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It's time to get tough on self-made martyrs

Updated on July 24, 2011
Witnesses Oslo's recent bombing scramble to give aid to the injured.
Witnesses Oslo's recent bombing scramble to give aid to the injured.

Police in Norway have arrested a man in connection to the terrorist attacks in that nation which has taken the lives of at least 93 people.

Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian nationalist, has confessed to the Friday bombing of a government building in Oslo and the ensuing shooting spree at a youth camp on a nearby island. The fatalities of the Oslo massacre tops the record for fatalities by any lone gunman. Breivik murdered dozens; men, women, children and only who knows how many of the unborn. Survivors attest to the fact that during the shooting spree Breivik acted in a cold, efficient manner. He had no mercy for begging children; and he re-shot several of his fallen victims to insure they were dead. Now, as Norway mourns and the residents of Oslo try to recover from the damage and emotional shock, legal authorities have released Breivik's admitted excuse for his actions- to dismantle liberal influences in Norway that went against his "Fundamentalist Christian" beliefs.

Obviously Breivik's beliefs have nothing at all to do with mainstream Fundamentalist Christian thinking. I've known too many "fundies" , as they're referred to in my part of the country, to think for a moment that their beliefs advocate hatred or violence. Breivick did what he did under the very personal conviction that his God condones his actions. He probably even expects a heavenly reward for his crimes.

This atrocity happened on the heels of last week's urgent appeal by the Dalai Lama for the world to conquer religious intolerance.The Tibetan Buddhist leader escaped Chinese Communists by going into India at a very young age. Since then he has been labeled a dangerous separatist by the government of China, has even received criticism from certain atheist groups that are open-minded about communist doctrine. But whatever your religious persuasion (or non-religious persuasion), there is no realistic denial that Tibetans have felt the wrath of religious intolerance and attempted ethnic genocide from Red China for decades. If anyone can give witness to the destructive force of religious intolerance it is the Dalia Lama.

Making his address from a pavilion at the University of Illinois, the Dalia Lama reminded the listening crowd that "We all come from a mother's womb.. everyone wants a happy life..everyone has a right to further that desire."

Tolerance for all religious differences allows such desire the possibility of fulfillment. But extremists continue to ignore the message, choosing instead to think their agenda or deity demands the total surrender or annihilation of anyone who chooses another path. All too often these extremists pretend they hold a special role in carrying out the final solution of their cause. And in practically every case of where such narcissism has led to evil ends the person or persons responsible were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in their cause. A martyr's death doesn't scare them; they imagine a special eternal reward or an everlasting place of honor among their comrades. Thus they will die for the cause, if it means taking down as many others as possible in the quest to obtain that privileged seat of honor.

But in the increasing threat of such deadly assaults on humanity, what has become the general method of dealing with these vicious predators? Sadly, the status quo is to be charitable. Those who have the authority to penalize them aptly prefer treating them with kidskin gloves. These authorities either fear retaliation from other zealots, are more concerned with striking lucrative political/business deals with the country the predators come from or are under the presumption that harsh penalties somehow undermine the ideal of humane treatment. All of these agendas show the brittle, cowardly and hypocritical nature of political correctness

I hate to make predictions on such a sobering subject as this Oslo terrorist. But I speculate that the contemporary Norwegian brand of justice will only mollycoddle Breivik. The proud Norwegian mindset of today isn't to protect it's people but to keep alive a fantasy of an open-minded society where no one has weapons, a blind eye is turned on hate speech and everyone gets along like it's a garden party. This is definitely not the Norway of my ancestors; it is not a Norway I can speak of with any sense of pride.

Unless Breivik is executed instead of put in a comfortable prison cell, his fellow zealots will eventually take off where he ended. Opponents to the death penalty will exonerate their beliefs by warning that execution will only make a martyr of Breivik. But the amenities afforded prisoners in our contemporary prison systems offer a disturbing reminder of how twisted the vision of penal justice has become. My husband worked for ten years as a prison guard and saw for himself the scope of creature comforts lavished on convicted felons: cable television, newspapers, gym equipment and privileges, dental care, transgender sex change surgery, computers, ect. - all supplied on the backs of tax payers. And what death penalty opponents most ruefully overlook is that in cases where a Cause predator (someone who kills for an ideological cause) is incarcerated, there is inevitably like-minded individuals on the outside who only too happily elevate the incarcerated predator to Symbol status. So while the terrorist can look forward to a comfortable stay in prison his supporters can still use the propaganda that he's a "languishing" prisoner as stimulus for continued violence.

No matter how dissimilar their beliefs may be, one terrorist is as useless to the world as another.

Another flawed argument death penalty opponents promote is that to execute a terrorist only leads to retaliation from their fellow true believers. The truth is, as history has shown us again and again, is that sure, extremists may use an execution for fodder of their Cause. But they are already bent on hate. Trying to pacify zealot sensitivities does nothing to defend the world from harm. But giving them the satisfying perception that their enemies are weak can and will provide even more incentive to kill.

