her country, only in her family. It is a sad, sad situation.

The very nice man said...

Who can understand the human soul? I don't think I could do anything like this because
a.) I am a total coward and
b.) I am a total coward!!
. . and I am a Christian and just don't hate deep enough! And I have been living a charmed life!
I do feel so sorry for people who get to such an extreme point!

Gina said...

As much as we would like to think that we can understand what motivates people, I don't think we ever really can. The life experience that each of us bring to every situation we encounter plays a huge role in how we will react.

All we can do is to try and to understand, but I'm guessing most of the time we are far off the mark.

Anonymous said...

oh my
could i go out on a limb here and say that i think she was crazy? that hate can make you crazy? that if a god would call someone to strap on a bomb and blow a bunch of people up, then maybe the god is crazy?

Anonymous said...

I would call it crazy. Insane crazy.

All that stuff in her past, and what she could only guess of her future could easily cause a formerly sane person to go insane.

So, in my right mind, I could not conceive of such a thing.

If I were in her 'crazy shoes' I would certainly HOPE that I wouldn't. But can we ever know that?


Amber said...

I've never understood what drives the suicide bombers to do what they do. Until my hubby and I watched a documentary "Death in Gaza" (where the photojournalist involved was actually killed during the filming).

Watching interviews with people who live in that war zone, who are bred to live and breathe hatred from the day they are born, made me understand their plight a little more.

Anonymous said...

I watched a documentary about a family of Israelis living in Palestine and like Amber was saying, the mindset there is just so different. I'm not sure it's possible to understand such a thing without having such direct experience with it.

Erin said...

That is unbelieveably horrible...and sadly, just another day for those poor people, isn't it. Wow, I can't imagine what thoughts were possibly running through her mind. Maybe, in her mind, she was some how honoring her family???

Pamela said...

The one thing She was assured of was ending her own pain.

Liz said...

The martyr concept is incomprehensible to the western mind. I am sure her family sees her as a hero who will be welcomed to the afterlife with open arms.

Who are we to disagree? Who knows what it takes to have eternal salvation? That's why so many wars are fought over religious beliefs. Everyone thinks they are right, but no one really knows until we get there.

Accidental Poet said...

I think the question is - do we believe in something enough to die for it?

jannie funster said...

A child's life is set by age 3. (See Maria Montessori.) This bomber's final moments were completely dictated by her up-bringing. Understand (and live in,) her culture instead of ours we pretty-much take for granted, and you may get closer to understanding her suicide/homicide ending.

The Passarelli's said...

We seem to have this perception about grandmothers being wize,loving,kind and their kitchens smelling of wonderful food.

You ought to meet my mother-in- law. Blowing herself up doesn't sound like a bad idea!

Oh and she absolutly hates Catholics.

The Passarelli's said...

I wonder if that granmother gets 72 studs for this like the men get 72 virgins.

The Passarelli's said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Passarelli's said...

The Passarelli's said...
Brain washing we have seen it for years.

Catholics,Evangelicals,Jews,Muslims,Budists, Born Agains, Jim Jones's,Nazi's,Charles Mansons,
Kamikozis,Right Wing Republicans and the list goes on.

I am a believer in my spiritual experiences and I don't tell to many about them or anyone that I have any answers. I just believe there is something after all this. Most people are scared of the unknown so they look for a structured plan.........Religion!
It's like going on vacation without an itinerary.Most people won't go without one. I love going on vaction without knowing where I will be staying or going and just winging it. That is the most exciting and iteresting way to go.

Like religous people,once they have their itinerary, they stay on that road, they don't look down any others and then they don't look any deeper.

I love life without itineraries.

5:35 AM

Whippersnapper said...

Boy, your blog sure makes me feel shallow, Heather.

The situation in the occupied territories is horrific, and the conditions the Palestinians are subjected to are brutal, not to mention illegal, under current international laws. Yet, despite this, the world totally ignores what is going on there. I think given that situation, one COULD be driven to do crazy, fanatic things.

Incidently, one of the main reasons I donate all my stuff to the MCC is because they do a lot of good work for the Palestinian people.

Joyce said...

Heather, you have a beautiful mind.

Hope said...

I can not anwser the question
Given the same set of circumstances, would any of us do the same?
No matter how much I do or don't know about the conflict, I understand it through my eyes. Eyes that have not known desperation, that have not seen murder and slaughter on a regular basis. I live in a world of relative peace. Nothing I have ever experienced would allow me to ever imagine that my neighbors were my enemies, and that their murders would make the world a better place for my family.
I don't believe her family is mourning tonight. Beliefs are that she has earned a special place in heaven.
We don't understand that. I pray that we never will.

Coll said...

It is almost impossible to look at another and completely understand their motivation, especially living on the other side of the world.

The incident is tragic, especially for the family left behind.. but again that is only my western perspective.

A thought provoking post and resulting question.. it has me looking inward and learning more about me and who I am.

marnie said...

I wish I understood this too..