The Ignorant & the Innocent

The Koran burning that has led to the vengeance killing of American troops in Afghanistan is grievous, all the more so since it was our soldiers who incited it by violating  the very principles they are supposed to be upholding.

At the heart of this war is the age-old argument between Hobbes & Locke: Should the government trust its people enough to choose a higher moral good, or will everything go to rot without an authority to protect us from ourselves?

Our government takes the position that the people have the power to govern themselves. The Afghan government takes the position of authority over the people.

That’s a crucial thing to understand when you are sending young men and women into a war zone. It always seems that one of the biggest mistakes we make in times of war is not understanding the historical and cultural influences of the people we are fighting for. That was certainly the case in Vietnam.

And now in Afghanistan.

A few of our own troops apparently don’t understand our own nation’s historical and cultural influences– because if they did, if they truly understood the basis of our First Amendment, the very last thing they would do is burn the Koran, accidentally or otherwise.

Burning the Koran is about the most un-American way for anyone to behave, on our soil or anywhere else.

We don’t burn books here in America because we believe words have the power to change a people and shape a country. Words can inspire or incite a person to action. Words can make us understand things we didn’t understand before. Words can bring to life a new thought, or an old emotion, awaken a dying soul or bring a long passed loved one back to life. Words can be a source of comfort or a source of conviction. Words can make us dance, laugh, sing — or fight, kill and destroy.

We don’t burn books in this country because we come from a people who were oppressed. A people whose governing authority believed that books were only for a certain class of people — the wealthy and powerful blue bloods. Our ancestors lived in a place and time that believed only the privileged should be taught to read and be given access to books.

So to go into a country where the public-at-large has experienced that same sort of oppression and take the only book that they know well, a book that they regard as holy, a book that holds for them truths so often denied them, and burn it, shows appalling ignorance on behalf of the American troops who did the burning.

It should surprise no one then that such ignorance has incited Afghans to anger.

The real tragedy in all of this is that it is the actions of the ignorant few that has led to the violent deaths of the innocent multitudes.

How can we ever help others gain their freedoms if we fail to treat them with dignity and respect in the process?

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  • Thank you Karin,I dont think we will ever learn .

  • AFRoger

    An Iraq War vet I’ve been spending time with told me last week the story of his two wars. Two…

    He was in Al-Anbar as the insurgency was kicking in big-time. It wasn’t just the relentless hyper-vigilance of daily shelling and insurgent sniping, the delivery of hundreds to Abu-Ghraib, the blood on his hands that today has his mind in a bear trap. It’s the moral divide that split his platoon right down the middle: Those who wanted to hold the high moral ground vs. those who wanted to kill indiscriminately, those who wanted to (and did) mutilate and take tissue trophies of the dead. I won’t go into detail. It’s enough to be under constant threat from the enemy you never see or get a clear shot at. It’s another to be simultaneously under threat from those of your own unit whose back you have, never knowing if they have yours.

    I haven’t read his story in the news. I don’t expect I will. But I’ve seen the gashes he has inflicted on himself in the aftermath of it all. I thanked him for his service before we prayed. Not just the stuff encountered while in harm’s way, but for the truly unsung service that only a young man of incredibly high moral character would subject himself to: the service of trying to keep some of his young fellow soldiers from going off the deep end into atrocities. All at unbelievable risk to himself.

    He will never be recognized or decorated for these acts of valor, heroism, patrotism, courage. He should be, absolutely. He won’t be because our simplistic thinking about war prevents us from even conceptualizing such things, this damned and damnable collateral damage to our own who are sent to places by people who haven’t a clue and by a country that can’t be bothered to even know for sure what continent the theater of war is on, let alone its history.

    He’s been stateside since 9/11/04. But it’s been over eight years since he’s been “home”. I wonder if he ever will be in this life. Please think of him and pray for him the next time you see that bumper sticker or hear someone say “Support Our Troops”. Hold ’em accountable for that. Please.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks Roger for your heart for the broken among us. You teach all of us what it means to be a good neighbor.