May 12, 2004

Hearts and Minds

Allow me to get political on your asses if only for a moment...

It should come as no surprise to anyone who's read me for any amount of time that I'm a flaming liberal. That's not to say, however, that I'm blinded by the light from said flames. For instance, I don't believe Dubya is evil. I just think he's completely incompetent. I don't believe Rumsfeld should get fired. I think he should resign. And I don't think the United States should pull out of Iraq. We're responsible for creating this mess so its our duty to clean it up. See? How irrational is that?

The problem, as I see it, has two faces. First, violence is clearly getting worse. April was the bloodiest month in the entirety of the conflict (whether or not Dubya thinks 'major combat operations' are over). Combined with the evidence of prisoner abuse and the resulting threat to Americans in Iraq, its obvious that this administration has no control over the situation and no clear game plan. Second, there have been few instances in which we're actually winning this supposed 'battle for hearts and minds' everyone seems concerned with. We haven't for a second stepped back and asked the question, 'why do they hate us?' Until we start answering that question and coming up with ways to fix those problems, its hopeless.

Sure, we can send in as many soldiers as it takes. But it only takes one kid with explosives strapped to him to start the vicious cycle of violence again. And on our side? It only takes a few prison guards and a camera to undermine any of the good we might have done.

Look, here's where I'm coming from with this and I don't want to offend anyone. Imagine, if you will, the last time someone really pissed you off. Were you on the highway, getting cut off by some idiot? How bout the last time something inspired you to punch a wall, kick a chair? Something at work, maybe? Get passed up for a promotion or had a client that yelled at you? Now, imagine what it would take for you to get so filled with anger that you'd decapitate someone, on camera, and parade around with his head. Whether its a rational reaction or not (and I'm going with not, by the way) that's the kind of hatred we're filling people with. We need to find out why.

Posted by Chris at May 12, 2004 8:52 AM

I think that reminding ourselves of how we personally experience hatred, on a much smaller scale, is right on target. The first impulse always, when we hear of the tremendous pain and damage caused by hatred, is to try to distance ourselves from it and try to convince ourselves that the haters are somehow less human, are totally not like us--much less us. Here's a quote I found recently that I used in a similar context:
"I had someone buy me the New York Times on Sunday so I could look at the result of people blaming others. In Yugoslavia, there's a very painful situation. ... If you asked someone on either side what they wanted, they would say they just want to be happy. ... They see the others as enemies and they think the only way to be happy is to eradicate the source of their misery. We all think this way. And then if you talked to the other side, they would say that they want the same thing. [...] The point is that if we think there is any difference between how we relate with the people who irritate us and the situation in Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia, the Middle East, or Somalia, we're wrong."--Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are

Posted by: jilbur at May 12, 2004 9:07 AM

I tried to comment on this but I got a bit out of hand =/ So I'll sum it up - this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and with the elections rounding the corner and a new bunch of people taking over (God I hope) things are going to get worse before they get better (again...God I hope they get better!) This is a Holy War to the Arabs and that my friend is something American's will never be able to grasp, at least not the complexity of what all it involves.

Posted by: kimberlee at May 12, 2004 9:47 AM

The problem with asking the question: "Why do they hate us?" is that there is not a rational answer. If we can verbalize the irrational answer it would take generations to be able to fix it.

The only hope we have of taming the violence is to raise the standard of living and education of the people there. In order to do that you must create stability, which creates an endless repeat of only incremental improvements.

If you study the history of extremist sects of Islam (as I have) you realize there is one fundamental problem. The whole basis for their version of Islam is torture, murder, and death. They are taught that murder and torture is just part of life, that pain is holy. Why do you think people are willing to blow themselves up? How can you teach an adult that the only point of view they have ever known or been taught is wrong?

The problem with the conflict in the Middle East (all of it) is that it does not have a rational basis. When we are coming from a civilized nation and are trying to act civilized in the chaotic vacuum that is created in war and terrorism, we look like idiots. We are trying to fight by rules that only we are following and most of the time that means you are going to lose (think about how America won its freedom, by not playing by the British rules of engagement).

Since Isreal took the gloves off and stopped playing the game by everyone elses rules, the level of suicide bombing and violence in Isreal has declined. War is not pretty. Read social contract theorists... Roussou states that life before the creation of society was brutish and short. Violence begets violence. Torture, murder, etc is generations old in the Middle East. We are not going to change that overnight nor in five years time.

I think it sucks ass that there are American's getting beheaded, soldiers getting killed, prisoners getting tortured. But that is the nature of war, things get way out of hand. We just have to hope for the miracle that gets them back under some symbolance of control again.

Posted by: goodsnake at May 12, 2004 9:49 AM

thank you for this post chris. it's exactly how i have felt since 9-11. don't we care to find out why people would be driven to do this to us so we can do something about it? it's not that they're insane or evil (not that i don't hate them or what they did), but there are conditions that lead people to believe that this what they need to do. and just this morning when i was watching the news about the american decapitated all i could think is it's getting worse because we never bothered to try to find out why.

Posted by: laura at May 12, 2004 9:50 AM

I'm glad there's another liberal out there who's not content to simply follow the herd and does think for himself. I agree with you completely. BUT, please anything to get GW out of office at the end of this year.

Posted by: HR Lady at May 12, 2004 9:54 AM

I like to hear your opinions on things that go on in the world, because I can tell that they're coming from someone who truly wants to see them get better.

Goodsnake had an interesting response, about their country and religion not reacting to things in a civilized manner. But what exactly is civilized? To us in the U.S. it means one thing, and to them it means something else completely. It's all relative, depending on our culture -- of course they're going to think that what they do is justified, while we're going to think completely opposite.

