Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Bombs and Brimstone

What do you do when someone seriously -- and repeatedly -- advocates genocide at your table? I've blogged about this sort of thing before, but when it came up, I barely said anything at all. In part, this was because I was sitting all the way at the other end of the table (there were 9 of us), and I didn't feel like yelling. It was also in part because arguing seemed unnecessary. Everyone else was protesting, and the guy obviously wasn't going to change his mind.

On the other hand, it was my home. DH was mostly silent as well, and this bothered him. He told me later that he should have mentioned the Torah portion, in which God declares that he won't destroy Sodom if there are as many as ten innocents in the city. But that raises the question of whether we can legitimately discuss, in this sort of context, the "Torah perspective" on genocide. It isn't wrong because the Torah seems to imply that it's wrong (or at least, because it seemed to imply that last week). It isn't wrong because, as a rabbi I know once said, no major poskim [legal authorities] have permitted it. It is simply wrong -- deeply, morally, unquestionably wrong -- to murder noncombatants. I'm sure our guest realized this when he read the horrible news from Tel Aviv this morning. How is killing Palestinian civilians any different?

But here I am trying to make a rational argument again, on a subject that doesn't deserve to be granted this degree of legitimacy. So back to the practical end of things: what should we have done? Should we have risen in righteous indignation and refused to serve the next course until he recanted? Should we have shown him the door? Or should we simply have changed the subject?

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