By: John D. Pepe
I had a near fisticuffs about six weeks ago and it made me think of the series Daredevil and our nation’s willingness to embrace violence. It has been a while since I finished the series but remembering the second season, and the contrast between Daredevil and Punisher’s philosophy of meting out violence, I realized that within our nation we all seem to accept, or even promote it. The issue seems to be to what degree of violence we as individuals are willing to tolerate. But is violence justified?
I think that most Americans (and probably several other nations across the world) see some level of violence as justified. Watching Daredevil I found myself routing for Murdoch and most of the time (and I mean most) condemning Punisher. I thought that killing was wrong, even if the villain was extra-ordinarily evil. For me, that was a level of violence that just went too far, and therefore I condemned Punisher’s actions. But when I think of Daredevil’s actions, is it really that much better for a vigilantly to beat the pulp out of the bad guy? I don’t know? I mean it is less severe than killing someone, but is it better? Is it justified?
I said just a month and a half ago, when I was in the heat of my emotions, and ready to dish out violence against another human being at my son’s basketball game, I felt justified. I mean the guy was much bigger than me, he had threatened my 73-year-old dad, and he was a loud mouth. In my opinion, and several others’ opinions who were present, he brought it on himself. He deserved to get a beating. (side note: I could have gotten the tar kicked out me) But was I justified? I had gotten the guy away from my dad and he was no longer a threat to him. What it boils down to was I lost my temper. Yes, he was disrespectful (a thirty-something shouldn’t ever threaten a 73-year-old no matter what you think he said-I mean 73, that’s old). But I let that guy get under my skin. And yes, he was in the wrong. But once my dad was safe should I have been willing to hurt another human being because he was a jerk? Are words enough to provoke? What if he would have attempted and failed to hit my dad? What if he would have hit my dad? What if he pulled a weapon on my dad? What level of violence is a justified amount in reaction to any of those scenarios?
Now I’m not talking legally. I’m talking in the context of street justice. Daredevil and Punisher type justice. Violence to stop other people from being violence, or potentially violent.
So, I put to you, being a Christian nation, when Jesus says, “don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him also the other,” and that you are to “love your enemies,” is violence ever justified? Should we be accepting of certain levels of violence? Should it be a comparison between the degree of violence we are willing to accept, and/or perpetrate, i.e., Daredevil’s degree verses Punisher’s degree, or is it as simple as Jesus stated, no violence is justified. And if it is as Jesus said then it is not about the degree of violence but about the kind, i.e., violence verses non-violence.
I didn’t sleep very well the two nights following the incident at the basketball game. I think that maybe it was me knowing that what I did is not what Jesus would want. So, is violence ever justified?