Tuesday, July 02, 2002

Of the people? Send this entry to: Del.icio.us Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Of the people? I've been thinking about suicide bombers and their attacks on civilians in Israel. Of course such behavior is repulsive. If their cause is just (something which I don't necessarily grant)-does that mitigate their actions? I don't know, I tend not to think so. But are their victims innocent? Certainly ordinary Jews-many children-haven't done anything to the Arabs. And yet the state of Israel has dispossessed many Arabs and won a large part of greater Palestine by right of conquest. Is this injustice? Again-I tend not to think so. Arabs speak the language of force and history-not diplomacy and negotiation, so their pleas to me sound disingenuous. But I am curious, what responsibilities do individual Israelis have for the plight of the Arabs, if any? Let us look at it from the perspective of an Arab. All the land from Gaza to Jaffa and beyond is under Jewish hegemony-land rightfully theirs. Generations of Jews have inhabited this territory, one after another, laying claim to the soil that once Arab. If upon reaching adulthood-a Jew does not vacate their unlawfully gained land, perhaps the Arab thinks that it is acceptable to treat this person as a combatant, as someone who by force is residing upon the lands of his ancestors. I know, far too simple-I'm distilling and disentangling far too many threads. And yet I was thrust into this line of thinking by a CBS special where Arab students and American citizens discussed the ramifications of 9/11 and the reasons for it. The Americans claimed that they hadn't done anything to the rest of the world-to which the Arabs responded with a litany of accusations. The American government has overthrown governments and possibly engaged in acts of political brutality. America is no saint. I do personally believe that actions of the American government tend to come off well when compared to other regimes-even western powers like France. But the American eagle does have blood on its talons-that much no one can deny (though many can justify it). Does the blood on the hands of our government flow to the people who make up this nation? We are a democracy-we elect our leaders. What responsibility do Americans have for the actions of their leaders? If leader x commits atrocity y, do all Americans suffer morally-or only those that voted for leader x? Can those who voted against this individual disavow any actions-while those who didn't vote occupy a middle ground? Americans take pride in FDR-they reelected him three times. He was a great man. But what about the insidious presidency of Richard Nixon? Did Americans hang their heads in shame for having voted him into office (I'm too young to remember)? Conversely, are subjects of a dictator immunized from these accusations of perfidy by their lack of power? Many Germans claim such a defense. I have argued for clarity in our moral vision. I do believe that what we are fighting is a battle against the last gasps of a great civilization. On our side lay individualism, equality under the law and pluralism. Arrayed against us in the ancient power of moral authoritarianism that so appeals to human nature (remember how Weimar served as a pupae for a barbarity orders of magnitude more brutal than the regime of the Kaiser). And yet I also would say it is not treasonous to be introspective-for that also sets the West apart. Just as we take pride in our accomplishments as individuals-we should acknowledge our sins and faults. And we should think as to the choices we make with our political freedoms-because we wield great power via the most powerful military in the world. One single vote will help touch the lives of many, so we better make sure the one doing the touching has a soft gentle hand.