Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Cause is Worth Fighting For

As I read about the latest Bin Laden recording, which has followed recent diatribes from him and others of his cronies, and duly reported by the media around the globe, I started to think about terrorists and terrorism. I don’t mean that I never thought about terrorists before today. On the contrary, I’ve heard about this violent method of making a point since I was a little boy.

When I was ten years old, I saw the movie Exodus. In that facile albeit totally absorbing film, since it can only last for three-plus hours without turning into a problem for film exhibitors who need to cull audiences more than 3 or four times per day—there is a clear delineation between those heroes who want to help the poor downtrodden Jews and inaugurate a new Jewish State of sanctuary in the so-called “biblical” homeland, Palestine--against all anti-Semitic evils by using manipulation and politics, and others who would wreak havoc and terror to accomplish the same goals.

The “political” guys in the film, led by Paul Newman’s character, were the Hagganah. They commandeered boats and personnel—whatever—to get displaced Jews from Europe into Palestine in order to make a point to the United Nations that there needed to be a Jewish State, at least partly to make amends for the horrors of the Holocaust.

The terrorists, known as Irgun, played by Sal Mineo as a munitions expert, and David Opatoshu as an alienated family member of an old Jewish family in Palestine—they worked to blow up stuff to make a point. The infamous bombing of the King David Hotel, a real historical event, which is a major jolt as depicted in the film, would be a drop in the everyday bucket of Iraq car bombings in the media today.

Exodus indeed provided a simplistic view and clear-cut depiction of the good-guys (Paul Newman), bad guys (British and Nazis) and troublemakers (Irgun terrorists).

Real life tends to be more complex--a real-life Irgun terrorist, Menachim Begin, became Prime Minister of Israel, and made a peace of sorts with an arch-enemy and fellow-terrorist, Yasser Arafat.

Terrorism—the killing of innocent people including women and children—non-combatant personnel—to get a government to capitulate so that such awful things don’t happen anymore—it’s just not very efficient. It’s not like having a meeting with the opposition and staking a claim and making some sort of ultimatum which to me is more direct. When terrorists wreak havoc, the result is just that—havoc--should we really believe the people who claim to take the blame are really to blame? When infants are killed and maimed, does that really make us want to adhere to the terrorist cause?

That’s my take on terrorism in the Middle East prior to the events of the 1980’s, 1990’s and the present. So many intellectual references are made to the fact that modern Israel was born on the back of terrorism. Scholars love to point back to the American Revolution, and the Boston Tea Party, as an early act of willful violence that made a point that needed to be made—taxation without representation, we all learned in school as a prelim to the reason for separating from England. Terrorism actually works, it’s just not admirable while it’s happening.

Modern terrorism, which indeed started at the beginning of the last century, is the killing and injuring of innocent people, in the name of a cause which is so just as to warrant getting attention through such mindless violence. I have always held out my arm, and waved off any attempt, by anyone to try to explain what the motive is behind a terrorist act. I have always said that it is NOT UP TO ME to psychoanalyze the motives of an individual, or a group, who would willingly kill or hurt men, women, and children, knowing that the pain caused would not relate to the cause being promoted. I don’t care what a terrorist thinks or wants to promote—terrorism is the means and the end, and therefore that modality takes him or them out of the loop.

I still believe that the cause is everything—It is all there is. Those who live without a cause are not in touch with reality. The founders of the United States of America believed this. There were some among them who had something to gain, and everything to loose, by a war with the mother country, England. But the “cause” of freedom was a bigger plum, than simple comfort or serenity.

Yet what do we remember these days about this noble cause and its aftermath? Do we recall death and destruction? Is terrorism the calling card for the honor of freedom and democracy to which we aspire in these United States?

In fact the first things we remember are these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”--Declaration of Independence

A film about global warming, Inconvenient Truth, makes the case that the first priority should be to save planet Earth, without which all the rest of the squabbles and disagreements won’t matter. The present number one priority of the US government is to fund and occupy a piece of territory in the Middle East on the false pretense that it is in the United States citizens’ best interests.

The film about global warming is a tribute to the tenacity of Al Gore, who ran for President in 2000, won the popular vote, and lost the electoral numbers. He repeats a number of times in the film that he is promoting his vision of what’s wrong with global warming, and how it can be corrected, one by one—one person at a time, one family, one group. Ultimately, with time and luck, his message will reach us all. He stays true to the cause without firing a weapon, hurting a child, or setting off a bomb.

I believe the human race is one race, and that we are all one with God. I will continue to write about that in the most positive of terms, without malice toward my fellow man or woman, in the best approach possible. I don’t like our government's policies and behavior any more than do the terrorists. But I’ll make you a bet I get more bang for my buck than they do, without firing a shot.

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