Our War with "The Other"

by Sharif M. Abdullah

Prayers for the Departed; Compassion for the Injured:

First, I think all of us should take a break from the television and radio broadcasts, light a candle and say a few prayers:
First, for our friends, families, loved ones, business associates, travel companions and others who have departed in these attacks — our prayers on the rest of their journey.

Next, those of us who have been injured — physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually — our compassion and prayers for healing.

For the rest of us — hope that our compassion and understanding exceeds our fear, our anger and our desire for revenge.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost:

There are some very, very angry people out there in the world. Part of their anger is in not being heard. People who do not feel heard will do ANYTHING to get one‚s attention.
Some of those angry people live here in the US; some are in other parts of the world. Some look and act just like you.
In general, Americans have no idea that such anger exists. It's not that people aren‚t screaming at you, its that you‚re programmed not to see or hear them. Or, if you do hear them, you think they are saying something other than "I am angry at you".

Or, you hear the anger yet ignore it — these people can't possibly hurt you in your middle-class, gated community, your gated lives. "We" feel "protected" by our "security".

The US government has ignored these angry people, calling ANY attack against the US or its interests "unprovoked".
The United States, directly and indirectly, supports violence throughout the world. Denying it won't make this truth go away. We seem unable to understand the anger of someone who had their village leveled by American cruise missiles, or whose family was killed by a US-backed government. Believe me, they are angry and they feel powerless. Anger and powerlessness is the root of violence.

Culture and Consciousness:

A few years ago, when I was in the Sri Lanka war zone, we passed two young men who were acting in a way that I believed was consistent with Tamil Tiger attack spotters. I mentioned this to my Sinhalese companion, who said, "That‚s impossible; those boys are Sinhalese." I asked him, "Is it possible for a Sinhala person to be in sympathy with the Tigers?" He looked at me as though my head had jumped off my shoulders and flew around the room.

Like the Oklahoma City bombing, the first (and predominant) thought is that the perpetrators are Islamic fundamentalists, America‚s favorite "Other". We are programmed to not hear or understand them. Americans were in "shock" when the "foreign terrorist" turned out to be blue-eyed Timothy McVeigh.

Let's not rush to see "the Other" as in any way different from yourself. The people who steered those planes aren‚t "crazy, cowardly fanatics". They are people whose spiritual emptiness and frustration led them to commit these acts. Let‚s not think that their emptiness is any different than our own.

Forgiveness and Weakness:

We may find it difficult to forgive, because many of us equate forgiveness with weakness. In the face of attack, we want to attack back. We want to find the perpetrators and make them hurt, the way that we are hurting. We believe its the only way we can relieve our pain.

We have to find another way.

Many of us have been talking about a change of consciousness. Many of us think that it is THE OTHER who must change; it is THE OTHER who must change their consciousness. They point to their favorite "Other"; people of different ethnicity, class or power status.

It's not "the Other" who must change first — its "us".

Beefing Security and Preventing Terrorism:

There is no way to stop a coordinated suicide attack. I repeat: there is NO WAY to stop a suicide attack. The suicide attackers in Sri Lanka, in the Middle East, and now in the US have a way of making their point, with ever increasing accuracy and deadliness.
The ONLY way to prevent such an attack occurring in the future is to de-fuse the attacker before the attack begins. We must work to remove the ROOT CAUSES that drives the suicide attacker. Our intelligence must be geared toward identification, understanding and transformation, not technology and retribution. We clearly have the capacity to punish: so far, that punishment has given us ever-escalating rounds of violence and terror. We must generate a much greater capacity to transform "the Other".

We cannot do this without the capacity to transform ourselves.

Peace,
Sharif




Sharif M. Abdullah
COMMONWAY INSTITUTE
P.O. BOX 12541
Portland, OR 97212
VISIT THE COMMONWAY WEBSITE: www.commonway.org



[Reprinted with permission]

 

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