“We Have Met The Enemy. . .”
The Westboro Baptist Church in the United States has become infamous for its polluted concept of Christianity. This is a congregation that is convinced that they are the only ones who speak with, and for, God and God has ordered them to inflict hate and intolerance on the world.
They protest the funerals of soldiers killed in action. They take delight in the murder of gays, law enforcement officers and just recently announced they would be raising a ruckus at the funerals of some of the victims of the Boston bombing. They are a people of hate who raise their children to be as hateful.
They are the antithesis of everything Christianity is meant to be. They are like radical Islam, dedicated to hatred rather than the teachings of their own scripture.
It made me wonder where people like the folks at Westboro and radical Islamic terrorists come from and how it was possible for so many to pervert a message of love and tolerance into a doctrine of hatred.
And then I took a look around.
If you want to look hatred in the eye, you don’t have to go very far these days. It’s pretty much everywhere. What is particularly striking is how many who are quick to dismiss the obvious hatred of organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church fail to recognize the hate they perpetuate with their comments and attitudes.
In the past month, I have seen unbelievable hate messages against Muslims, conservatives, Democrats, blacks, whites, Christians, Jews and gays. Pejorative labels like faggot, camel-jockey, rag (towel) head, Nazi, fascist, wetback and Zippohead are used to dehumanize those many fear or with whom they disagree. Dehumanizing others is the first step to treating them as less equal than the rest of society.
“I have seen the enemy and it is us.”
Terrorism is the great evil of our time but not because it kills. We have always had those among us who kill; evil people who place no value on the lives of others. Terrorism’s threat is that our fearful response to it destroys who we are and for what we stand.
In Syria, more than sixty thousand “rag heads and camel shaggers” have been killed, many of them innocent men, women and children – families – caught in the crossfire between a brutal, totalitarian regime and rebels now aided by terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and disparate countries like Iran and the United States playing RISK with the lives of others.
In 2011 in Afghanistan, twelve adolescent female “ragheads” were gunned down in their classroom by the Taliban but militant feminists in western societies remained silent. In Pakistan a “rag-head” young girl was shot in the head by Taliban fanatics because she too wanted to go to school.
She survived after receiving medical care in Britain and she remains undeterred. She remains determined to go to school, something we take for granted, and has proven that she is willing to risk her life in order to do it.
Consider that commitment to her values with too many in our own societies these days.
We don’t defend our way of life, our principles and values or our system of justice in the face of terrorism; we pervert it out of fear, anger and hatred just as surely as the Westboro Baptist Church perverts the teachings of the Christ they claim to follow.
Like those religious hypocrites, we have no faith in who we are or confidence in the strength of that in which we claim to believe.
We have seen the enemy but increasingly have failed to realize that the enemy is us.
When we allow ourselves to become what we oppose, we may win the battle but we have already lost the war. We have lost who we are and the values in which we believe. We have conceded that our way of life is too weak to withstand a brutal attack by those who are guided by evil and that the only means we have to combat that evil is to become the same thing.
We start by dehumanizing and stereotyping any who have even the appearance of those we fear.
In a column written in 2012, Ann Coulter wrote: “non-whites are “nitwits who deserve lives of misery and joblessness.” Before dismissing that as just another example of ‘right-wing’ intolerance, she wrote that because she opposed Republican proposals for immigration reform that would make it easier for non-white immigrants to enter the United States.
We refuse to see those we oppose as people, labeling them to make them less than human but in the end, they are little girls trying to go to school; parents trying to protect their children in the horror of war zones and the victims of intolerance directed at them for the sins of others who look like them.
Calling all Muslims ‘towel heads’ and terrorists, isn’t any different than Islamic terrorists labeling all Americans or Canadians evil and instruments of Satan. It is the use of stereotypes to characterize an entire group of people based on their race, their culture, their language, their gender orientation or any other characteristic that may be shared by those we fear.
The terrorists are right about one thing; our societies are weak. We have no faith in our values and are too quick to change who we are in fear and anger. Thousands of men and women have sacrificed their lives defending our constitutions and rights along with the lives of others that were being threatened in faraway places. We now spit on that sacrifice by refusing to honour the very words and principles set out in the documents they died to defend.
We think we honour them with Remembrance and Memorial Day ceremonies but we don’t. We dishonor them by refusing to pick up the standard they carried by living the values and freedoms they died to preserve and bring to others.
Nobody is suggesting that there should not be a real and present defense against those who attack us but there is a difference between prudent security and hatred but we have refused to learn that difference. It is simply easier to paint all who look like those we fear as being those we fear; it is easier to grasp for simplistic answers to justify our reaction to the fear within us. We simplify through hate and that hatred allows us to inflict intolerance on others but in the end, it is our own rights and principles we undermine.
We are sacrificing our freedom and undermining our values because we are afraid and that fear has brought out the worst in us. It has not just taught us to hate but to hate indiscriminately and the irony is that many of those we turn our hatred to are victims of the same the same terrorists who threaten us.
It is a simple fact that more of the Muslims on which so many focus their hatred are brutalized and murdered by radical Islamic terrorists than non-Muslims in western countries.
Hatred is born out of fear and it obscures reason. It undermines values and it distorts the truth.
Hatred is a lie that corrodes the soul. It is like crack – it is addictive and that addiction is spreading through our society like the plague and like the plague, it kills. It kills our values. It kills our courage and it kills our common humanity.
In the end, it isn’t terrorism that will defeat us. It is only our response to it that can.
Either we believe in our way of life and the equality and value of all people or we don’t. Either we believe in justice and due process or we don’t. If it is wrong for others to torture us then it is equally wrong for us to torture others. There is no middle ground. If terrorists can bring us down to their level then our constitutions and bills of rights are just meaningless words on paper and they win.
Those documents are like scripture; to give life to the words and meanings they contain, you have to live them. If we are unprepared to defend those values, then we stand for nothing more than those who threaten us and become no different than they are.
In the end, the real enemy isn’t terrorism – it’s us. The question is, how will we defend ourselves from that enemy?
Note: in an earlier version of this post a quote was attributed to Don Cherry which has subsequently proven to be incorrect. That quote was taken from several published sources and was believed to be accurate. It was not. The quote has been removed with ur thanks to those who took the time to notify us of the error and our apologies to Don Cherry.
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