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Sunday, April 16, 2017

We were the very first that revolted, and we are the last to fight against them

 The Romans had laid siege on an ancient fortress for a really long time.  Built a ramp.  Broke down the walls on April 16, 73CE.  Found a bunch of dead Sicarii:

[T]hey then held fast the same resolution, without wavering, which they had upon the hearing of Eleazar's speech, while yet every one of them still retained the natural passion of love to themselves and their families, because the reasoning they went upon appeared to them to be very just, even with regard to those that were dearest to them; for the husbands tenderly embraced their wives, and took their children into their arms, and gave the longest parting kisses to them, with tears in their eyes.

Yet at the same time did they complete what they had resolved on, as if they had been executed by the hands of strangers; and they had nothing else for their comfort but the necessity they were in of doing this execution, to avoid that prospect they had of the miseries they were to suffer from their enemies. Nor was there at length any one of these men found that scrupled to act their part in this terrible execution, but every one of them despatched his dearest relations.

Miserable men indeed were they! whose distress forced them to slay their own wives and children with their own hands, as the lightest of those evils that were before them. So they being not able to bear the grief they were under for what they had done any longer, and esteeming it an injury to those they had slain, to live even the shortest space of time after them, they presently laid all they had upon a heap, and set fire to it.

They then chose ten men by lot out of them to slay all the rest; every one of whom laid himself down by his wife and children on the ground, and threw his arms about them, and they offered their necks to the stroke of those who by lot executed that melancholy office; and when these ten had, without fear, slain them all, they made the same rule for casting lots for themselves, that he whose lot it was should first kill the other nine, and after all should kill himself.

Accordingly, all these had courage sufficient to be no way behind one another in doing or suffering; so, for a conclusion, the nine offered their necks to the executioner, and he who was the last of all took a view of all the other bodies, lest perchance some or other among so many that were slain should want his assistance to be quite despatched, and when he perceived that they were all slain, he set fire to the palace, and with the great force of his hand ran his sword entirely through himself, and fell down dead near to his own relations.

So these people died with this intention, that they would not leave so much as one soul among them all alive to be subject to the Romans. Yet was there an ancient woman, and another who was of kin to Eleazar, and superior to most women in prudence and learning, with five children, who had concealed themselves in caverns under ground, and had carried water thither for their drink, and were hidden there when the rest were intent upon the slaughter of one another.

Those others were nine hundred and sixty in number, the women and children being withal included in that computation. This calamitous slaughter was made on the fifteenth day of the month Xanthicus [Nisan].

They believed that "a glorious death is preferable to a life of infamy."  Which is why this story usually brings to mind Gandhi's oft-criticized suggestion of what European Jews should have done during WWII (as recounted by Louis Fischer in Gandhi and Stalin):

"I [do] not believe in passive resistance.  Satyagraha is something very active.  It is the reverse of passive.  Submission is passive and I dislike submission.  The Jews of Germany made the mistake of submitting to Hitler."
...
"Hitler," Gandhi solemnly affirmed, "killed five million Jews.  It is the greatest crime of our time.  But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife.  They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs.  I believe in hari-kiri.  I do not believe in its militaristic connotations, but it is a heroic method."
...
"[That] would have been heroism.  It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to the evils of Hitler's violence, especially in 1938, before the war.  As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions."

There were probably other forms of resistance that Jews and Europeans could have employed, but Gandhi's motto was "do or die" and as I've noted before, he even advocated the unthinkable:

[N]on-violence has to be non-violence of the brave and the strong. It must come from inward conviction. I have, therefore, not hesitated to say that it is better to be violent if there is violence in our breasts than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. Violence is any day preferable to impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent.

The Mahatma hated impotence and passivity even more than violence.  Suicide is, at the very least, active--doing and dying.  So Happy Masada Day! 

ntodd

April 16, 2017 in Pax Americana | Permalink

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