Monday, May 14, 2007

The Myth of the Monolith

As many observers have noted many times in the world’s history, one of the most powerful ideas that can be invoked to generate a patriotic response from any people is that of the “enemy”. The specter of the boogeyman lurking just around the next dark corner is enough to send us huddling together under the protection of our armies and persuade us humans to shoot at one another with great abandon.

To that end, extremists of an Islamic bent have labeled American soldiers as “crusader soldiers”. To that end the hawkish leaders of America, politicians and evangelicals alike, have labeled the fringe militants of Islam as “Muslim terrorists”. To that end, American airwaves constantly carry stories of the threats and atrocities carried out by Al Quaeda, which is characterized as the evil brainchild of Osama bin Laden, who from the caves of Afghanistan masterminds plot after plot designed to bring America to its knees.

Al Quaeda, many still believe, was always in cahoots with Saddam Hussein in these plots to destroy us. Al Quaeda, we are told, has arisen in Iraq in an attempt to take over the governance of that nation and wage war against us from that stronghold of Muslim terrorism. The boogeyman lurks in Iraq.

From the bombardment we receive on the subject through our politicians and news media, you would think that Al Quaeda was a bloc of Muslim terrorists banded together around the world hating Americans because we are free, following the dictates of their leader bin Laden in attack after attack on our women and children, torturers and murderers and evil-loving hatemongers who must be stopped in the name of democracy.

To be sure, Al Qaueda is not America’s friend, but to a great extent neither is America itself. We are our own worst enemy. We would rather listen to the scary stories about the evil that is out to get us than to clean up our own act in hope that the rest of the world might think more kindly of us.

We would rather worship the efforts of “America’s finest” to “preserve our freedom” than question our leaders as to whether or not those efforts are well placed. We would rather sing the praises of the democratic way of life than examine the effects of our actions on the lives of others.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush visited Jamestown, America’s first settlement of Englishmen and women, where he talked of their efforts to establish “the roots of democracy”. He spoke of a proud heritage of freedom and liberty for all. He spoke of the rights ownership they established that gave Americans the ability to advance themselves, each in accord with his own abilities, but all under the umbrella of a state protective of their rights. He alluded to Iraq and the efforts to establish democracy there in the same vein.

I heard his words, but humming beneath them was the song of the oppressed. Yes, Jamestown provided Englishmen with the ability to claim land for their own – but only at the expense of the native peoples who had a different concept of land ownership and management. Yes, those Englishmen were able to work “their” land, but only through the use of slaves were they able to manage the job and expand so successfully. Yes, he claims to be advancing the cause of democracy in Iraq, but only through the use of outlandish force, the destruction of established infrastructure, and the displacement of millions of people.

In the end, it comes down to a classic debate: Does the end justify the means? When the means are as destructive as the annihilation of native peoples, the deaths of thousands upon thousands of innocent people, and the displacement of thousands upon thousands of individuals, America’s history shows that we have consistently believed that the ends do justify the means. But isn’t it about time that we questioned that premise?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. – M.K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored. But
in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

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