Tuesday, September 12, 2006

How Do We Make Peace?

How Do We Make Peace?
How Do We Make a Better World?

I’ve been reading over the transcript of President Bush’s 9-11 nationally televised speech. I keep thinking: what brilliant propaganda it all is. It weaves a world view and advances theories as if, as if, it was presenting a truth about the nature of terrorism, the behavior of terrorists, the realities of the Middle East. It advances goofy ideas as truth.

The reality outlined in Bush’s speech would have us believe that followers of Hesbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaida are all terrorist brothers, all seeking the same ends, and, that the teenager that blows herself up in a Televiv market does so to advance the same purpose as the 9-11 hijackers sought to advance. This reality would have us believe that the sectarian war in Iraq is a means for the USA to pin down the terrorists overseas so that these terrorists will not be able to attack us here at home. Wow. The misconceptions, the false premises really are breathtaking.

Sometimes, when teaching math, I could almost begin to see the muddle in a student’s thinking. And sometimes I would understand how my well meaning teaching approach had actually contributed to the muddle. What the Republicans are hoping, it seems to me, is actually to produce muddle in voters’ thinking. The Republicans, it seems to me, hope to develop a clear and convincing story line that somehow justifies the Iraq war, and that connects the purpose of pursuing the Iraq war to the greatest generations’ purpose of pursuing WW2. The appeal is that, just as WW2 was justified, this war is justified. The Republicans have created a simplistic story, one that is incredible, and not helpful in educating the public about this important world situation of terrorism, one that greatly impacts public policy. I expect this Republican story to be repeated by Republican candidates nationwide. What is important to note, of course, is that this Republican story is not meant to truly inform or educate the public concerning complex issues. The story has a quite different purpose. The purpose of the story simply is to elect Republicans.

Donald Rumsfeld recently fed into this story in a speech in which he conflated terrorists with Nazis. He would probably conflate terrorists with Darth Vadar, and all those on the Star Wars dark side in their Nazi looking uniforms, if he could, but, in this developing Republican story line, the Darth stand-in apparently is Osama bin Laden. I read that Bush mentioned Osama’s name seventeen times in just one of his terrorism speeches immediately preceding his 9-11 speech. I imagine that Osama is happy to get the attention, and I can imagine that the attention greatly helps his recruitment drive.

Pres. Bush, in his speech said: “September the 11th, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores; whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states.” And so,according to the Republican story, the Iraq war was inevitable after the 9-11 attacks. And so, the story goes, fighting terrorism, by taking a military fight to them, was a bold but necessary and tough decision, and thank heavens that there was a strong Republican in charge to make that tough decision, because, after all, the Democrats cannot be counted upon to be strong.

The Republican story about terrorism that I am briefly outlining really is sickening in its goal to manipulate public opinion through misinformation. But, regardless of how twisted, the deep background questions that the Republican story seems to attempt to answer are valuable questions, regardless. It seems to me, the Republicans are presenting an answer to important questions: How do we make peace? How do we create a better world? And it seems to me that Democrats must attempt to answer the same questions.

The Republicans are saying that their actions in Iraq have a long term purpose -- creating a more peaceful and better world. The sacrifice of tens of thousands of lives and the spending of hundreds of billions of dollars to pursue the Iraq war, according to Pres. Bush, is ultimately to create more peace, freedom and prosperity in the world. I don’t agree that the Republican answers to these questions make sense, because their answers, to me, seem ungrounded in reality and seem more primed to maintain Republican power, rather than finding true solutions. Their answers, to me, in fact, seem destined to simply create more problems.

The Republicans, in their terrorist policy and in their Iraq war, at least are pretending to advance ideas that purport to show a means of attaining a positive vision of the future. The Democrats, it seems to me, must respond. The Democrats must explain how the Republican ideas -- because they are not based on reality -- are flawed, and the Democrats must come up authentic ideas of how a positive future can be attained.

What is lacking is insight and wisdom and honest evaluation. Can our political system rise to the challenge and produce the kind of dialogue, analysis and participation that our country needs? What is the truth about terrorism? Why did 19 Muslim men, mature and educated, determine to take their own lives in the horrendous 9-11 hijackings. Do we know? Somehow the explanation of their motivation as, “They hate our freedom,” doesn’t ring true to me.

Islamic terrorists are not aliens from outer space determined to ruin our “way of life.” They are fellow human beings who have arrived at ruinous and tragic decisions by using the same human faculties and human emotions that we all use. Can we dare try to understand what is behind a terrorist’s resolve for self destruction? Can we dare to think or try to understand how life experiences, environment, family and cultural history could bring humans to such life destructive choices? Could we dare to attempt to see ourselves in the terrorist’s place?

The impulse to label the terrorists as Nazis is an impulse to label fellow humans as somehow so evil as to be outside the pale of what is human, not deserving of understanding, only deserving of war. But the Nazis were Godless and were guided by the lunatic ideas of Adolph Hitler. The basis for Muslim thinking and Muslim devotion is vastly different and much more in common with our own thinking than the thinking of Nazis ever could have been. Wouldn’t some dedication to truth, to insight, to wisdom be a good start to solving the problem of terrorism in our world?

The fear, I imagine, of many Democrat politicians is that insight and truth about terrorism, about the Palestinian problem, or about the Middle East, in general, may end up sounding wimp like or sounding anti-Israel. I imagine that the fear of many Democrat politicians is that the Republican media machine will seek to destroy, via outrageous lies and distortions, anyone that speaks truth that disputes the Republican terrorism story line.

The Democrats need to make a commitment to truth, not, as the Republicans, simply to make a commitment to do whatever is needed to get elected. Voters, I believe, will reward Democrats who seek office -- if they have the courage and insight to articulate their own vision, their own story, based upon truth, that answers the same questions that the Republicans purport to answer: How do we make peace? How do we create a better world?

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