Since reading “The Politics of God” a few weeks ago and now with another anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001 soon upon us, another “anniversary special” delivered by Osama bin Laden & Company, the upcoming report of General David Petraeus, and this ill-conceived, ill-managed, ill-fated mess we have committed ourselves to in Iraq (and Afghanistan – anyone remember Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden actually was at the time?), I have found myself wondering whether we don’t need to find a new vocabulary for talking about the struggle in which we are engaged. On various levels it’s about terrorism and the freedom to go about our lives without feeling under constant threat, about what we (and our govenment, putatively on our behalf) have done around the world and the consequences of those actions, about democratic freedoms and the loss of our civil liberties presumably in the defense of those freedoms, about “our way of life” and theirs, about “us” and “them.”
Not that we have to agree with, or share, their world view, but if we don’t at least understand what informs the thinking of those we call “enemy,” how can we ever expect to achieve or maintain anything other than a balance of terror? And for all this, what is even more disturbing is that both sides are using the language of political theology, of competing revelations and dogma to justify their actions. In that, even a balance of terror seems too much to hope for.
One of the things I have done (on a vastly smaller and less important scale) from time to time in my own professional life, the organizations I have served, and the challenges I have faced, is asked the question, “How can I change the equation? How can I change the terms of debate?” We keep banging our heads against this particular brick wall in the hope that we will be satisfied because it feels good when we stop, but that’s only more of the same.
How do we get ourselves out of this nasty mess?
Note: I know people who have served and are serving in Iraq and elsewhere in our armed services. I have taken the same oath they have taken, and I have the deepest respect for their willingness to serve their country, so don’t even start with me about how we have to see this through to “honor” them, or especially those who have been injured or killed. I’m not buying it and, while I’m willing to have reasonable conversation about issues, including difficult ones, I am not taking anyone’s BS about “not supporting our troops,” “giving in to terrorists,” “cutting and running” or not being “patriotic” on this issue. Just so you know.
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