Thursday, March 31, 2016

Public Voices on Violence (by ISIS, by USA . . . . )

Hiroshima: terrorism?
I was writing the other day about several related topics, including ISIS.

I wrote, "With the Brussels attacks this week, we are seeing once again that all of the attention of the West gets put onto the question of tactics ("How did they do it?") -- and its obvious counterpart, counter-tactics ("What should law enforcement do differently?" ... "Shall we respond militarily?") -- rather than the real question: what is motivating these people?"

A letter from a reader was published yesterday in The New York Times, and I re-post it here in its entirety:

Although, as your article says, the backgrounds of terrorists “are so diverse that they defy a single profile,” the murderers share a characteristic that is worth noting: a casual acceptance of causing the death of random people.

This capacity to depersonalize derives in large part from cultural and political attitudes. The modern tolerance of civilian casualties can be seen in the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. That these acts were military, not “terroristic,” is most likely a distinction lost on jihadists.

The sanctity of one person’s existence is not part of our collective wisdom; instead, we have concepts like nationalism, race and ethnicity. Violence against others to achieve group ambitions is universally accepted, at the expense of millions of lives.

In the effort to end the mayhem, it might be more useful to study ourselves than to study terrorists.

GARY ABRAMSON

Goshen, N.Y.


Think about it:

This capacity to depersonalize derives in large part from cultural and political attitudes. The modern tolerance of civilian casualties can be seen in the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. That these acts were military, not “terroristic,” is most likely a distinction lost on jihadists.

I wish I'd said that.


Related posts

Anyone who has had to write a speech knows that the hardest part is to land on the main idea. Once you've got that right, the rest practically writes itself.

(See "The way to respond to ISIS is not through violence." )





"It's not enough to remember this just once a year; it's not enough that we make a single book -- Hiroshima -- required reading, and never go beyond that. There should be a whole canon that people study progressively, year by year, to grasp and retain the horror of this."

(See FIRE AND BLAST: A Curriculum that Confronts Nuclear Danger?)











A virus is able to be so successful precisely because it (most of the time) doesn't kill its host. I can't help thinking that we simply are not being intelligent about how to respond to violence.   How might recognizing the "viral" nature of violence help us to respond to it more intelligently?

(See Violence: Taking Over Like a Virus)








We will only deal successfully with the crimes being committed using drones when we understand them as part of the much larger war against communities of color . . . .

(See Drone Gaze, Drone Injury: The War on Communities of Color )