Friday, May 14, 2004

"us" vs. "them"

I don't even know where to begin to describe my feelings about the ruthless beheading of a seemingly innocent person in Iraq. It just seems like more and more people are caught in the crossfire of the so-called war on terror. I feel terrorized from all sides. Saddened. Deeply, deeply grieving the death of not only the physical body but the spirit of common goodness. Grieving for the tortured victims and their horribly misguided torturers on both sides. Because what sort of evil presence in a life would convince someone to partake in any of this, really?

And so many people want to blame the "other side" - whichever side conveniently falls to other. "They" are animals. "They" are liars. "They" are criminals. "They" are terrorists. If "they" hadn't sent/given reason for "us" to be there, "they"/"we" wouldn't be in this position.

And while all of this blame and rhetoric is being passed around people are being tortured, people are dying, people are living in fear and abject poverty, people are being murdered.

I was reading a small victory yesterday, even though I promised myself I wouldn't do that anymore. And I ran across a comment from the lone leftie who still tries to post there. He said something that I've been thinking and I've tried to articulate, but I've never done a very good job. He said:

What I implied— and I stand by this —is that rage and sadness are no excuse for imprecision, especially on a subject as important as this is. Because, I'm fairly certain, you're wrong about all terrorists, even terrorists in Iraq, being "the worst kind of human being from top to bottom." Some of these people, like you, are reacting to rage and sadness. And not the rage and sadness of seeing someone they don't know murdered over a grainy internet feed; the rage and sadness of seeing their entire family killed by a bomb that dropped out of a U.S. airplane.

I don't think that excuses terrorism. I don't think that fact allows for beheadings or torture or murder on either side. I do think it's something we must think about and figure out how to incorporate into our policies and strategies for diplomacy and communication.

For me, the question is what causes the rage and sadness? What causes people to feel so much rage and so much sadness that they would do unspeakable acts because of it?

Is it George Bush? Nah. He's pretty horrifyingly anger-inducing, but he's not responsible. Last night, I was listening to a radio show in which the DJ was talking about the possibility that "the terrorists" might attempt to "influence our election the way they did in Spain." And I thought about that. I thought - which candidates would the terrorists want me to vote for? Do you think the terrorists would hate Kerry LESS than Bush? Seriously? Do you think Kerry is going to end the war on terror? And, if he does, do you think he's going to do it quietly and without actions that might precipitate more rage and sadness?

The thing is that we can't demonize the enemy. We can't make them out to be less then human, because you can't solve a human problem by excluding humanity from the equation. Because the war on terror is not a mythical battle of good and evil. Because, I'm sorry, but "good" and "evil" don't really exist exclusively within any single individual or any group of people...and arguing who is "right" and who is "wrong" hasn't gotten us anywhere.

My mind races and buzzes. I don't have a solution. I'm so fucking mad because I don't know the answers. I just know that it's not helping anyone to divide the world into "us" vs. "them" and set about to eliminate "them." Because some of "us" ARE "them."

Agh...I don't even know if I'm expressing this clearly. My feelings are all jumbled up. I just had a very visceral reaction to the audio description of the beheading of Nick Berg. I grieve for his family - his mother, who heard the news so close to mother's day. I, too, feel despair. Despair. And it saddens me deeply to read of how this has fueled even more hatred, and even more calls for retaliation. Because it does go on and on, doesn't it? And, as long as we keep throwing up barriers between "us" and "them," I can't imagine that it's ever EVER going to stop.

[cross-posted on my blog]

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