Saturday, April 2, 2011

Difference between Revenge and Hate

A guest columnist for the Catholic Times does some deep retrospection on the horrific suffering of our Japanese neighbors in the wake of the earthquake. He quotes his father: "Those around my age remember the cruelty of the Japanese; they are now receiving their penalty." The family found these words at this time so out of place it was difficult to accept, but the writer, trying to understand his father's feelings, uses a Talmudic explanation of revenge to make sense of his father's feelings.

"When a friend refuses to lend you his hoe, revenge would be to refuse to lend him your shovel. If he asks you for the use of your shovel, and you tell him  he refused to lend you his hoe, but you are going to lend him your shovel. This is hate."

Adapting this to the situation in Japan since they trampled on our country for so long the natural disaster can be  seen as repayment. We suffered much at the hands of the Japanese, but to think they should not have pain permits us to hate. The writer is conjecturing that his father  is saying that revenge is better than hate.

The son does not go along with this way of thinking, but he is trying to defend his father's distorted way of seeing the situation.

He describes the difficulties faced by his father growing up. He never went to school  and doesn't remember ever playing with anybody during this time. He began working as a street vendor at the age of 10 and as a father, had to care for a family of seven children. There were many reverses and little time for anything but making money for food and clothes and for educating his family.

The son feels it would be rude to tell his father to forgive the world for his difficulties. Throughout history, it's usually the poor who suffer the most. And those who have not suffered directly or who have suffered relatively less will find it easier to forgive than those hearts have been brutalized.  With the passage of time this can be forgotten, but when trauma comes with the suffering, it's more difficult to forget and more likely to be passed on to later generations. The son believes this has  happened even to him.

Jesus did forgive those who were killing him and the writer knows the Church continues this message of forgiveness and love. Since the Second Vatican Council, we have often heard of the necessity to be on the side of the poor and the alienated. Those who remember the pain and  the alienation that comes with poverty do not  easily forget. Better than to ask them to  forgive is to try to  understand their situation and the trauma which does not allow them to open their hearts. To help this process along requires the concern of society and more pastoral outreach and care by the Church.

The columnist concludes the article with  fear that we try to forget and bury  and not listen to the many who have been traumatized. In doing so  we add trauma to trauma which some day will come back to haunt us.


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