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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Using Zootopia To Understand The Middle East

The movie Zootopia is a movie about an imaginary city where all kinds of animals, both predators and prey, live together in peace. However, a few of the prey hatched a plot where they secretly injected  individual predators with a chemical that reverted them to their savage form and had that savagery blamed on nature. The intended result of the plot was that those animals involved in the plot could sieze greater power for both themselves and others like them by causing the animal society there to be afraid of all predators based on the actions of a few.

What makes the plot plausbile for the American audience is that the savage behavior forced onto the targeted predators was caused by a drug injection. This is an important point because many Americans would not consider abusive treatment to be a plausible cause of savagery. There is something about our rugged individualism that says abuse does not cause one to be vicious to others. That regardless of how we have been treated, we alone are guilty if we partially or fully do unto others what others have done unto us.

Perhaps, this is why we have the current situation that we have in the Middle East. We look at Palestinian militants and Islamic extremists as being savage and rightly so. But we attribute that savagery solely to their nature or religion or whatever other factor that distinguishes them from us so that the actions of some cause us to be afraid of all. Thus, when it comes to Palestinian terrorism, we do not consider the conditions in which they are forced to live to be a significant factor in their behavior. And so we blame them, and correctly so to a degree, for their actions. 

The same goes with Al-Qaeda and ISIS, though the difference in the reasn for the forming of the two groups is significant. Those who formed the core of Al-Qaeda were not first attacked by us. In fact, we once supported the then future Al-Qaeda members when they were practicing their terrorism on the people of Afghanistan in an effort to overthrow the Soviet backed government there. That occurred during the 1980s. ISIS however formed in the aftermath of our invasion of Iraq. In fact, the leader of ISIS was once a prisoner in an American detention center.

But this practice of blaming groups for their atrocities without reference to the atrocities they had suffered has a limit. That limit is when the blame could be shifted to us. For many of us rationalize the terrorist actions of the IDF and Israel's brutal occupation on Palestinian terrorism while not allowing the Palestinians to return the favor. Likewise, many of us have justified our invasion and past occupation of Iraq on the atrocities visited on us on the 9-11 atrocities while not allowing groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS to blame their actions on our past and present foreign policies.

The end effect is this, while we give ourselves permission to wantonly strike back out of fear, we become judge, jury, and executioner to those who would do the same to us. And such an approach, both in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and our war in the Middle  can only guarantee at least one of two results: an endless war and/or moral suicide being committed by those who seek to win with overwhelming violence.

Certainly, some conservatives would cite me for committing moral equvilancy here. For how could anyone compare the violence committed by our side, whether that be Israel's use of force against the Palestinians or us as we attack in the Middle East with the violence committed by our enemies? Here, the use of labels is important. Because to not judge ourselves by the same standard we use to judge others indicates a moral relavity to which we are blinded by a sense of entitlement. Thus, Israel is permitted to defend themselves from Palestinian terrorism as they see fit, but Palestinians are not recognized as having the same right. In addition, we are allowed to attack and commit acts of terrorism to defend ourselves, but Islamic extremists are not permitted to the same. 

A sense of entitlement that sustains our double standards and moral relativity is based on an assumption of moral supremacy and/or past sufferings. America's sense of entitlement for its own actions is based on the assumption that we are morally superior to our enemies. America's sense of entitlement for Israeli actions are understandably based on 2 millenia of anti-Semitism and extreme suffering. 

Now we could debate the morality of that sense of entitlement if we want, but we should note that while debating that, our current responses in the Middle East and that of Israel's to the Palestinians are only intensifying the cycle of violence.

So from here, we should note the following. Just as the Israeli Occupation and its consequential violence understandably creates a savagery in some of the Palestinian people causing Israelis to fear all Palestinians, so Palestinian terrorism inspires further Palestinian terrorism as Israel brutally responds to that Palestinian attacks. Likewise, as we use a 'sledghammer' approach, as described by Noam Chomsky, in the Middle East by invading, bombing and assassinating, attempting to overthrow governments, and supporting brutal dictators we stoke the fires of anger in enough people in the Middle East so that they strike back. And as they strike back, their atrocities, such as was conducted in the 9-11 attacks, cause us to give into fear of the rest of those from the Middle East and/or Muslims thus we give ourselves permission to strike back without accountability. 

In the end, those who benefit the most from these induced attacks are politicians who can use fear to garner and consolidate more power and arms dealers and manufacturers. They are the only ones who have a stake maintaining the status quo. And we allow them to continue to do so at our own peril.

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