When Has a Dragon Ever Died of the Poison of a Snake?

It has been a very public week for victims of horrible crimes. Dzhjokhar Tsarnaev’s victims spoke at his formal death sentencing, and the families of the Charletson Massacre’s victims have been in the national media.

Most noted among the Charleston families was Nadine Collier, who said to killer Dylann Roof, “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgives you and I forgive you.”

Rebekah Gregory, who lost a leg to Boston Marathon bomber Tsarnaev, struck a very different tone. Looking defiantly at the murderer, she said, “While your intention was to destroy America, what you have really accomplished is actually quite the opposite – you’ve unified us. We are Boston strong, we are America strong, and choosing to mess with us was a terrible idea. So how’s that for your VICTIM impact statement?”

Far be it from me to judge which reaction is appropriate. Both forgiveness and angry defiance are noble in their own way.

I’ve been reading a lot of Nietzsche lately. He comes at every issue from a variety of angles. On balance, I’m sure he would side with Rebekah Gregory, but first I’ll offer a quotation from Thus Spoke Zarathustra that is more along the lines of understanding and compassion.

“Enemy” you shall say, but not “villain”; “sick” you shall say, but not “scoundrel”; “fool” you shall say, but not “sinner.”

And you, red judge, if you were to tell out loud all that you have already done in thought, everyone would cry, “Away with this filth and this poisonous worm!”

And now in tribute to Rebekah Gregory:

One day Zarathustra had fallen asleep under a fig tree, for it was hot, and had put his arms over his face. And an adder came and bit him in the neck, so that Zarathustra cried out in pain. When he had taken his arm from his face, he looked at the snake, and it recognized the eyes of Zarathustra, writhed awkwardly, and wanted to get away.

“Oh no,” said Zarathustra, “as yet you have not accepted my thanks. You waked me in time, my way is still long.”

“Your way is short,” the adder said sadly; “my poison kills.”

Zarathustra smiled. “When has a dragon ever died of the poison of a snake?” he said. “But take back your poison. You are not rich enough to give it to me.”

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