Action not demonstrations?

Action not demonstrations? March 14, 2004

One of my readers commented ‘The public reaction in the U.S. was perhaps less visible, but no less felt. Furthermore, as a nation, we are not particularly fond of dwelling on problems. We would rather fix them. The world is witness to our efforts.’

I think this hits the nail on the head. Where the Spanish took to the streets, the Americans planned united behind militery action. So many ‘liberal’ Europeans found it hard to understand the response of the US to 911. Perhaps they could understand Afghanistan, but Iraq seemed disconnected. The urge to ‘do something’ not just protest or say we condemn the actions is surely universal but most strongly felt in the US culture.

Perhaps that is partly because uniquely among world nations, the US have the capacity, willpower and conviction to act, and to act alone if necessary.

I believe strongly though (and call me a liberal European if you like!) that there are two sides to a successful response to this evil. The hand of justice and at times preventive attack needs to be long. But the hand of righteousness, love and positive engagement with others must also be long. The stick has been shown to our enemies, but perhaps the carrot may even be more effective for some of them.

Showing ourselves, like Jesus to be the friend of sinners is probably harder than acting violently. We must not blame every muslim for these attacks. Perhaps some western muslims could be stronger in their condemnation of the attacks. If they have more friendships with the rest of us, perhaps that would encourgage them to see this as nothing less than evil personified- which is what it is.

People are people after all, and I strongly believe that a strong sense of community and society is a strong protector against these outrages, and adds to the sense of shock about their effects. Why would someone with a job, friends, neighbours and a sense of connectedness to the society in which he lives plot to destroy it?

At the very least building a strong sense of national identity (and here I think that the US may well be streets ahead of us in the UK) will help deter some who may have been targets for recruitment by the terrorists.

Terrorism is evil. People are evil. Society, the sense of community and the legal system act to restrain that evil and to some degree are effective. This is not to downplay the need for all men to find forgiveness and grace to change them from within.

Jesus told us to ‘GO into all the world’. These days most western Chrsitians do not have to even get on a plane to meet people from very different religious and national identies. It is incumbent on us, and indeed a crucial aspect of the war on terror for us to reach out to win hearts and minds of our potential enemies.

And yes, call it Orwellian if you like, but those who hold themselves aloof from our societies need careful watching at the moment. It would be wise for all of us to be more aware of who they are and to become aware of their activities. The balance between civil liberties and security is a fine one, but I for one am happy for it to swing towards security for a while.

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