I usually don’t do diatribes, but when I do…
What I’ve witnessed in my 50 years or so is the creation of racism. There was racism before me, but it has to get created each time. The US was created with a stated goal of preferring white men of Northern European descent. They would get to vote and own not just land, but people. To maintain the union, they gave in to what the rest of the world believed about slavery, but replaced that law with a series of laws that continued to favor themselves. Somehow, without the right to vote, women got that right, and for a while, things were getting a little bit better.
Meanwhile, the men who owned everything were making deals with men on the other side of the world for the new engine of the world economy, oil. No one called them terrorists. They may have been viewed as a little backwards, but there are lots of places on the planet that are not modern. We kind of like that. Then we started carving up their tribes and creating national borders, installing dictators in them, building military bases. And people were shocked when they protested this. That is, if you hadn’t read a book about it outside of what was assigned in high school.
The Soviets were doing the same things, and those who fought them were called freedom fighters. Until they won, and turned their sights on us, then they were terrorists. And we knew they had weapons, because we sold them to them. If you didn’t know any of this history, you might assume they hated our freedom, especially since the President was telling you that. If you didn’t know their culture, you might think “death to America” actually meant they wanted to kill us. If you took a few minutes to try to understand what was going on, you would find they say, “death to traffic”. As Inigo Montoya said, “…that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Unfortunately, just getting to know their culture will not stop the wars. There are things some of them want that are the complete opposite of what a free and open democracy wants. But all of them do not want the same things, any more than a Texas oil millionaire and a boy from Chicago want the same things. As I mentioned in the beginning, a democracy doesn’t give everyone what they want. Sometimes you have to fight for it.
But you can’t tell someone’s motives just from the fact that they are fighting. They will probably say they are fighting for some higher justice, but that doesn’t mean they are being honest. And if they are honest, it doesn’t mean they are right. And fighting is not always bullets and bombs. Words can have a lot of power, especially if you already have the bombs and have shown you are not afraid to use them. We all hope words like “you can’t judge a man by the color of his skin” win out in the end. But day to day, that’s a struggle.