I’m not sure whether the having of epiphanies causes me to write more or if writing more causes me to have epiphanies. Either way, this is my second blog in three days after not writing any for over a month and I have had a bit of an epiphany. The fact that everyone sitting in the coffee shop I am currently writing in, along with everyone driving outside, everyone in all other countries, and even everyone in the business of politics is human is something we all presume to know. Every once in a while I will see a picture of a dead Iraqi baby or read a story of a rural Chinese couple who had to sell their baby for food, and I will fell pity, but it wasn’t until a couple days ago that I think I fully realized that they are the same as me. They speak a different language, live in a different land, probably have different beliefs, but there is no reason why their lives are worth more or less than mine. There is no real reason why anyone’s life is worth more than anyone else’s. The troops the US have in Iraq drop a bomb attempting to kill a suspected “terrorist”, but accidentally kill a family of eight and – assuming the mainstream media even bothers reporting it – we look at it as collateral damage. A few Iraqi (or Afghan or Pakistani or Somalian…) people have to give up their lives so that we can live a little bit safer; most of us have no problem with that, if we even bother to think about it for more than ten seconds. Imagine the situation was reversed. Imagine that some foreign governments considered most members of the US Government to be terrorists. Imagine that one of these governments had the same feeling of entitlement as the US and bombed an apartment complex in Northern Virginia where – according to trustworthy intelligence – Donald Rumsfeld resides. Unfortunately, Mr. Rumsfeld was out of town and 50 innocent US citizens perished. What do you think our government would do? What do you think the reaction of the US people would be? Imagine the US was killing hundreds of thousands of people per year through sanctions, bombings, and supplying weapons to puppet dictators. Now imagine one of those countries got angry, attacked the US, and killed a few thousand innocent people; would anyone have a problem with the US striking back? Despite this priceless label we put on US lives, the majority of us have no problem when millions of innocent foreign lives (and a few thousand US lives) are sacrificed to “protect” the US economy. The only reason I can think of for this is because – from the beginning of time – “others” are looked upon as non-human.
The men who “discovered” the United States had to kill the savage people who were already residing here- just a cost of progress. In order for a person who owned a few hundred acres to make any money, he needed slaves. Might as well use the Africans, since – as we all know – they are animals with no real religion or values. Anyone who was against US policies in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s was automatically labeled a terrorist and therefore considered not human, making it pretty easy to kill or lock them up in a secret prison somewhere. Millions of people were killed – directly or indirectly – by the US in Asia, Russia, and Latin America (partially by arming people who would later become ‘terrorists’) under the guise that they were freedom-threatening commies. The same thing is going on now to all the ‘terrorists’ throughout the world. What if we were taught in school that every one of these people is a human being? What if we grew up knowing that someone our government labels a terrorist might actually be exactly the same as our mothers and fathers? What if an Iraqi came into school and let us know about himself and his family, his traditions, his fears and beliefs? What if we got to meet the children of the innocent Afghanis or the parents of the innocent Somali children that are being killed every hour of every day? Would we still be able to blindly go about our days? Would we call people who showed love for every human being hippies or naïve?
The people in charge of wars, torture, and the expanding of the US Empire are the same ones in charge of our education, what we see on the TV, and – ultimately – the way we think. No Child Left Behind assures that today’s children do not learn the real history of our country, or the basic humanism that we should all have. The fact that we do not see body bags or coffins on TV, nor do we get individual reports of dead Iraqi’s (or, for the most part, even US soldiers) assures that we cannot put human faces to any of the dead. I was listening to some of the Winter Soldier testimony a few months ago and – while all the stories made me cry – one statement still goes through my mind on an almost daily basis. During boot camp this soldier was taught to hate – and completely dehumanize – all Iraqi’s. The term hadji, to Muslims, means someone who has made the trek to the holy land of Mecca, but to US soldiers it was changed to mean anything Iraqi. Cigarette’s bought over there were hadji cigarettes, cars were hadji cars, little kids were hadji children, and so on. This helped lump every single person in the entire country into one category, a non-human category. This specific soldier – who came into the military having never traveled or studied about anything outside of the US – was fully brainwashed by this. One day while standing at a checkpoint, a suspicious Iraqi began to approach him. The first thing this soldier did was look through the sight of his rifle and aim at this anonymous Iraqi’s chest, like he was taught to do. He cocked his gun and told the Iraqi to not move, and the Iraqi listened. At this point, the soldier dared to take his eye from the sight and look a foot above the Iraqi’s chest into his eyes. The soldier said that he had a realization immediately after making eye contact with this strange man. The man stopped being a hadji and became a man; a man who was probably brainwashed to hate all Americans, just as this soldier was brainwashed to hate all Iraqis. He lowered his gun and the Iraqi ran away.
I apologize for babbling and I hope I made some sense; all I’m trying to say is that we should all be able to understand that each and every person on this earth is a human being, each and every person on this earth comes out of his or her mother having done nothing wrong. As Martin Luther King Jr said, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” If we understand that each and every one of us is human, we can no longer stand for any injustice done to anyone at any time. If just a few people a day can have this realization just think of how things will change. If 10% of the college graduates going on to become teachers can realize this and pass it on, we have a chance. However, if we continue to look at people different from us as others, we are surely headed to a horrible place.