“Not to yield your soul to the conqueror means that you will refuse to do that which your conscience forbids you to do.”
–Gandhi (Harijan, August 18, 1940)
When Adel Termos went to the open-air market with his daughter in southern Beirut, he did not know that he would be called upon by his conscience to save hundreds of lives. Two suicide bombers were at the market that day. The first one detonated his explosives which sent people running in all directions, leaving others wounded and dead. Amid the chaos, Termos saw the second bomber, and he was near enough to him that he could let go of his daughter’s hand, run and throw himself onto him in an attempt to save those around him. By the time that Termos got him down, the man had already set off his bombs, and both were killed. But many more were saved because of his bravery and self-sacrifice.
An article from a popular American newspaper spoke with Elie Fares a doctor and blogger from Beirut who commented on Termos’ actions, “In a way, Adel Termos broke human nature of self-preservation. His heroism transcended his own life to save others. ” This is, after all, what nonviolence is made of.
But then he added (and this paper was sure to include in the article):
“To make that kind of decision in a split second, to decide that you’d rather save hundreds than to go back home to your family, to decide that the collective lives of those around you are more important than your own is something that I think no one will ever understand.” (Emphasis mine).
When I read that to my colleague, he quipped, with a heavy heart, “It doesn’t fit their narrative of what human beings can do.” We can understand Termos’ actions, easily, when we shift our view of who we are. Of course Termos made that choice. His conscience could have him do nothing else. Most of us, I’m certain, would, if put in the same situation. But our hope is that the more we learn about nonviolence, and the more we seek to change our worldview and human-view, as it were, the less we would need to imagine ourselves in such dire straits. Until then, we must seek to understand why Adel Termos did what he did–and explain it to others until we all do understand what human nature really is.
Experiment in Nonviolence:
We do understand the logic of why someone would sacrifice themselves to save others if they were presented with that choice. Explain it in your own words, backed up by your own, personal experience, if you can.