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Re: GG and Mennonites

On Wed, 3 Jul 2002, Harding.Matthew wrote:

> Where I went to university (in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada) there is a
> big Mennonite community. I remember reading about a Mennonite family who
> had a daughter killed by a drunk driver. Throughout the sentencing and
> court case, and afterwards, they kept in touch with this person and
> frequently invited him over to supper to spend time with them and their
> other children.
> I remember (at the time) wondering what type of person would basically
> invite their daughter's murderer over to supper. I couldn't get over the
> complete absence of revenge in the Mennonite psyche. But your comments,
> Bradley, put that in place quite nicely. I think now that I'm older (and
> have children) I can put it into perspective. But what type of person
> can be so pure to their principles that they can do this??? I think
> you're right, Bradley - this would  hold great appeal to GG.

Yes.  [I *will* bring this back around to GG by the end of this posting, I

Mennonites tend to deal with things like that in ways other than societal
norms.  That is, outside the typical system of legal justice, punishment,
revenge, reparations...Mennonites try to practice the biblical "turn the
other cheek" response rather than taking a retaliatory action against an
offender.  (But Mennonite lawyers do exist, too.)  Sometimes it works,
sometimes it doesn't.

There are "Victim-Offender Reconciliation Programs", mediation services,
counseling, and other ways to try to resolve such situations.  The idea is
to get people to understand one another's sides and to come to resolutions
as a way to move on.  Pretty tough.

There's also a lot of simply turning away and processing things over and
over and over for years, internally, in ways that can become
destructive..."passive-aggressive" reactions and long-term grudges.  The
ideal of not striking back is held up so high that victims (and families
and friends) sometimes end up victimizing themselves further, with all
that internal processing.  It's a problem.

Back in 1996 there was the rape and murder of a Mennonite woman whose
family is from around here.  Investigations have gone on ever since then,
both by civil authorities and in the perpetual rounds of Mennonite talk.
This week there have been attempts to tie this together with the suicide
of a man who also allegedly abducted and killed three younger girls later:

Regarding this incident, I think that a lot of the frustration in
Mennonite circles over the past years has been that there has never been
an opportunity to locate or confront the offender...it's always been an
unsolved mystery, so it's hard to just move on.  If this guy this week
really was the one, again there's no way to do the typically Mennonite
things because he's dead.


Here's another example of a Mennonite response to events.  Soon after the
terrorist attacks in September last year, two men from our congregation
put together a story and song, a dream for a "third way" that Mennonites
and others can respond, instead of adopting the societal responses that
blitzed the media.  Their idea has been to appeal to teenagers through a
CD and live storytelling, encouraging them to learn Arabic and develop
friendships with teens in the Middle East and to think outside the
political tendencies of retaliation.  Some websites about this (including
the complete text) are:

One of these men, John Paul Lederach, is a big player in international
conflict negotiations and peacebuilding, and for years he has been a
driving force behind a master's degree program in Conflict Transformation
and a Summer Peacebuilding Institute at one of our Mennonite universities:

Meanwhile, back in September, I did my own web essay about extremism and
finding unconventional solutions to things, and I shared it with these two
and with other friends and family (mostly Mennonites, though this essay
may have made some rounds outside that, I don't know).  It draws together
Bach, baseball, chaos theory, physics, and history.  I'm just as critical
of "anyone who sees swift and forceful retaliation as the only possible
solution" as I deplore the terrorists: it's to me two sides of the SAME
problem, and that problem is a binary way of thinking about issues.
There are always "third way" alternatives if people can have the
reflection and the presence of mind to think of them.

Looking back at that essay now I think, yes, I've been well trained to
think in those ways growing up as a Mennonite.  :)  To abhor violent
actions and reactions, and to step off everybody else's path to try to
find more suitable responses and understanding, from a position of some
separation.  I suspect I've also been conditioned to think like that by
listening to Glenn Gould for 20+ years....


I apologize that most of this posting hasn't been about Gould much yet.
I think that Gould would have thought along these lines, however.  He was
the type who looked for unconventional ways to respond to things: his
musical interpretations, his non-musical projects that he took on, and the
lifestyle he chose for himself.

As Gould admonished us in his composition "So you want to write a fugue?",
"Never be clever for the sake of being clever, for the sake of showing
off!"  Being different has to come from personal convictions, from a
personal sense of integrity.  That is why (in Gould's way of thinking) an
artist should be outside mainstream expectations: to have a valid thing to
say from a position of observation.  That's why Gould was attracted to do
a documentary about Mennonites, resonating with that idea of separation,
and finding creative "third ways" to opt out of the norms.

Bradley Lehman, Dayton VA
home: http://i.am/bpl  or  http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl
CD's: http://listen.to/bpl or http://www.mp3.com/bpl

"Music must cause fire to flare up from the spirit - and not only sparks
from the clavier...." - Alfred Cortot