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RESPONSES

First, I want to acknowledge the massive outpouring of heart-felt concern and connection regarding my last email, “Our War with ‘The Other’”.  For several days I was receiving about 30 emails an hour.  Thanks to so many of you for sharing your thinking and feeling on this matter.  Your troubles mirror mine.

The overwhelming majority (80%) have been positive and uplifting.  About 10% have been deep and heart-felt disagreement with what I said.  The other 10% have been threats, obscenities, and shallow sloganeering (like “God Bless America or get the fuck out!!”).  What a country we live in.

I have been doing my best to reply to those in heart-felt disagreement; it’s the only way to avoid isolation.  This is an excellent opportunity to practice inclusivity.  Maintaining a dialogue with those who do not share one’s views is the best way to prevent more “Othering” right here at home.

LIGHT AND SHADOW

I don't have any quick or glib answers to this pivotal crisis – this isn't a time for cute quotes or sloganeering.  This is also not a time for "America bashing"; my comments were intended to be a balance between the Light and the Shadow.  America really IS the greatest country in the world.  I've been around the world more times than I can count, visited over 24 different countries, have been to every continent, and I'm honored and proud to call this country, this state, and this city home.  On the other hand, if we are mature, we also have to face the Shadow; terrible things have been done, and are being done, in our name.

We may like to think that all of our children are beautiful, intelligent and all of their actions are well-mannered and appropriate.  If we believe this, we will never be in a position to teach them, shape them, help them to survive in the real world.  

HISTORY OR MYTHOLOGY??

There is a mythology in our country, masquerading as history.  This mythology includes:

1. This country was heroically built by immigrants, working with nothing but the sweat of their brow.  America belongs to these people who settled it.
2. America has only been involved in “just” wars.
3. All of our foreign and domestic policies are based on freedom, liberty, and the respect for the rights of others.
4. [More]

It’s okay to have an American Mythology; it’s nice to have stories to entertain children when putting them to bed.  However, there is real danger is believing that the mythology is our history.  

This country WAS heroically built by immigrants who started with nothing.  It was also built by 150 years of free, slave labor.  ANY country that has a workforce numbering in the millions, who don't have to be paid, can work miracles.  And it was built on land taken from the indigenous peoples by terrible acts of violence and treachery.  Light and Shadow.

America has been involved in military actions that have been to defend freedom and resist oppression.  America has also been involved in military actions for money, for oil, even for bananas.  America has trained (and continues to train) terrorists – even some of the people we are now opposing.  Light and Shadow.

Americans are the descendants of those immigrants, those slaves, those indigenous peoples.  Together, what kind of society can we build that honors ALL those pasts?  What kind of global society can we build that takes the fuel away from the next wave of suicide bombers?

As I said before: the only way to stop suicide bombers is to de-fuse them.  To begin that de-fusing, we must learn to see what others – particularly people in much of the so-called “Third World” – see when they look at us Americans.

We have to realize that we CREATED the monster Saddam Hussein as a regional power, then spent billions trying to defeat him.  We CREATED the Taliban as a regional power.  Our short-sighted, short-term "wins" in the Cold War have created problems that will linger for decades.  One thing is certain: if we stop propping up all of the military bad guys in the beginning, we won't have to mop up their feces at the end.

ENDING TERRORISM

Like President Bush, I want to end terrorism.  Unlike the President, I don't think a military response will do anything other than create the next generation of suicide bombers.  The worst thing in the world that can happen is for the US military to get involved in going after all "terrorist" organizations.  The US government has no idea of how big that problem is, and what the potential repercussions will be.  The American people are NOT prepared to pay "any price" – the people of Sri Lanka know how high that price can go, with no end in sight.  Is America prepared for a 20+ year war with "terrorists"?  Are we prepared to see our economy go down the toilet?  I think not.

Our way out of this lies in our deepest values – spiritual values, Constitutional values.  Not in our anger, frustration or fear.  Beyond our pain and rage, we need to find some real insight and wisdom.  Getting there means looking deeply into the Shadow, of America and of the world.  Doing that requires a LOT of courage.

WHAT IS OUR STORY?

Question: What motivates a large number of people – other humans like us – to make the incredible, complex, long-term, and (for a few) personally suicidal effort to bring about so much suffering and death?  Answer:  A powerful story – about who they are and who the Enemy is.  Those who believe that story did not create it all on their own.  They’ve had help for many years from SELFISH, brutal, ignorant or just plain silly  U.S. policies around the world.

We need to change their story.  Which means facing and changing our own Shadow, our own story, our own knee-jerk reactions.  Blowing up the villages and children of “terrorists” will only prove them and their story right.

In essence, all of us DO want the same things.  How can we use that fact to build links 
between people, to build a global society based on our humanness, to face our Shadows and let in the Light?
 

Peace,

Sharif
 
 


 
 
 

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