As a Secular Buddhist, I've committed myself to compassion. So, when I experience a distinct lack of compassion from others, I tend to react with shock and disbelief. The State welcomes this lack of compassion - after all, a nation-state needs a faceless enemy to keep themselves relevant and keep the populace compliant. Nothing galvanizes public unity like a common enemy. In the United States for the time being, this "enemy" is Muslims.
First, a little context: If you haven't read my last article, I and my husband were in the Marine Corps. We both joined before 9/11 and served through Iraqi "Freedom." My husband went to Iraq - I stayed stateside. In the military, as you can imagine, the "us against them" attitude is strongly encouraged. When I complained about the "war talk" (a fellow crew-member said that he couldn't wait to go "kill some rag-heads"), I was told that my complaint was noted, but there was nothing they could do - that kind of talk was encouraged, because it was "good for morale."
I came to Anarcho-Capitalism through conservatism, and the vast majority of my friends and associates are conservative (as well as my husband). So, it will come as no surprise that I'd clash with my conservative friends over various issues, mainly the Drug War and War in general. But now, another subject has reared its ugly head: racism. Now, I know that Islam is a religion, not a race. I'm not beyond criticizing it myself - if I knew more about it, I'd probably criticize it more. But I know what my friends mean by "Muslims" - Arabs. They aren't talking about the millions of Asian Muslims, or African Muslims - they're talking about the Middle Eastern ones - the "brown" ones.
Previously, I've countered Muslim-hate by not participating. These phrases are probably all familiar to former conservatives:
- "They hate us for our freedom!"
- "We should just kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out!"
- "They'll institute Sharia Law in the US! Creeping Sharia!!!"
- "They want to kill us all - so we should kill them first - fight or perish!"
Now, I decided to speak up - and was immediately rebuked. The events in Ferguson, Missouri are disturbing - especially law enforcement tear-gassing the press, which I posted about on my friend's Facebook wall in opposition to their justification of the actions of militarized police. The "press" in question was Al Jazeera - and an acquaintance didn't hesitate to say:
"Al Jazeera is a muslim organization. And muslims are avowed enemies of the US. Ok, I suppose they get a pass."
I suppose that this phrase is another reincarnation of "
deserves what they get." Which is something that I've heard many times, sadly, but it's still no less gag-inducing. The problem is that unlike my friends (and sadly, my husband, who joins in), I have the ability to identify with the group that they are denigrating. I can't help but wonder:
- If another country's military invaded my homeland, would I feel animosity?
- If my town was bombed, and my friends or family died as a result - would I feel pain and anger?
- If the leaders of the country that bombed my homeland justified doing so by using words like "freedom" and "patriotism," don't you think I'd be just a little bit upset?
- If the leaders of that country also claimed that their aim was "spreading democracy" - would I feel belligerent?
- If the military of that country occupied my homeland for an extended period of time, claiming that their "job" of "spreading freedom" wasn't done - wouldn't I feel outraged?
- If those same military members claimed that killing my neighbors was keeping their own countrymen safe, even though their countrymen live thousands of miles away and are in no danger from mine - don't you think that I'd want to do everything in my power to oppose this?
Yes, "them" wanting to kill "us" is wrong. But the US government ordered the military to invade their country (or, shall I say, "countries"), killing innocents, kidnapping at random, stealing resources, and installing puppet dictators all while funding their enemies - all actions that are atrociously wicked. When put in that context, I don't blame them for being JUST A BIT RESENTFUL.
I suppose that the best I can do is fight this battle with words - although, I do have to choose my battles carefully. Hate is a hard thing to overcome - it hardens hearts and closes minds. Love and reason can overcome hate, but it takes time to let go of hate, as well as the willingness to accept love and compassion. Compassion and the state are incompatible - an institution that has coercion at its core couldn't possibly hope to instill that virtue in its subjects.
The hardest thing to do will be cultivating compassion for my racist, anti-Muslim friends. The axiom is true: those who need compassion the most often appear to deserve it the least. They've been fed nationalistic nonsense from day one - and I know that I won't change their minds right away.
But I have to try.