I'm not excusing anything that's been happening over there, because morals are still morals and right is right. Like you said, it's not a rational reaction on their part but "...that's the kind of hatred we're filling people with. We need to find out why." Well said, and very true.

Posted by: Zandria at May 12, 2004 12:04 PM

I think that was really well put Chris. I consider myself to be a liberal and you spoke very well for me. :)

Posted by: Carla at May 12, 2004 12:50 PM

Hey you -- get out of my brain!
Very well put.

Posted by: Martha at May 12, 2004 12:55 PM

i think we should give the world a coke and a smile. it's our duty as americans.

Posted by: tj at May 12, 2004 2:29 PM

Oh Chris, Thank you. I was so distubed when I heard of the you-know-what-ing this morning. Those of us who live outside the United States cannot seem to make any sort of comment about American foreign policy, the war, Bush, etc., without being skewered and crispy-fried by Americans so defensive, so deranged with "Ra! Ra!" mentality that they reinforce our point by their expressions of outrage, so having YOU say it, an American living in the US - in DC, too - well, that's a bit of a comfort. Because no matter *what* people say against you for your opinion, the defensiveness & bias is so much strongerto us "on the outside."

I am an educated woman. I grew up in Canada, a largely peacekeeping nation (for various reasons, one of which is that we tend to stay out of things that really are not our business), but I lived in the Heartland of the USA for most of my 18 to 25th years. I love America. I am an American citizen by birth, through my father. I love Kansas City. I loved living in the US. I love Americans. But never, never, ever in my life have I come across a people so ignorant of the world, so inbred with propaganda, or so ethnocentric as Americans. And I'm not alone; an American post-9/11 study recommended that Americans learn more about the world that they live in. The researchers observed that the "Why do they hate us?" question should not have been so profound, that Americans should know about the world that they live in, not just their American world (At one time Michael Moore linked to this study on his site).

Once when I was bothered by music review at my (US) colleges paper which held ignorant statements about things non-American, I wrote a letter to the editor expressing my outrage (the writer implied that non-Americans do not contribute anything meaningful to the American way of life). Later, I was congratulated by many, many, foreign students and minority students, but my American friends and educated school faculty - even close friends - said they didn't understand what that was all about. They didn't get it. At all. They did not see America or Americans the way that the rest of us did. For the most part this didn't seem to be their fault. The American media and the US business world promotes all things American and virtually nothing else. My US-citizen-and-resident brother had find out that a very big name in Canadian politics, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, had died when he spoke to my mother on the phone. Nothing non-American matters. Nothing.

I'm ranting and not making too much of a point except to say that you should keep pushing and asking questions, and you should ask others to ask questions, too. I'm certain this national self-centeredness is not good for America, for its people, nor for the rest of the earth.

Posted by: Shiz at May 12, 2004 7:00 PM

an illegitimate goverment prosecutes
an illegitimate war--
did we expect our forces
to teach the world to sing
in perfect harmony?

i think i did...

Posted by: stacy at May 12, 2004 8:26 PM

Sometimes, all of this crap makes me want to pack up my bags and move to some remote little island in the middle of nowhere.

Posted by: Nicole at May 12, 2004 9:46 PM

Right on. At risk of sounding redundant, you have spoken quite well for me ..... and not wanting to sound like an idiot with malformed opinion, for I am a recovering Reaganomics Republican, really.

Hope you and Beth are well! Drop a line soon if you can!

Posted by: Kymmie at May 12, 2004 9:54 PM

If this country thought like you people during World War II, we'd be speaking German right now!
In fact, this country DID think like you liberals, until someone attacked our country.
Didn't you learn from Pearl Harbor or 9-11? Freedom comes at a high Price. WE just can't sit around and let countries bully other countries around in the name of religion, or society, or economy, or terrorism, or anything else. If this country would just support our troops over there instead of hindering them with politics, this would be over sooner than later. And, just think for one moment. If John Kerry (or someone like him) had won the presidency in 1940, Pearl Harbor would have happened, and we would have done nothing about it. Another thought, How many Americans died so that you could have your freedoms and how many died so that Europe could have their freedoms? Doesn't Iraq deserve their freedoms too?

Posted by: Lee at May 12, 2004 11:23 PM

Ps....I DO appreciate hearing everyones opinion, I just love to, just ask Kymmie!

Posted by: Lee at May 13, 2004 2:31 AM

Ok in lieu of sounding completely rediculous i have something along a different note..
Now for me here its thursday now.
id like to test the shallow waters!

Chris .. please tell me if i did this right:
(i know they are meant to be themed but im testing)
This is my first 'Ku
Be gentle with my fat ass
dont like crack pounding

Posted by: fluffy at May 13, 2004 6:19 AM

Lee -

If we are on a humanitairan mission in Iraq, do you suggest that we invade countries like Myanmar, to free people there from their ruling junta?

What about the Chinese? They continue to carry out genocide on the Tibetans. Obviously, China is too large to invade, but we certainly don't need to reward them with trade benefits.

But of course, we aren't there to give Iraqis freedom, nor is this a liberation mission.

I think we need to get the hell out of the Middle East and stop meddling in their affairs. I also think we back Israel far too often. I know I sound like an isolationist, but I think we have enough problems here in America to fix before we go forcibly trying to fix every other country.

And Iraq didn't attack us on 9/11, remember. If we are going to continue any mission, let's focus on dismantling terrorist organizations, and figure out why thousands of young boys join jihad training camps when they are young. This is what needs to be stopped.

Posted by: dawn at May 14, 2004 1:14 AM

i want to puke...chirstian....hmm..liberal...where i stand? who can't wait to die?

Posted by: harmony welshingfergonsinze at September 29, 2004 5:33 PM