Just Plain Foolish

Just a chance for an old-fashioned, simple storyteller to say what needs to be said.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The enemy

This is something I wrote a few months ago, but felt the need to put up.

Mr. Bush has said that revealing that people have been subject to secret searches without any sort of warrant "helps the Enemy." We are all supposed to know who this means: a shadowy, evil figure, straight out of comic books and nightmares. He (the enemy is always he or they.) has only one goal in mind: destruction. He is always frightening, never redeemable. After all, if the guy intent on world domination instead decided to shave his head and join a group of Tibetan monks, what would Spaceman Spiff do? (Okay, he'd probably run off to play with his tiger in his super-secret "no girls allowed" hideout, but any other superhero would be stuck.)

I am reminded of the "Evil Empire" from my childhood. Everyone knew those Russkies would turn our country into Hell-on-Earth, either a dictatorship or a nuclear wasteland. That was what THEY wanted, right? Well, actually, as it turned out, not really. Most of THEM wanted a job, some music, a pair of jeans or two, some vodka with friends, and maybe a chance to go out for McBurgers. Who knew?

The Enemy is never someone's mother or father, son or daughter. If the Enemy has brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, well, they're probably Enemies, too, or why would they be connected with someone so reprehensible? The Enemy doesn't give or want love, a good-night story, a glass of water, a loaf of bread, or a pinch of salt. The Enemy isn't really a person, so it's okay to hate, okay to hurt, okay even to kill. Certainly, there's nothing wrong with denial of Consitiutional or even basic human rights.

Mr. Bush professes to be a Christian, and I thought for a moment about that this morning when the radio woke me up to loud seasonal wishes and discussion of a gift exchange among the announcers. In my groggy, half-awake mind came the thought, is this what Jesus would want? The record left of what he said and did says unequivocally, that he did not recognize the division into "we" and "they", into "citizen" and "enemy combatant" In a time when Judeans and Samaritans were completely divided, he told stories about Samaritans as human beings, and asked a Samaritan woman to fetch him a drink. He associated with a prostitute. When the whole society wanted to rebel against the Romans, Jesus said to a Roman tax collector, "I must abide at your house today." Roman, Samaritan, Jew, tax collector, prostitute, fisherman, he saw only a common humanity that excluded the possibility of the Enemy.

Perhaps that seems unrealistic. After all, if THEY are out to get us, shouldn't we fight back? My answer is certainly: one fights ignorance with knowlege and wisdom, fear with comfort, poverty with gainful employment, and as Francis of Assisi put it, "Where there is despair, let me bring hope." It wasn't our tanks, guns, and bombs that finally won peace with the Russians, it was words and economics. And words that sound so terribly soft now: detente, understanding, accord.

Part of what disturbs and angers me about this dehumanization is that it spreads far too easily. During the cold war, I was called a number of names for learning Russian. Perhaps because in learning the language, I was learning so many other, very human, things about THEM. During the first round of war with Iraq, in the 1990's, I was called names and shouted at, even once physically intimidated for dressing too much like the Enemy. In summer, my long sleeves and covered head provoked derision. (I'm afraid my pale skin didn't take note of the state of global politics.) In winter, my Russian scarf was assumed to be hijab. I'm sure that the people taunting the "foreigner" didn't expect to hear my Ohio River drawl in answer. Unfortunately, hate doesn't want to find out the facts first.

Who is the Enemy? Are a bunch of peace activists the Enemy? Certainly, the FBI has been "collecting intelligence" on various groups within the United States, including Quaker peace advocates, animal rights organizations, and other similar suspicious groups. In an absolutely hateful statement, a prominent commentator has said that he is happy that the Christian Peacemaker workers were kidnapped in Iraq. How far has the culture of hatred gone? Is my cousin, a Muslim, who likes family gatherings and cheese omelettes, but is afraid of dogs, the Enemy? Perhaps it is her father or brother who is the Enemy? Not mine. I love them all. On the day so often referenced by our president, September 11, 2001, my cousin's first question was for my welfare, and mine was for hers. We are not enemies.

Perhaps I am the enemy? Certainly, I do not support the government's current actions. I do not think that bombing countries into the stone age increases our national security from attack. Instead, it creates scars. Orphans, widows, parents who cry for their lost children, husbands with dead or wounded wives, scarred and wounded civilians, soldiers who have seen Hell. Every one of these is open to despair and despair creates Enemies.


Blogger Lorcan said...

After the events in New York, when the World Trade Center was destroyed, I was asked by the New York Times, if as a Quaker, I believed there was that of God in the Hijackers. "Of course" I said "that of God is not some small spark, we are all completly within God. If we treated the people from whom the Hijackers came with the love and respect that being that of God demands, this would never have happened." I saw a sign in a shop window, in answer to all the "they hate us becauses ( our democracy our success our this our that... ) it simply said, "They hate us because we do not know why they hate us."
Oh wonderful voice within that penned those words and thine.
Thine in the light

5/30/2006 8:30 PM  
Blogger Little Black Car said...

Right again, Lorcan.

I don't know why it does me so much good just to see this in somebody else's words.

From Paula's blog.

6/02/2006 9:24 AM  

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