A reader writes:
Your recent post on vengeance prompted this email. My Facebook wall has been telling me that I should “fight darkness with light” (and I agree); that I should use this attack to extend my circle of empathy to overseas massacres occurring against people who are unlike me (I also agree); that I should focus on the people who helped instead of the person who committed the massacre (and I remain in agreement). And yet I don’t just feel “sadness,” I actually feel hate. I hate the man who did this, about whom I need to know nothing else than the fact that he did this.
I’m sensing this is inexpressible in the current circumstances. Saying this on Facebook would not only be useless (like most Facebook postings), but could mark me as the barbarian in my peace-loving group of academic friends. And yet I look at my little son, with whom I wanted to attend the Chicago marathon this fall, and I feel that I would not “forgive” someone who killed or maimed him – I would want to rip his body apart. The only reason I would not do it is because I do find violence physically disgusting, and because I’d put myself in jail. But hate I would feel, and I do feel now. Impotent hate – hate that will not turn to action. But real, visceral hate.
I’m telling this to you “secretly” to see if there is any way to contextualize this feeling. Religion would not help – I’m an atheist and find no comfort in transcendent matters (other than art and “humanity talk,” which often works, but not today).
(Photo: A young girl cries with her mother during the vigil for eight-year-old Martin Richard, from Dorchester, who was killed by an explosion near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2013. The twin bombings resulted in the deaths of three people and hospitalized at least 128. By Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)