Today (Dec. 28), in the western Christian calendar, is known as the Feast of the Holy Innocents. It commemorates a horrific incident recounted in the gospel of Matthew (2.1-18). Shortly after the birth of Jesus, magi (or astrologers or wise men) came from "the East" to Jerusalem. They inquired of King Herod where the "child who has been born king of the Jews" might be found. They had seen "his star" and wanted to come pay him homage. This was news to Herod, and, Matthew records, "he was frightened". He found out from his visitors the exact time of the star's appearance, and discerned where and when this "newborn king" had arrived on the scene. Ultimately, Herod felt that this child-king was so threatening that he sent his soldiers to Bethlehem to kill all of the children two years old or younger, hoping, thereby, to take care of the upstart. (It didn't happen.)
The gospel-writer Matthew is clearly referencing another massacre of the innocents: those Israelites in Egypt who were put to the sword by Pharaoh, who was worried ("frightened" perhaps?) by the increasing number of Israelite males in his land (Exodus 1.8-16). So, his instructions to the Israelite midwives: "kill all the boys; let the girls live". Matthew also quotes the prophet Jeremiah (31.15) who claims that Rachel is "weeping for her children . . . because they are no more". While this is not necessarily a reference to the massacre of innocents (rather to the destruction of the northern tribes of Israel), it is clearly a reference to a violent end for those whom God would have preferred by spared. A violent end brought about by those (Pharaoh or the Assyrians) who wielded power over the weaker (Israel).
The difference between the assault by the Assyrians and that by both Pharaoh and Herod is that the Assyrians were looking to expand their control, while Pharaoh and Herod were looking to maintain theirs. The latter, in other words, were afraid that their grip on what they perceived as "reality" was being threatened.* And that threat needed to be exterminated (or perhaps minimized). Extermination or minimization required violent means.
It is not hard for us, in these last few months, to recall violence inflicted on the innocent. Whether theater-goers in Aurora, Sikh worshippers in Wisconsin, or kindergartners in Connecticut, none of those victims deserved the fate that became theirs. Despite what wacko preachers might say, those deaths were NOT what God would have wanted, regardless of their (the preachers') claim of the so-called moral laxity of America. And, I doubt that it is sufficient to attribute all of those shooters' actions to "mental illness". Whether "moral laxity" or "mental illness" -- both serve to distance the shooters' action from the rest of us: "WE are moral! WE are mentally sound! There's something wrong with THEM!"
No, we are all broken in some ways. We are all afraid of something -- like Pharaoh and Herod. We are all trying to maintain, and/or expand, our power (thank, Nietzsche!). The problem (as I see it) is that some of us have not progressed any further than Pharaoh, Shalmaneser or Herod in thinking that violence is the way to resolve the so-called "problem". Whether it's political power or perceived impotence in dealing with personal problems, we've been taught that violence -- physical violence -- is the only solution. Or that more weapons will solve the problem.
Those who "taught" and (apparently) believed that the world was coming to an end based on the Mayan calendar had bought into this belief. And, I would maintain, that those who are hyping the catastrophe of the "fiscal cliff" are doing the same. The violence perpetrated by the latter certainly isn't as graphic or destructive, but it plays on the fears of the American public. And, in so doing, it tries to motivate an electorate in one direction or the other -- probably with the hoped-for end result of returning one (or the other) prognosticator of doom to office.
I would hope (call me a "cock-eyed optimist)" that in 2013, given all we've seen and experienced in the last year, we might have a different vision for the future. A vision in which those who purvey violent/vengeful movies or video games might lose their audience (can't Tanantino make a point without a lot of blood?). A vision in which fear is trumped by hope and justice.
A vision in which the so-called"fiscal cliff" is seen as being a manipulative, and power-grabbing and fear-baiting, as the Mayan apocalypse.
I believe in hope. Join me in protecting the innocents.
Hopeful for the New Year,
*This may be true for the Assyrians as well, but the point isn't as clear.