In less happy times in the North, news reports would occasionally carry stories of the death of people involved in paramilitary violence. If someone planting explosives blew himself up, there were those who would have expressed open delight, and others who would have felt a certain sense of satisfaction at the outcome.
There was probably no real thought given to justifying feeling good that someone was dead. Being the North and being Protestant, there would have been some who would have pointed to Jesus’ warning in the Garden of Gethsemane that those who lived by the sword would die by the sword. More often there would have been an unconscious idea that this was a just outcome. Years of predestination thinking had created a strong sense that ones own community were the ‘elect’, and, if that was the case, then the other community were the damned, and if anything bad happened to them, it was no great matter.
Moving to Dublin, the scenario is very different, but there is still a sense that it is not a great problem when some people die. The morning news frequently carries news of the deaths of young men involved in gangland activities or involved in drugs dealing, as soon as the news reader says the deceased was known to Gardai, you can almost imagine the knowing nods at breakfast tables around the country.
Middle class people are untouched by Dublin deaths in the way that many middle class people were insulated against much of the worst sectarianism in the North. Living there from 1983 until 1999 I never once encountered danger or threats, yet working class parishioners where I worked would have to contend with such realities every day. Perhaps if the middle classes were more affected, we would be less tolerant of violent crime.
Jesus would have not accepted an attitude which said that the deaths of those caught up in violence was acceptable. He warns his listeners at one point that people involved in violence were not worse than other people.
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
His warning has made me think twice when I switch on the RTE news and hear of a shooting in west Dublin. Murder demeans a whole society, it devalues all life. No-one’s life is expendable.