Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Bridging the "Unbridgeable Chasm"

Bridgethought of the Day: In the ultimate power struggle, love always trumps hate. But the trick is, you can't have lost that capability to love.

Bobby Ghosh, in his cover piece in Time magazine about the Shi'a vs. Sunni conflict, especially as it plays out now in Iraq, and spread through the rest of the middle east, called that "religious" enmity an "unbridgeable chasm". He lays blame for the bloodshed on Bush's ill-conceived and disastrously-implemented invasion of Iraq. And he describes in details how the conflict grew from mutual cooperation, where Sunni & Shi'a Muslims peacefully coexisted, to incomprehensible brutality and cruelty, to hate without measure, a downwardly spiraling plunge into the anti-human, the anti-moral, the anti-faith. Civil war? Ethnic cleansing? Unconscionable slaughter...

And then there's this solution. It comes off almost like some peace march from the 60's. We'll sign petitions, we'll arrange sensitivity sessions between rivals, we'll all hold hands, Sunnis on one side, Shi'as on the other, and we'll give peace a chance, and everybody will get together and love one another right now. But ... in another country ... where there is no invasion, no reason to hate each other, no economic implosion-gone-blackhole (exempted: Big Oil).

Here it is, though, and the argument is true, and pretty well-put, I might add. I particularly liked these points:
  • Dialog allows parties to understand each other better by allowing
    participants to acquire direct knowledge about beliefs instead of relying on
    propaganda and stereotypical images. (Quran 49:6-12)
  • Dialog will isolate the extremist fringe. It is a major sin to kill a human being. Killing a human being is like killing the whole of humanity. By talking to each other, Shias and
    Sunnis will be able to save lives, which is like saving the whole of humanity.
    (Quran 5:32)
  • Revenge is not justice. Killing in revenge is unjust, inhuman,
    and un-Islamic. Retribution through the state, which the Quran sanctions via
    capital punishment does not amount to individuals taking the law in their hands
    or killing an innocent person in revenge. The call for, "an eye for an eye,"
    does not mean an innocent eye for an innocent eye.
  • Even if some Shias and Sunnis consider each other enemies, the Quran asks us to be just even toward one's enemy "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and
    depart from justice.
    Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah
    is well-acquainted with all that you do." [Quran 5:8]

This is great advice for resolving any conflict, I think. The first point, about how dialog allows people to get away from stereotypes - that cartooning thing - and have genuine understanding, is one I'm practically obsessed with. Dialog, diplomacy, communication, understanding ... things the "Superpower to the World" is running mighty short on, banking heavily on the "me Tarzan grab biggest stick" theory of how to run this planet. Wouldn't it be great if they would finally get out of the socio-political stone age and discover things like ... agriculture? language? diplomacy? trade? discussion? give-n-take? infrastructure rebuilding? bridges?

Right now, we're focusing all the blood, sweat, and resources of The United States on bludgeoning populations whenever we feel "a threat", which, on our bludgeoning path, is with ever-increasing frequency. Instead of sending in more guns, why not "surge" diplomacy? Send in the best minds, the best plans, the best resources, the best bridge-builders? What is wrong with that?

What's wrong is it would involve admission of a mistake. It would involve some kind of humility. It would also be a complete reversal of MO. Nobody believes in it. We believe in force, guns, and power. Typical humans. The very power they believe in is what will ultimately destroy them. Not by terrorists. But by their own hands. We're all worried about the Shia-Sunni conflict. But we're not worried about how this empire-building is destroying what the U.S. was supposed to stand for. That is, freedom, justice, and democracy... yeah, right...

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