The Martyr

martyr poster

A young man nervously boards a bus. He makes his way to a seat in the center. The bus doors close, it begins to chug along. In the minds of some of the passengers are thoughts of horrendous news images they’ve seen or distant explosions they’ve heard or scenes witnessed—these images are forever cemented in their minds. They try their best to quiet these fears, but when a young awkward Arab boy walks onto their bus the fear rushes to the surface. But they still fight it. Gotta get to work, gotta get to school, to the market. Then—

The fear is actualized. An eruption. The concussion alone knocks out a few, the three hundred and sixty degree blast of ball-bearings takes out the rest. Then there’s that eerie stillness. Emergency vehicles quickly arrive on scene, their sirens provide a fleeting sense of safety as they fill the silence. Powerful streams of water follow. Officials scramble to retrieve bodies and parts of bodies from the wreckage. Minutes later the blackened bus carcass rests in the middle of a once busy road—like a skeleton with all of its flesh removed. These images abruptly break into the constant stream of celebrity gossip and biased opinion we call twenty-four-hour cable news cycle. One moment we’re watching a debate over the the parenting skills of a mother with eight children, the next we are inundated with images of a bomb blasts aftermath. It’s confusing. We see smoke, debris, weeping, knowing stoicism, and then an official addresses us. He speaks in an emotionless tone and his language is sadly familiar. The death toll is first. Then the number of wounded. We shudder in fear. We get angry. We react. But we never ask why. Why?

A suicide bomber is a person who sacrifices himself as well as an unwitting public. To the families of his victims his actions are deplorable as his targets were innocents. But to the bomber the innocents are the enemies who are victimizing him. To differentiate between who he should kill and who he should not kill is tantamount to determining which bee to swat if a pack of them happen to chase you. Now I am not condoning the suicide bomber’s act. He is a troubled individual who possesses warring parts love (for his people) and fear (of those who believes wish his people harm). The love and the fear are so strong in him that it creates a palpable tension. It is much like an atomic battle. He feels the love so strongly, but misinterprets it because the profound revelation is jarring to him—his only reaction is to fall back on fear. The love overwhelms him and there is no one there to nurture him through his transition, instead they nurture the fear—the fear of what further damage the infidel will carry out if he does not perform this act. Each emotion, the love and the fear, are so pronounced and one must win over the other for him to even function as a normal human. These guys aren’t crazy, there is nothing inherently wrong with them. The intense love just tipped to intense fear. Both emotions rest on such a precipice that it doesn’t take much to cause this tip. Settle on land once occupied by their ancestors and then fence them off—tip. Go to war with their nations for your own greed—tip. Once again, I am not condoning these actions nor am I attempting to make apologies for them. I am merely trying to understand why.

In the US on rare occasions gunmen will go to random public places and begin shooting at the public indiscriminately. The fact these events occur in places where we typically feel safe coupled with the reminder of your own mortality scares the pants off of us. Other than the aberrant qualities of the act we do not find its method extraordinary. Guns are prevalent in the United States. Not just puny little handguns, but some serious Rambo-like stuff. We are bothered not by the weapon itself, but what we deem is its misuse. A gun is not intended to kill; it is intended to protect us from those who wish to kill us by killing them. You see the disgusting destructive infinity here? Violence begetting violence almost in a passive aggressive manner. Now, the suicide bomber on the other hand utilizes a more dynamic method of carrying out a similar act. His method is extraordinary in a myriad of ways. Firstly, it comes from a deep faith. Typically the American gunman acts out of a general hatred for humankind or a particular group. His faith in essence is merely hatred. Secondly, the bomber is the weapon himself. Yes, American gunmen typically commit suicide following their acts. The act itself is the result of fear and the following self-sacrifice is done to make a twisted point. We are supposed to learn something from the spectacle. Why does the gunmen not face the public he despises? Why does he feel the need to check out as well? Perhaps prior to his actions he starts to notice the true nature of the Universe and it becomes too much for him to process. He tips to hatred, he tips to fear. Not knowing that love would have caused a much more lasting effect. The suicide bomber’s faith is REAL. That is what we must realize. It is so dense that it is almost tangible as most faiths are. His though, is intense, incredibly intense. Your middle-of-the-road Christians’ faith would cower in the face of his. These are a passionate, fiery, fearful people. Let’s not forget this. Now you can blame the introduction of Islam for the current strife overseas just as you can blame the introduction of Christianity to the dehumanizing tendencies of the Europeans. The respective religions aren’t to blame. It is the interpretations. The interpretations of those who wrote the texts and those who carried out their messages. Scattered about all of the hateful, violent, misogynistic passages are ones promoting love, compassion and selflessness. These are the ones we tend to latch onto. Why? Why is prayer a showing of love and not anger? Why do we honor our Gods with elaborate festivals? Here’s why—the fear or the imperfection or relativity or just simply the triangle is necessary to keep this grand perpetual motion machine going. It’s inquisitive, it asks questions, it creates beauty as well as destruction. But the sphere it creates as it churns is seemingly perfect. This seeming perfection reminds us of what is really going on and the way all of these spherical bodies dance with each other about the sun is also a reminder of what’s really going on. The violence is not necessary. Love can do the same thing and much more efficiently, the churn is what brings us literally together. We need the imperfection to kiss and copulate. Love is just a lot more fun.

The aftermath of a suicide bomb attack is particularly surreal. There’s the body of the bomber in the center of the 360 degree destruction. Scraps of once vibrant humans everywhere. Blood, ash, death, that haunting smell that never leaves the nostrils. There is something we’re not getting when we take in this. One person different from those who he sacrificed caused all of this destruction. Just one knocked out many by becoming an exploding star. This one person expands wide enough to cause so much death, sadness and destruction all because he wants to feel the ultimate love. By sacrificing himself for his people he is rewarded with a blissful eternity. One for all, one is resurrected. More follow him. A perpetuity of dense big-bangs from incredibly dense forces all over the city. To just give these people what they want so that they stop killing you is not entirely the answer. You have to first look at them as not “these people” but your people as well. Both sides must do this. In the US we are still struggling gettin’ along but I’d say given all of our ups and downs we’re having a kick-ass time in the process. The same can be true in the Middle East. But the reactionary attitudes of both sides will just lead to a continual cycle of suffering, weeping, and hopelessness. When they hit you don’t hit back right away. Stop. Think about it. Fight your urge to retaliate it. Fight that urge with everything ounce of your being. Grit your teeth, clench your fists, do whatever you have to do. Just fight it and look him dead in his eyes and ask him why he hit you. If he chooses to react in fear he will hit you again. But if he welcomes a pause, then maybe, just maybe communication can flow through the nothingness.


The 9/11 attacks were retaliation for what Osama Bin Laden thought was American imperialism in his country. The ironic thing is all he did was orchestrate an attack that used the same machines that caused his people so much death and destruction against his enemies. Kind of like a rubber/glue dynamic. Once again, not justifying, just something to think about.

Photo courtesy of this guy.


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