Some terrorists are willing to commit suicide in their acts, others are more likely to harness the weapons of their destruction on women, the elderly or even children. They are all alike in believing their actions serve a higher purpose. In this way they are also alike in not being overly afraid to make sacrifices. But they are afraid of facing uncomfortable consequences in their present lifetime. While they enjoy being a languishing imprisoned Symbol, they have no desire to languish in any misery comparable to the misery they've dealt their victims. This goes for their supporters, their brothers-in-arms, their kindred haters. And what glory they may envision for their afterlife, not a one of them seeks a prolonged suffering, even if this just means actual languishing in a prison cell with no creature comforts.

I do not believe in torture. Torture is only another form of terrorism. But I do believe, with all my heart and soul, it is time to stop pacifying, to stop pampering, to stop the craven reactive measures that only foster the proclivity for violent conduct. It is time to protect each other from the ideals of fanatical thinking in whatever form it comes in. There is a popular tendency to extend these people therapy to deal with their respective psychological "damage" or treat their "insanity". This provides nothing of tangible benefit to the rest of the world. When scores of children are killed to fulfill a madman's delusional fantasy it is wrong. Child murderers, sane or insane, have nothing positive to give society. Terrorists who force those smaller or weaker to carry out their lethal acts are psychological rapists. There is no justification in keeping these social dregs alive for psychological analysis or research. Doing so is tantamount to creating a black hole that swallows the entire world in order to satisfy a curiosity about the intricacies of the big bang theory. In other words, it is destructively pointless.

Judicial officials across the world are in a position to stop this pointlessness. They can begin by throwing off their own sense of moral superiority that demands mercy to the merciless. Make moralizing terrorists AFRAID. Make their fanatical followers and their eye-for-an-eye enemies AFRAID. If judicial officials are too cowardly to deal out the death penalty then make prison life as unpleasant for the terrorist as the shattered lives they leave behind.

The better alternative is death. Swift deaths that do not allow the guilty to be raised to the status of an maltreated martyr; but death that shows the unflinching stance that murderous acts of intolerance are unacceptable.

None of us have the right to destroy the earth or any peoples for an earthly Cause. None of us are so morally superior we have the right to act on the behalf of what we perceive as deity. But most of us do accept the fact we are all born for a purpose. To squander or waste lives for a higher purpose rejects the very essence of a higher power. Even those who don't believe in a conscious creator can understand that man is a part of the circle of life. The freedom of all to pursue happiness, to love where our hearts are directed, to raise our children as we see fit and to worship or not worship as we choose cannot be compromised if we are to survive as a race in this beautiful universe.

Faces of the targeted

These are just a few photos from countless incidents of destruction carried out by various terrorists worldwide.

Just a few of the 85 murdered victims in Oslo's horrific youth camp shooting spree
Just a few of the 85 murdered victims in Oslo's horrific youth camp shooting spree
Some of the first responders helping during America's 9/11 attack
Some of the first responders helping during America's 9/11 attack
A shot of the Sri Lanka refugee camp set up for Tamil nationalists after escaping a Tamil Tigers terrorist group
A shot of the Sri Lanka refugee camp set up for Tamil nationalists after escaping a Tamil Tigers terrorist group
A survivor of one of the 2005 bombings in London
A survivor of one of the 2005 bombings in London
An innocent young victim of the Oklahoma City bombing
An innocent young victim of the Oklahoma City bombing
Chinese officials carry out continued atrocities in Tibet
Chinese officials carry out continued atrocities in Tibet


Submit a Comment

  • SpiffyD profile image


    7 years ago from The Caribbean

    Great hub Beth,

    The problem with the concept of terrorism is the fact that it is sometimes subjective. In certain cases, persons use it to discredit resistance that is based on a reasonable cause and does not use violence against the protagonists. In apartheid South Africa, Nelson mandela was considered a terrorist. However, in many cases, these persons cannot be considered freedom fighters.

    This case outlines one of them. The irony is that the fundamentalists seem to conveniently ignore aspects of their belief systems that would condemn their actions. I agree that examples should be made of these "martyrs." The contradiction continues.

  • profile image

    Stu From VT 

    7 years ago


    You are right on. Appeasement ALWAYS invites more terror. Swift prosecution and retaliation are the only solutions. For people who are not afraid of death, these actions may not frighten them, but it will at least convince them that their actions are futile. While criminal prosecution should always be proportionate to the crime, military reprisal where appropriate should go overboard. The world knows we have the strongest military, but they also know that in large part we lack the will to use it. That has to change.


  • Lenore Robinson profile image

    Lenore Robinson 

    7 years ago from Delaware

    Well written Beth. Death and destruction, in the name of religious "righteousness," have been savagely executed by man since his creation; Be it an individual, a "cell," or a nation. Religious righteousness is simply a vehicle for the psychotic, dysfunctional, maladjusted, twisted, misfits in this world to unleash their personal hell here on earth.


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