By Mark Lipman
This may be uncomfortable to hear, however, if we truly want to solve the problem of terrorism, we have no choice than to reflect honestly about the facts and root causes that have brought it about. To end terrorism, there must be a process of recognizing the actions that are responsible for it, so that we can arrive at a place of reconciliation, where those motivating forces of anger, fear and hatred no longer control and decide the direction we take as an entire species.
Today, in the aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, with the renewed debate of terrorism taking hold of our political theatre, it is now more urgent to confront this issue than ever, for in its wake, we as a people have one of two directions with which we can go. Either one of more danger, insecurity and intolerance, where we rush into cutting even more civil liberties and enhancing the security state – the same course that has led us over the past 12 years to a world that is less safe and less stable; or we can take this as an opportunity to look at where we as a people have fallen off course, and repair the system that has led us to where we are today.
Right now, at this very moment in time, calls are rising up to treat an American citizen – accused of a horrific crime – on U.S. soil, as an enemy combatant – to strip away his civil liberties and prosecute him in a military tribunal, outside of the transparency of our established judicial process.
There are those who say that this person – because of the acts committed, because of the seemingly over-whelming evidence of guilt – does not deserve due process of law – that he falls into a special category.
Oh, but what a slippery slope this course puts us on.
It is urgent, now more than ever, to detach ourselves from the raw emotions of the moment and think deeply about the consequences to which we are leading ourselves. It is not about a single individual, but rather about who we are as a people. By setting the precedent of stripping the civil rights away from one person – regardless of how terrible the actions and accusations may be – we open the door for policy that allows the government to justify the taking of civil rights away from all of us.
At this moment, in Massachusetts, legislators are calling to re-instate the death penalty for “certain types of crimes,” which includes the murder of police officers and government officials. While on the surface this argument can be manipulated to sound like common sense, should it not be pointed out that any such law enacted would be in clear violation of our Constitution, and the 14th Amendment, in which it clearly states, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.”?
Should we not remind ourselves that the Constitution, and the Amendments made to it, was written to protect the people and citizenry from the abuses of power by the government, and not the other way around? By calling for laws that create a tiered system of citizenry, where those employed by the government are above those of common status, it undermines the entire framework of who we are as a people and nation, and is patently un-American.
Instead of using an act of terror as the justification to change who we are, should we not examine what led to that act in the first place, to prevent such a thing from happening again?
There is no condoning the acts of violence. The murder and maiming of innocent people is deplorable and has no justification. Yet, as intelligent, moral beings with the capacity of thought, are we not capable of understanding the motives and root causes of those actions, to change what creates these types of acts.
An important question that must be asked is that if the murder of innocent civilians – women and children – by bombs and other devices is a horrible, unacceptable crime here on our streets, is it not also a horrible, unacceptable crime when that bomb explodes on the streets of another country in the form of a military drone strike, killing innocent women and children?
Is not the horror, loss and pain the same for those human beings, as it is for us here at home? Are we not capable of understanding and feeling their pain as well?
In recent days, we have seen attacks here at home of terrible proportions. Violent crime is worse than it has ever been, and increasingly it has been perpetrated by those who are barely out of their teens. What is it that is leading the youth of our nation to commit such actions? What the politicians say is that it is related to mental health issues. To this I must agree.
Let us consider that those who are lashing out the most violently were mere children and babies 12 years ago, on 9-11. Due to the direction in which we were led, and were silently complicit to, the only world they have known is one of war and violence, one of fear and intolerance. Would it not only make sense that we have an entire generation of youth suffering from post-traumatic stress?
The real danger that we face today is that if we, as a nation, do not seriously address this situation, by accepting the fact that we have been on the wrong course, for over a generation and more – that war has only made this world a more dangerous place – that our only option, for our children and their futures, is to end this permanent state of war in which we have been living.
For too long, we have been pointing at an individual, at a group, and saying to ourselves that “they” did this to us – that “they” hate our freedom. No one hates freedom. The very idea is ridiculous. People, all people, cherish freedom. What we as human beings hate is slavery and oppression.
The only ones – the only ones – who would ever hate freedom, are the masters at the very top, who enslave the rest of us. It is they, who are the real terrorists, who are dividing us on lines of race, religion and status, of gender and belief – arming all sides – using every opportunity to tighten our belts, while they keep getting fatter. It is they, who have gutted our economy and infrastructure with war and greed. It is they, the major corporations, the arms traders and manufacturers, the banking CEOs and oil executives, who buy off the politicians and policy makers that write the laws, sending our military into foreign countries to plunder the resources of this planet, without any respect for the life, liberty, or property of others, who care nothing for the rights and freedom of those they conquer. It is they, who profit off of the suffering of all the people on this planet, and warp the conversation and our public policy towards the very hatred, fear and intolerance that fuels the terrorism that they claim to be fighting against.
This is the truth and the source of how we got to where we are today, and if our true goal is to end terrorism – to provide a planet of peace and stability for our children and future generations, then we need to put our war drums aside and work actively towards addressing those root causes.
The first step towards that is to admit to ourselves that yes, we are imperfect beings – we do make, and continue to make, mistakes and from there to work with purpose to make amends and reconciliation, by showing responsibility for the direction we are on – responsibility for our own actions. In the end, it is not a question about them, but instead a question about us, about who we are, and what we are becoming.
By Mark Lipman