The Anders Breivik in all of us
“With 9/11 in America, people could ask, ‘Who are they?’ and could pour their rage out on someone else, but we can’t disavow this person, he’s one of us.”
Anders Romarheim of the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies on Anders Breivik, the madman & murderer who shot or blew to smithereens 92 people, many (most?) of whom were teenagers, in his bid to defend Europe against the threat of Muslim domination, multiculturalism, and liberal modernity.
And the Torah portion we read yesterday, Matot—
Moses spoke to the people, saying, Let men be picked out from among you for a campaign, and let them fall upon Midian to wreak the Lord’s vengeance.
With Pinchas serving as priest for the campaign, they slew every male. Every single male. The kings as well as the taxi drivers & civil servants & carpenters. The war booty – women, children, trinkets, and beasts – were brought before Moses. His reaction? You spared the women? Those whores? Go back and kill them all – every male children and every non-virgin female. Go back and finish the job.
This is not metaphor, gang. This is the text. We are commanded to kill and we kill. With our bare hands & the sword. No long-range missiles, no Star Wars computers. Our freaking bare hands. We can wish it away or explain it in terms other than physical destruction — my friend & sister blogger Rachel Barenblat wrote this past week of the Ishbitzer rebbe and his more poetic interpretation of the verses in question. I suggest you read it — perhaps it will offer comfort.
For myself, I keep coming back to this: We can’t disavow this person – he is one of us. One of us, yes, and in us, each one of us, with terrible consequences. Our crazy sense that we’re better than the next person. Our crazier sense that if we don’t get them first, they will get us. That God speaks to us. I wish I could say that I have never harbored fantasies of doing harm to someone else with words or fists or weapons at hand. I wish I could say it with 100% clarity, but I can’t. I’m no Anders Breivik, but I am his kin.
That is the instruction the Torah shares with us, lest we wonder about our difference & superiority. We’re no Anders Breivik, but we are his kin.