Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Put Down the Stone

"Revenge... is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion."
----Albert Schweitzer

For the psychologist:
Becoming Evil

For the neuroscientist, and all you amygdala fans:
Why We Hate

For the sociologist:
American Mania

For the historian:

Now in this online age we see pictures of the dead and dying in Lebanon and Iraq, of babies decapitated and children maimed, and at first we hitch in our breath and make noises of horror. That will soon pass. The human brain has a wonderful capacity to absorb and normalize horror, and eventually consign it to the "unfortunate but necesary" category. When the impact of those pictures fade, those among us determined to make and excuse war will have no qualms. This is how the mind works.

But the people who actually live through those horrors, the ones who saw the bombs destroy their homes and their loved ones, they, too, will have no qualms. They will want revenge. The kids in those pictures did nothing to earn what we and our allies have done to them; it might be they would have grown up to seek solutions to the never-ending death spiral we have all become complicit in. But now, thanks to our policies and our actions, those who survive, as well as their brothers and sisters, are very likely to become the thing we most fear and hate when they get older.

If war was truly a solution, we would have had peace for lo, these many millenia. In fact, it only reproduces itself, thanks to the sperm of vengeance and the egg of memory. Every “defensive attack” in Lebanon that murders civilians and indiscriminately destroys lives makes more enemies for us, for Israel. Every bombing raid in Iraq. and every flattened door and every family cringing before American soldiers searching blindly for weapons and insurgents, makes more hatred that we, sitting back here in our coccon of safe distance, will remain clueless about when those we have taught to hate us attack us next.

No, our ostensible "values" are not those of human rights, despite our leaders attempts to hide behind that phrase to wage war when the excuse of self-defense no longer holds up. Yes, if we truly believed in the Christian values Bush espouses, we would have intervened in Cambodia, the Congo, Darfur, Armenia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe—
we would have cracked down on arms dealers around the world and halted U.S. trade in weapons—
we would have remained engaged in the peace process after Clinton left office rather than hoping Sharon would wipe out the Palestinian people with our funding—
we would have never propped up Saddam with money, weapons, and biological weaponry, and assurances we would not intervene if he invaded Kuwait—
we would have never shaken hands with Islam Karamov and hailed him as our buddy while he boiled men alive—
we would have never removed a democratically elected president and inserted a torturing dictator in Iran—
we would have never propped up a torturing dictator in Egypt—
we would have never propped up a torturing dictator in Pakistan—
we would have maintained a foreign policy grounded in the seeking of peaceful solutions , even-handed and restrained diplomacy, and justice for all parties, rather than goading the American public to excuses for violence by racist appeals to their xenophobia and blatant scare tactics.

Whatever blowback we experience from the Iraq war and our policies (going back more than a century) toward the Mideast was and is easily foretold. We helped make this mess happen. So did Britain. So did Israel. That doesn’t mean Islamic countries are not without sin. It means there is plenty to go around. None of us in this world has the right to throw the first stone, but any of us can be the first to put it down, and help lead the way out of this cavern of hate. And until we recognize our own complicity, acknowledge it, and begin to seek non-violent solutions, we will only see more death and misery.

War is not an answer…it’s the despairing death rattle of the ignorant and helpless.

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