Today is Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Fred's Views

Painting with the Same Brush.

A week or so ago, two area mosques were attacked. Fortunately, neither one was significantly damaged and a 35 year-old man has been arrested. However, it is not an isolated incident, and it is a further indication of how much human beings still have to learn.

What would posses anyone to attack a mosque or any religious building? What could a person possibly hope to accomplish? There is, of course, the faintest possibility, that these attacks have nothing to do with what has occupied so much of our time, thoughts and emotions since September 11. It's possible, but I think it far more reasonable to assume that this was some sort of attempt to lash out at those responsible for the terrible acts of last month. The truly unfortunate fact is that if anything, such a mad and unwarranted attack only benefits the real terrorists.

If Joe, a self-proclaimed catholic, murdered a protestant, would anyone seriously consider blaming all catholics for the crime? If he were a dentist, would we blame all dentists? If he were five feet 2 and a half inches tall, would we blame everyone who is that height? Need I carry this absurdity on further? In the first place, if the murder was committed "in cold blood", then we can safely assume that Joe is not a very good catholic, or Christian. Murder is frowned upon (to put it mildly) in most religions, including the Moslem faith. And while I don't know if dentists take the same oath as doctors, they too, would be going against the strongest tenants of their profession if they committed murder.

Still, people want to "paint with the same brush" anyone who shares some characteristics with someone who has been proven - or simply accused - of some heinous act. It is illogical, but it seems to be ingrained in our human emotions.

And we do seem to be very much controlled by our emotions. Not entirely a bad thing, but sometimes very dangerous and unfair. No one. No one wants to stereotyped. We are all individulas, and we rightly want to be judged by our own actions and character.

Unfortunately, the media sometimes is guilty of, perhaps inadvertently, fueling such false notions. Over the past month or so, we have seen several scenes in which protesters, often in Pakistan, are shown shouting curses and threats at the United States. It might seem as if everyone in Pakistan, or at least a very significant number, belong to the fundamentalist splinter group that seeks to harm the U.S. But is this a true picture? What if the camera was pulled back so that more of the scene could be made visible? Would we see more protestors? Or would we see ordinary citizens attempting to ignore the ruckus and go on with their daily lives? Ordinary people who do not hate the U.S. even though they may have some legitimate concerns with past U.S. actions. Well, on a recent program, that's what finally happened. They made it clear, if you were watching, that the vocal minority were just that: very vocal, and very much the minority. They also went to some pains to show that while the majority of the people of Pakistan support their government and bear no unreasonable vehemence against the West, many do have legitimate concerns. Worse, far too many young people in countries like Pakistan are poorly educated. far too many are illiterate (Okay, even one illiterate is too many). Some of those who are receiving an "education" are being taught by radical fundamentalists who promote hatred. An impoverished, illiterate population is easy prey to unscrupulous groups who will use any trick to sway public opinion in their favor. It happened nearly a century ago in Russia and it could happen again. But, again, we are not talking about every one in Pakistan. We are talking about a relatively small minority. Unfortunately, without Western aid, it is a minority that could grow very quickly.

Those who do promote hatred of the West, and who may propose violence as a weapon need to learn a painful lesson: violence begets violence. Violence seldom solves anything, but, sometimes, it simply can't be avoided. World War II was certainly an example of necessary violence. World War I certainly was not. (I would personally add the Vietnam war to this last group.)

We have seen the effects of violence not only on the world stage, but in our own back yards. We must remember that, although violence may be necessary, it will seldom, if ever, solve the problem. Massive aid will be necessary as a first step to stopping the hatred that lies behind the violence. Given this knowledge, can we justify continuing the war against violence in Afghanistan (and elsewhere)? I firmly believe that the allied forces should extend an olive branch - and keep it out there even if it is ignored. Offer special considerations to anyone who comes forward who has been a terrorist or has harbored a terrorist. In some cases, full immunity may be possible; in others, reduced sentences and removal of any threat of capital punishment. I personally doubt that many, if any, will come forward, but that is not the point. We must make an effort to stop the violence before it escalates even more. As part of this effort, we must make it very clear that the alliance will not desert its supporters and will not allow anyone to suffer needlessly. The alliance needs to make a public and solemn vow that it will aid all refugees, improve aid to all in need of it, and rebuild Afghanistan much as the allies did in Germany and Japan.

This war appears to be one of those that is justified, even necessary. One hopes that the majority of the free world will give this effort their full support. No one should want a war, but sometimes, a war should not be avoided. This seems to be one of those times.

It's the time of year when we pause to remember those who fought in previous wars to protect our way of life. History has shown that not all wars are equal. Some have to fought, some should never have happened. Sometimes, it takes a while before one can easily see which war is which. However, whether a war was justified or not does not deter from the sacrifices made and the patriotism and bravery shown by those who took part in it. A Vietnam veteran is no less a hero for answering his country's call, even if it was the wrong call. But, by the same token, those who fought to end an unjust war are no less heroes. Not all soldiers are on the battlefield.

We've already seen over 5,000 sacrifices who did not know they were on a battlefield. There were over ten million other lives lost in the Second World War who did not die in battle. Perhaps this year, we should take an extra long pause to remember not only those who fought the battles, but all those who sacrificed in the name of freedom as well as those who died at the hands of murderous butchers like the followers of Hitler or Osama bin Laden.

Copyright © 2001 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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