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'Shooting by Victim's Father'

May 16, 1986

Three letters to the Times (May 2), "Shooting by Victim's Father," all expressed understanding and compassion for John Spiegelman for shooting the man accused of murdering his daughter. Although I agree that he deserves that kind of empathy from all of us, I feel there is a more subtle and dangerous way of thinking that is being expressed.

Each letter implied or expressed directly that Spiegelman's act of violence was an acceptable exception to their own sense of right and wrong because it was a normal human response to extreme frustration; the legal system had failed him, and the government breached its contract.

All true, but in these times we can no longer afford to have exceptions to our own deep knowledge that taking the life of another is not acceptable. Had he actually killed the accused man he would not have eliminated a killer in the world but simply created another--himself.

Unless we as individuals see clearly and decide that violence is no longer an acceptable means of resolving conflict, including all of the understandable exceptions, we can not ask our world leaders to do the same. At the global level with the advent of nuclear weapons the stakes are much higher, so high in fact that we often choose not to think about it.

Our government is a reflection of the thinking of the people of this country. We have a choice in shaping our country's response to any given problem. Probably most of us feel that the violent response is not desirable or the first response we would try, but when push comes to shove and it's me or you, I have the right to eliminate you.

Our governments feel the same way. Because of our weapons capability, this right must be questioned. Is there another way? Am I willing to explore other possibilities in my own life? What are the implications for future generations if we continue to solve our problems by violence both personally and globally?

We have made that kind of a decision, the decision not to use violence, in our own country. California does not bomb Colorado because we want their water. We cooperate because we see ourselves as one, whole, interdependent unit. What we need to see now is that the whole planet is that same kind of whole, interdependent unit. Hopefully, the accident at the nuclear plant in Russia made this clear to us all. No borders or boundaries kept their problems from affecting us all.


Sherman Oaks

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