A while back, I was listening to a televised lecture by Joseph Telushkin on Shalom TV about the differences between Jewish and American Law. To greatly paraphrase him, Jewish law is about taking responsibility. There are so many laws in Jewish tradition that are based on individual accountability: regulating weights and measures, building proper roof safeguards, being responsible for a student’s progress, even watching one’s words and the effect they might have on others.
American law stresses a person’s rights: The right to free speech, to gather in protest, to be protected from search and seizure, and more. Not that there aren’t areas of responsibility assumed in the laws, but the different emphasis is clear.
So, I am holding this information against my visceral response to the news of the past week that talks of the “Radicalization” of the Boston Marathon Bombers. I wonder to myself how the power of words influences the way we think. The image of radicalization to me is of someone being deceived, duped, or similarly drawn into a process that he had little to do with. It’s almost as if that person was dunked in a pool and then came out “radicalized”.
Someone ‘gets’ radicalized, it happens to them.
What does that say about personal responsibility? What does the use of that word say about our ability to regard the person as perpetrator or victim?
What is the message the media is giving our teens? They may be just taking this in at face value; after all, it’s the media. I know there has been much talk about this issue, but frankly, I’ve tuned much of it out, and have put serious limits on how much I will listen to concerning the bombers themselves, so I apologize in advance if all this seems like it’s revisiting the obvious.
All of this stuff however, does lead us to think of the many opportunities we have to engage in serious conversations with teens about this issue more.
What do we do in the face of evil?
Is there ever an excuse for violence?
How do we cope when we see how, in seconds, life can change?
What opportunities are there to see a totally different side than the one we’re seeing in the media?
How might you write this story? What would you want to know….and why?
- Jewish 100: Joseph Telushkin – Voices (algemeiner.com)