2005-07-10 clear as mud

Gnawing

For all the pride I take in my communication skills, both visual and otherwise, I don't think I expressed myself particularly well with my last post. But the central question... why?... still consumes me.

I'm a firm believer that knowledge is power. I think that educating yourself is fundamental to any solution. And it is not that I am labouring under any illusion that I'm going to mastermind a brillant and practical path to world peace or anything... but the more I puzzle about the whole issue of global terrorism, the more muddled I become. And the more convinced I am I need to educate myself more about it. And not just from the vantage of my narrow little white bread slice of middle-class Canadian suburbia here either.

But it's hard. It's hard to truly understand someone else's point of view when white bread middle-class suburbia is all you've really known.

But there is one thing I have resolved for myself... one small, shining, critical thing.

Reading the editorial section in the Toronto Star this morning, my mind suddenly snapped back to June 29th, sitting in the boarding terminal at LaGuardia, waiting to board the plane home from NYC.

There was an obviously Arab gentleman standing at the counter, registering for the flight, and I'm not proud of this... but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that for a moment, my heart flipped and flashed on visions of planes smashing into towers and I thought, "Oh, please. Don't be getting on MY flight."

Glancing around, it was readily apparent that I wasn't the only one thinking that. Practically all eyes were glued on this man, this poor and undoubtedly innocent man, whispering nervously to the counter attendants, whilst we all sat in supreme judgement examining his terrorist potential without knowing a single thing about him except that he was of Arab descent.

And I felt suddenly sickened and ashamed. How awful it must be for him, standing at the counter, feeling all those eyes on him, registering his description, pinning all sorts of hateful motives on him simply based on his appearance.

As a five-foot nothing, English speaking white woman sitting there in a daisy embroidered sundress and pink sweater, I can't pretend even for a moment to know what that is like. Not for a moment.

I know that in the wake of 9/11 and this latest round of terrorist attacks in London, that my intial reaction might seem to some to be a 'natural' reaction or even a 'prudent' one.

But this, to me, is perhaps the worst thing that Al Qaeda has managed to perpetrate on great, diverse, multi-cultural Western democracies such as America, or Great Britian, or Canada... and perhaps the most dangerous, the most defeating.

Due to the breath-taking evil of a handful of single-minded, ruthlessly violent men a minute, twisted sect of a much, much larger, benign and honorable faith I've been made, reduced... at least momentarily, to a small-minded, suspicious racist individual who despite all her own best instincts, is regarding another human being... a fellow traveller, an innocent civilan deserving of all the same rights I have, as a would-be bomber.

And it is precisely that kind of thought, that kind of creeping suspicion, that kind of fearful judgement, that kind of ultimate ignorance that leads to the breakdown of otherwise great, functioning democracies. We start shunning a particular group because of crimes committed by a very few of its members, which leads inevitably to isolation, fear and despair amongst the group being shunned. And, people? It is precisely that fear and isolationism and despair which gives fuel, gives power and innummerable new recruits to the extremist few who would seek to destroy our peace and freedom. That is how they "win". That is what they want.

It is unconscious, barely perceptible perhaps. But it is absolutely insidious and it's a vicious cycle with no end. And we can't let that happen. We can't let fear and prejudice and suspicion overtake us. Not now. Not ever.

That is the one thing I do know for sure. And that is the one thing I can control.

Heavy sigh. I'm going to give this up now... these weighty, overwrought posts because I'm so not good at it. These thoughts will continue to tumble through my head, no doubt, and I promise you I will do my utmost to root out the burrowing evil of suspicion and prejudice I just described because it's utterly vile... but I really need to return to my usual self, comfortably costumed in talk of trees and baby bunnies and the Gilmore Girls and such. For my sake as well as yours! So consider the period at the end of this sentence to be THE END of such ruminations.


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