Protests in Libya and Egypt embolden Cameron Conaway’s belief: We need to wage a war of peace and this means calling out bigots.
Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” but what about when it’s the blind causing the killing? Those blind by virtue of ignorance. By religion. By jingoism.
Protestors attacked the United States diplomatic compounds in Egypt and Libya on Tuesday, and hours ago Hillary Clinton confirmed the death of a State Department officer [update: J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, has been killed] at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The violence erupted in protests over an online film by American pastor Terry Jones that denounces Islam. He’s led groups of other pastors at Quran-burning events – the one last March sparked the event that resulted in 12 deaths – and he’s even lynched an effigy of President Barack Obama.
While I believe it’s important to say that there’s no excuse for the attacks, freedom of speech is a critical American right, and that Terry Jones shouldn’t be directly “blamed” for ambassador Stevens’ death, it’s equally important we do not simply blurt out “they hate us for our freedom” and leave it at that.
Yes, the protestors killed ambassador Stevens over an online video. And yes, this is a pathetic, heartbreaking excuse for murder. But it is also true that this violence was provoked by a climate of intolerance and hatred that, somehow, holds firm ground in the United States. Mitt Romney, despite saying that 9/11 wasn’t a day to criticize the President, preemptively criticized President Obama for a mythical apology. Dirty politics continue even while good men are bathed in blood.
The US Embassy in Egypt released a statement saying they condemn “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions,” and Hillary Clinton echoed similar sentiments: “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.”
Good words, Hillary, but how true are they? I hear other religions being denigrated every time I travel back to the States where I was raised and lived until recently. And from the very beginning of our nation, how many millions have been slaughtered in the name of religion? I believe you believe in religious tolerance, but to say that we, as a country, do? It’s a necessary sell but a tough one to make.
“Actions speak louder than words” holds true, and this is frightening because nearly half of our population aligns with an extreme and intolerant right-wing platform that believes in a fake “war on religion” or, as Senator John McCain said, that it was a “sad day” when homosexuals could openly serve in the military, or, as the Republican Party of Texas recently voted upon, that critical thinking skills should be rejected, or that books with race, ethnicity and oppression as central themes should be banned from schools, or in the self-made man myth, or, as Paul Ryan believes, that “our rights come from God,” or, like Mitt Romney, that we should make millions by irresponsibly indebting others, or, as Bill Maher astutely wrote, that the Book of Genesis says more about climate change than climatologists or that “Sharia Law in America is a dire threat and global warming a hoax,” or that it’s somehow good for the American economy when billionaires pay lower tax rates than secretaries, or that it doesn’t matter if Mitt Romney is a total embarrassment in England and elsewhere, or in the insanity spewing from Pat Robertson’s mouth or from the distortions of Fox News that negatively impact the US at home and abroad. To say nothing about the right holding the criminal justice system hostage despite what criminologists worldwide recommend, or their misguided and overly-broad hatred of unions, or their war on women or wars in general, or….
While it’s easy to write this lone pastor off as “fringe,” the reality is that he, like Todd Akin, seems to be blossoming into a microcosm for the entire right-wing agenda. Is the “fringe right” creeping its way to standard and skewing the whole bell curve so that even many American “progressives” today are considered radical conservatives in England?
Is this what happens when media grows at a faster pace than media literacy? When people who spend 10-hours a week watching professional football yet consume their entire political beliefs from 20-second commercials have the same say as those who do the inverse? Advertisers know how to make us buy shit. They make us feel like our teeth aren’t white enough to get a date, our abs aren’t ripped enough for summer, and, yes, that one party is evil and the other heroic. It plays into the most primitive of beliefs: everything is either good or bad. Yes, many of us want to get money out of politics, but how many are ballsy enough to break the two-party system and listen to Senator Bernie Sanders, the longest serving Independent in the history of Congress? And how could we even begin to get his voice to matter to the masses?
Perhaps we here at the Good Men Project talk too much about what it means to be a good man and not enough about what it means to be a bad man. Human beings learn from good experiences (eating candy) and from bad experiences (touching fire). Perhaps we should take the same approach to people. Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings had no obligation to speak out about the stupidity that is politician Emmett C. Burns, but he did the right thing. I completely agree with Good Men Project writer Joanna Schroeder’s comments on Kluwe’s piece, that if we aren’t speaking out like him then we are “…participating in oppression.” This attitude presents a fault in what many of the Buddhist monks in Thailand believe: seclude yourself from the world so that, at the least, you don’t harm it.
But, if the good people are secluding themselves or kowtowing to the fear tactics, or otherwise not speaking out against policymakers, then whose hands are we allowing to shape the world? Sometimes when you’re against the ropes even the best defense can’t stop the entire flurry of wild punches. A few can slip through and cause major damage. In that case the best defense is crisp offense—a straight right hand cuts through looping hooks. Is it bullying the bully? Maybe. But it sure beats being crumpled on the mat.
We would like to express our deep sadness over the death of Ambassador Stevens and wish peace to the loved ones .
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