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Terror Is As Terror Does

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I remember having a conversation with the mother of one of my acting students back in the early nineties about how easy it would be to become a terrorist. She worked with abused children in a custodial treatment centre, meaning these were children under the age of fourteen who had to be kept under lock and key because they were considered uncontrollable.

One eight-year-old boy had burned down the house he lived in, and his mother had woken up to find him standing beside her with a knife, and had just missed being fatally wounded. She ended up in hospital with a punctured lung and her son had ended up at this facility. The boy had been sexually abused first by his father, and then by one of the mother’s boyfriends.

In it’s wisdom the government of the province where I live decided these children didn’t need a separate facility and could be housed within a wing of an adult facility. It was all about cutting costs so they could give tax breaks to their wealthy buddies. In the government’s mind, there was nothing wrong with these kids that a little taste of the belt wouldn’t take care of; single moms were the real problem. They let their kids run wild while they got drunk, did drugs, cheated the welfare system, and screwed anything in pants.

After another week of fighting that attitude while trying to save the facility, she said there were times she just felt like putting a bomb in a mailbox.

“The only thing stopping me is the fact that somebody’s kids are going to be walking by that mail box. I know how devastated I would be if my kids were killed, and I could never do that to another person.”

There was a flatness in her eyes brought on by more then just physical exhaustion. It was as if everything she had believed in had been torn out from under her and the ground under her feet was no longer certain. Bombs might not have changed anything, but they sure would have provided her with a type of certainty. Thankfully, it wasn’t the type she was looking for.

Unfortunately, the certainty of violence is a good fit for far too many people. Blowing somebody up is one way of making sure you get the last word in an argument. There’s no need for messy ambiguities about who is in the right and who is in the wrong if the other person is dead.

These days it seems everybody who has a point to make does so by blowing things up. The problem is that instead of solving anything, situations just get worse. From the suicide bomber blowing him or herself up in a crowded marketplace to an invading and occupying army fighting insurgency, nobody seems to be getting any closer to resolving any of the disputes that have been the supposed cause of the violence.

It’s pretty hard to listen to anyone when you’re busy blowing things up. “Eh, sorry could you repeat that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of the tomahawk missile going off.” Conversely, no one is going to be listening too closely when they’re dodging the hundredweight of nails sent firing across a market place. Dispute resolution works a lot better if you at least attempt to hear the other person talking.

Terror is in the eye of the beholder; one man’s freedom fighter has always been another man’s terrorist, it simply depends on your vested interests. To the British the guys, those throwing bales of tea into Boston harbour were terrorists of a kind, while to the colonists at that time, they were brave heroes. No matter who the bad guy is and who the good guy is, when you come right down to it, violence is violence no matter who sanctions it.

To the people living in Baghdad when the bombs were falling, the Americans were just as much terrorists as the people who flew the jets into the World Trade Centre were to the American public. People on the receiving end of bombs and explosions don’t really give a damn about politics or justifications. When your home is in ruins and members of your family have been killed and wounded, everything else is irrelevant.

Violence is the first resort of the coward and the last resort of the brave. The problem is that most of our leaders are cowards and liars. If Osama Bin Laden put the energy and money he puts into terrorism into building schools and farms in Afghanistan instead, he would be securing his people a much better future than the one he’s paying for now with their lives.

If George Bush and his allies really wanted to wage war on terrorism they could start by not propping up governments around the world that treat people like dirt. They could stop insisting that International Monetary Loans be conditional on practices guaranteed to keep countries in perpetual poverty, and they could spend a fraction of the money the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan is costing to do what’s ever necessary to help eradicate the conditions that create willing followers for terrorist leaders.

Everybody is far too willing to see weapons and violence as the solutions to their problems, but every time one person picks up a gun, somebody else responds in kind. Until one person is brave enough to put down the weapons and hold out an empty hand, mothers will keep losing their children.

I fail to see how that is making the world a better place for anyone.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Good article, Marcus. While much of what you say may be an age old argument, the problem of violence is, perhaps, older.

    It is pretty much always easier to shoot than it is to negotiate. Shoot first, ask questions…

    While the U.S. is the source of a great deal of the world’s violence, it doesn’t have the corner on the market. The quest for money and power are generally the true source of violence, but it’s usually painted with a different brush – usually that of religion, culture, race or nationality.

    Regardless of the reason, and whether we’re talking about street violence, or global war, in virtually every instance, a better solution was available. Somehow, we just have to learn to make better choices.

    Baritone

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Doc,

    Have you noticed how an article in the “Culture” section of BC seems to go pretty much ignored while if you publish under “Politics” it generally gets a great deal more play?

    I’ve published 2 or 3 articles under Culture getting little response. I think I could quote the Indianapolis phone directory under Politics and get 40 or 50 comments. It’s a strange world.

    B-tone

  • http://rapturenutballs.blogspot.com Baritone

    Richard,

    Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to address the above to Doc. It was just a little mind fart.

    B-tone

  • Dr Dreadful

    Not to worry, Baritone. I’ve noticed that too. Which is why I submitted my article published today under Politics, more in hope than anything, as I was convinced Dave would executively decide to shift it to Culture.

    I think I happened to catch him at a time when he was too busy to do much more than glance at it, say “whatever”, and put it up on the site.

    The other tactic is to go onto a random article in the Politics section and bitch about how no-one’s reading the piece you published in Section X. Works on me!

    Apropos of nothing, has it ever struck you how much Richard Marcus looks like Cap’n Jack Sparrow from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies?

  • http://blogs.epicindia.com/leapinthedark Richard Marcus

    “Have you ever noticed how much Richard Marcus looks like Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates movies”

    If you’re saying I look like Johnny Depp thank you- if you’re saying I look like a mentally deficient, deranged pirate in half drag – WOW now that’s a compliment!

    Of course now that you know how I supplement my income you’ll have to die. All of you. So don’t read this article and live a long healthy life (now that’s how you get comments)

  • Dr Dreadful

    You’re welcome, Richard – or should I say “Matey”? Arrrr…

    Interestingly, I submitted my piece as Satire, which is how it originally posted. When I revisited it this morning, however, it had been changed to Opinion.

    Still under Politics, though.

  • bliffle

    Marcus,

    Just as, so they say, when you own a hammer everything looks like a nail, so too, when you own a gun everything looks like a target.

    So, deskbound enthusiasts of the Second Amendment (who are numerous, judging from the massive commentaries attending discussion of Gun Control), probably gun owners, see the solution to every problem as war, war, war.

    On the other hand, didn’t some troublemaker once say that jaw, jaw, jaw was preferable to war, war, war? Bah, he was probably some liberal who never amounted to anything.