Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 11:37 pm | Mostly Cloudy 60º

 
 
 
 
Advice

Ken Wiliams: Don’t Let Atrocity of Paris Be Followed by Rush to War

I begin this column in deep sorrow for the people of Paris. They have been deeply wounded by the inhumanity of sick men slavishly devoted to a medieval and barbaric ideology. They worship only blood and death. They are men with inhumane hearts who turned a cold ear to the desperate pleading of their victims.

And I offer no apologies to political correctness when I say it is up to Muslims who profess that their religion is one of peace to confront the evilness within their ranks. They need to repudiate the inhumanness of Sharia law, and the sexism in their ranks.

The same way as Christians did who, mostly no longer literally believe in the biblical call for an “eye for an eye,” or the justifications for slavery.

Of course, Christians have a lot of work to do. Within their own ranks, there are those who use scripture to justify prejudice, and in some cases hatred toward the LGBT community and others who preach what amounts to a holy war against Islam.

And we need to acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of shock and sorrow by ordinary Muslims that lit up social media immediately after the tragic events became known, as did the leaders in Lebanon, Iran and other Muslim countries.

We must not give the terrorist undue credit that they speak for the Muslim community. Time after time, ordinary Muslims have professed their disgust with the barbaric killers who worship death over life.

I also begin this column knowing that many people will react out of fear and hatred and respond accordingly: I would say we can not allow the terrorists to win.

Their goal is to create divisions, to isolate Muslims within our communities, and countries with walls of intolerance and fright. Their goal is to force democracies to respond with the totalitarian and irrational hatred that they so feverishly hold dear.

The terrorists’ hatred is directed toward inclusiveness. Of our core belief that “out of many, one,” that is from our many and vibrant communities, we form one unique and tolerant country with nobody worse, nor better than ourselves.

Their victory would come if tolerance, compassion and the rights of minorities become a casualty to their hate-filled, twisted ideology.

Unfortunately, there are ample historic examples for those who believe they can deform our democracies. Our mistreatment of our Japanese-American neighbors following the hysteria following the attack on Pearl Harbor is one example.

The social, legal and economic statues and practices that forced poor African-Americans, Latinos, Irish, Polish and other minorities into ghettos, as well as the ghettos of Europe for people of the Jewish faith and Romas being another.

Lest we think this type of prejudice is a thing of the past; we need only look to the lunacy of the Republican presidential debates. The big difference is exactly how tall to build a mythical wall of hate, and how best to demonize those who do the dirty work that most refuse to do, like to grow our food that we refuse to.

We fight terrorism best when our actions show how the practice of liberal democracy differs from the sickness of their beliefs. We hand them victories whenever we succumb to the worst in us, and allow fear to drive our response.

For those who hesitate to stand besides Muslims of our communities, and Syrian refugees seeking asylum from the violence of war, and think it best for silence to speak for them, I would remind you that history judges harshly those who stand passively on the sidelines in times of social psychotic breakdowns.

The all-too-true caricature of the “Good German” who did nothing when Jews were merely required to wear the Star of David, or accepted the sick propaganda that the concentration camps were for the benefit of a persecuted minority, should forever be in the forefront of our thoughts and moral beliefs.

One stands with a demonized and prosecuted minority exactly when they are threatened with abandonment and isolation, and when that stance is not popular. One shouldn’t wait to see how the tides of history turn out but come to the forefront, and show how our culture and democracy should react to the hatred-violence of a sick belief system.

In the end, it is not military power that will defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda, but a totality of our humane political and cultural practices that can suffer the blows of terrorism with resolve, respect for different cultural values, and when we embrace the rights of all, tolerance for those different by gender, religion or national background.

In other words, by embracing tolerance and diversity — the willingness to engage in respectful and peaceful discourse when we perceive a deviation from that core belief.

And for those whose only response is that America should once again go to war, let me remind you exactly what you are asking: Those who know nothing about war are the first to want others to go into harm’s way.

In case anyone’s forgotten, our country has a poor record in how it treats veterans. I would remind you of the scandals of veterans dying while waiting for medical appointments at Veterans Affairs Department facilities.

Wounded and sick Vietnam War veterans came home to hospitals that were understaffed except for the legions of rats that patrolled the corridors, to a woefully underfunded VA system that did its best to deny, then ignore that vast poisoning of combat veterans by Agent Orange.

I would simply ask you to visit a VA hospital and see the loneliness and despair that haunts their halls, the multitude of injured and sick veterans that are the true legacies of war.

Don’t be so eager to condemn our sons and daughters to such a cruel fate as to survive “wars of choice” only to return home to a populous that is too busy shopping to share the burdens of the horrors of war.

Ken Williams has been a social worker for the homeless for the past 30 years, and is the author of China White, Shattered Dreams: A Story of the Streets and his first nonfiction book, There Must Be Honor. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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