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Wednesday, May 1, 2013
As I watched the Blue Ridge Marathon April 20, five days after the Boston Marathon — sadly, also the Boston massacre — I talked with a spectator, the father of a daughter and son-in-law in the race. He said, you probably don’t agree with me, but I hope the younger brother (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) dies, because his medical care, trial and appeals would be a waste of money. I answered, you’re right, I don’t agree with you.
As a member of the Society of Friends, Quakers, I don’t believe in the death penalty, I don’t believe in war and, of course, I don’t support random killing of civilians. As a historian, I Googled Chechnya, the birthplace of the Tsarnaevs, and learned of that country’s millennium of devastation: invasion by the Mongols, by the Russian Cossacks, by the Ottoman Empire, by Czarist Russia, by Communist Russia, by the Russian Army during World War II, and by two Chechnyan wars during the 1990s after the fall of Soviet Russia.
After 9/11, I wrote a letter to The Roanoke Times that began, “If you seek peace, work for justice.” That unpublished letter tolled the fateful death of some who worked for justice: Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus. Jesus said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Lincoln said, “The Almighty has His own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe unto that man by whom the offense cometh.’ ” Life entails injustice, but taking life perpetuates the offenses of injustice.
I hope that Dzhokhar lives. I hope Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s parents receive his body. I hope the families of those killed at the Boston Marathon receive some comfort for their terrible loss. I hope those hundreds wounded recover with loving care. I hope, in Lincoln’s words, “With malice towards none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds . . . to do all which may achieve a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
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