Monday, November 30, 2009

All Fall Down: Getting Back to One

Thomas Friedman of the NY Times, wrote an Op-Ed this past week that seems more on target about terrorism than most I've read. Which isn't saying much, as most such attempts seem biased in one direction or another without offering anything in the way of "take-away." Friedman offers a significant one, but then falls a bit short by not addressing the problem from the other side.

Yes, its pretty clear the radical Islamic world has a "Narrative," as Friedman calls it, but then so does the West, the US in particular. And our narrative started, I repeat, STARTED, with a lie of grand scale, regarding a people already in possession of the land our "Founders" wanted as their own. That particular Narrative, stirred to a frothy tipping point after 9-11, utterly fails to apply any self-examination as to how that collective Narrative has fueled the seething anger within Muslim peoples all over the planet.

Yes, the Arab governments in particular use their Narrative to keep their own people "in check," but it is equally our failing to make room within our own Narrative for inclusion of disparate ideas and peoples.

The history of the American Narrative is one of exclusion, hatred, demonizing the other, followed by specific group struggle, and eventual, albeit often too slow, inclusion, if not actual embracing of this identified "other." When Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, the US, quite rightfully, cranked up this Narrative to full throttle. We imprisoned all Japanese American citizens, confiscated homes, businesses, and expected their own young men to enter the battle against their ancestral home, which most did without hesitation. Eventually, but again, far too slowly, the Narrative admitted its excesses and re-opened the door to that particular group of citizens.

Since WW II, the US has, largely through intrigue and the mighty power of the IMF, conducted an extension of the original "manifest destiny" notion through co-option and direct interference with governments all across the globe. We call this aspect of our Narrative, "foreign policy,"and "national interest," and feign outrage when these policies create "problems," that accrue blame and anger by the affected parties.

The US has made much noise in the past few decades about "globalism." Unfortunately, the West seems stuck on the idea that globalism only encompasses trade and the flow of capital, but really has nothing to do with such tedious topics as environmental issues, labor, human rights, and the like. Why are we so shocked and outraged at the reaction and anger coming from countries that have been marginalized, not only by their own governments, but by US and European foreign policy that deals with the leaders of those nations, but ignores the conditions those governments impose on their own people? While using money from the American taxpayer.

So, Mr. Friedman, while I applaud your effort, as needed as it is, if falls unfortunately short. When you ask Muslims to be honest with themselves, to question the Narrative being fed them daily and violently, I suggest you ask the same of the Western nations, to so examine their own Narratives, with blunt honesty, and perhaps, for once, not a little humility. After all, what is truly needed right now is a dialogue, between people who can mutually respect the other.

Anything less than that is merely a continuation of the Manifest Destiny Monologue. What else would you call the "exporting of democracy" when its done at the point of a gun? And when it continues to drain the Treasury and the blood of our own people?

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