Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

PARIS: STOPPING THE VIOLENCE

Posted by strattof on November 19, 2015

The world’s media, and most of its politicians, have expressed outrage at the brutal ISIS attacks in Paris which killed over 130 people and left many more wounded. We too are outraged. As our banner states. Making Peace Vigil is “against war & all violence.”

We are equally outraged by the ISIS suicide attacks in Beirut two days earlier, in which 43 people were killed and over 200 injured; by the attacks targeting Shias in Baghdad; by Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria; by…the grisly list goes on and on.

But these acts of violence have occasioned no 24-hour media coverage or expressions of solidarity from western leaders. How do we explain this identification with French suffering and indifference to the suffering of people we see as different? Do some lives matter more than others? 

And what about our own acts of violence—the war in Afghanistan, the US-led occupation of Iraq, US drone attacks in Pakistan and Somalia, the bombing raids against ISIS? This list, too, goes on and on. Are these western acts of violence not equally appalling?

“Violence begets violence.”–Martin Luther King

STRATEGIES OF WAR

OTHERING

Othering is a strategy used by powerful groups or nations to justify their domination and exploitation of other groups or nations by representing them as fundamentally different—that is “not one of us”—as lacking full humanity, as inferior. At the same time, the powerful group represents its own members as superior.

Othering is the reason we in the west do not readily identify with the suffering of Muslims, Arabs, Asians, or Africans. We see them as inferior and hence not worthy of our sympathy or solidarity.

DEMONIZATION

Demonization takes the strategy of othering one step further, representing the Other not merely as inferior, but as evil. It is the identification with evil of the people your side is intent on killing. It justifies the slaughter of the Other.

CANADIAN EXAMPLES OF DEMONIZATION

  • In each of the conflicts in which Canada is involved, our government has demonized one of the combatants: Islamic State in the case of Iraq-Syria, Palestine in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Russia in Ukraine. 
  • At the same time, our government has idealized “our side,” identifying the west with freedom and democracy. 
  • In fact, there are few, if any, totally good guys or bad guys in any of these conflicts, just many varying shades of gray. 
  • For example, the emergence of ISIS in Iraq is a direct result of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. 
  • Simplistic notions of good and evil lay the groundwork for war by creating a culture of hate and fear. Demonization also makes the lives of whole populations disposable. 

BARBARISM

How many lives have been lost so far in the US-led so-called “war on terror”? As of 2013:

  • About a million lives had been lost in Iraq.
  • 220,000 lives had been lost in Afghanistan. 

MUSLIM AND ARAB LIVES MATTER! 

RESPONSE TO PARIS ATTACKS

MILITARY ACTION

Thankfully, so far Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not retracted his pledge to end Canada’s bombing mission against ISIS, though he has yet to implement it. Not that training Iraqis and Syrians to kill other Iraqis and Syrians is a positive alternative.

  • Other nations, including France, the US, and Russia, are contemplating or have already carried out further airstrikes against ISIS. ●The Secretary General of NATO has said the alliance is willing to come to France’s defence.

Will western military operations against ISIS bring about any good outcome? Have the first 13 years of the “war on terror” had a beneficial outcome?

  • Descent into chaos and violence in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya: Where is the promised freedom and democracy?
  • Civilian deaths: To date, more than 450 civilians have been killed by the US-led airstrikes against ISIS.
  • Endless war in the whole Middle East region.
  • Violence in western countries, including Canada ‒ which should not surprise us: To inflict violence on other countries is to invite retaliation. 

REFUGEE BACKLASH

Premier Brad Wall and others have urged Prime Minister Trudeau to suspend the plan to admit 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end. Kudos to the Trudeau government for keeping to the plan.

Syrian refugees should not be punished. They are fleeing just such violence and looking for security. Theirs is a humanitarian crisis.

If we really believe in freedom, justice, equality, and democracy, we must loudly proclaim: REFUGEES WELCOME!

A QUIZ

You see two children fighting on a playground. What do you do? a) Encourage them to keep on fighting? b) Break up the fight and ask them to work out their differences in a non-violent manner?

IT IS NOT PARIS WE SHOULD PRAY FOR

A poem by Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh

It’s not Paris we should pray for.

It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut,

reeling from bombings two days before Paris,

is not covered in the press.

A world in which a bomb goes off

at a funeral in Baghdad

and not one person’s status update says “Baghdad,”

because not one white person died in that fire.

Pray for the world

that blames a refugee crisis for a terrorist attack.

That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker

and the person running from the very same thing you are.

Pray for a world

where people walking across countries for months,

 their only belongings upon their backs,

are told they have no place to go.

Say a prayer for Paris by all means,

but pray more,

for the world that does not have a prayer

for those who no longer have a home to defend.

For a world that is falling apart in all corners,

and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar. 

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