Pushing back

A local man is threatened by his neighbor following a pretentious dispute about property boundaries. Refusing to let his neighbor get the best of him, the man slashes the tires of his neighbor’s Mazda during the night, returning to his bed with a secured sense of gratification as the self-professed “victor.”

In another instance – again, after an altercation of sorts – a man is beaten, broken and left face up on the ground to choke on his own blood while his assailant flees the scene and only nearby onlookers are there to help him out.

Both are local instances of the “push me and I’ll push you back mentality” that seems to be the primary school of thought for most people. And while this logic certainly has merit (to an extent), I have always preferred to take the high road; the path less traveled. I have chosen, unsuccessfully at times, to turn the other cheek, not because I’m afraid of confrontation but instead, because I believe there is more dignity in letting confrontation roll off, like water off a duck’s back. Then again, maybe it’s because I have just never been provoked enough to want to push back.

The same type of attitude is seen in Cambridge, Mass. this week. Officials in Cambridge are urging the family of the deceased Boston Marathon bombings suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev not to ask that he be buried in a city-owned cemetery. At the same time, several private cemeteries in the surrounding area have already turned down the request and according to the funeral home where Tsarnaev’s body is being held, cremation is not an option for the family’s Muslim faith. The family can not afford to have the body transported home and the Russian government is refusing to help, meaning options in the U.S. are to bury Tsarnaev in the Boston area or pay to have the body sent back to the family.

Arguably, the decision of private cemeteries to turn the body away might be to avoid subsequent and inevitable vandalism. But at the risk of sounding insensitive to the victims afflicted by the Boston Marathon bombings – which I assure that I am not – I’m not entirely in tune with this decision either because it perpetuates that “push and I’ll push back” mentality. That is, if someone wrongs us, we will wrong them in return. So what’s the justification for my argument? Two wrongs don’t make a right.

This controversial issue is one where I believe our nation should take the high road. Though the crimes of Tsarnaev are beyond deplorable, it is – in my opinion – the moral obligation of our society to show charitable decency, even in the midst of our residual pain and anger. We can not allow emotions to conflict with what is morally right and wrong. We should at the very least allow for a burial, if not for the bomber, then for the sake of the family.

With every passing chance to bury Tsarnaev, I believe Massachusetts also misses the chance to show the rest of the world the true sense of decency and to reject the notion that individuals can be so villainous as not to deserve burial. After all, irrationality and emotion is what drives terrorists to take action. To reject his burial based on these same characteristics shows that acts of terror, such as that of Boston, are capable of ruling us. However, to allow a burial shows that no act of terror can make us abandon our laws nor will it redirect our moral compass.

In a sense, permitting a burial is an opportunity to push back without “pushing back.”

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