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Searching for America
A terrorist wants you to be intolerant toward your own people

May 5, 2003
The Iranian

Sometimes we have these childhood memories, which may not even be memories at all but vague recollections combined with our parents' continuous storytelling of the event. I have a memory like that. It was 1984, and I was three years old. As the story goes, we were somewhere in Turkey, on our way to the American Embassy, walking through a crowded bazaar. My mother looked away for a split second and I was gone.

One thousand and one horrors swept across her imagination. She was terrified that I was lost to her forever, any parents' worst nightmare. Thankfully, after a few hellish hours, she found me at the police station. I think I remember the nice officer letting me wear his hat. Maybe this is a stretch, but this is how I feel about the place I call home, the United States of America. It is lost in a crowded bazaar called the world, maybe I'll find it waiting at the police station because I hope it is not lost forever.

It seems to me, when faced with close-minded, hate-filled people, an enlightened society would deal with them by becoming more open-minded, and more compassionate. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case.

These days, being anti-war automatically enters you into the anti-American category. Our society is giving into exactly what the terrorists want. A terrorist wants you to hate him, because that justifies his hate. He is happy to see you using violence, because that further validates his use of violence. A terrorist wants you to be intolerant toward your own people, the one's who do not share the same views as you, because that makes his intolerance towards his people and towards you defendable in his eyes.

I think that it's high time for us to do some house-cleaning. On a personal level, we often learn more from being introspective than casting all blame on an outside entity. For example, Islamic fundamentalists who hold the West, and especially America responsible for all their ills are not seeing the whole picture. Instead of being introspective and having a personal jihad, they are turning outward and making Islam look like a violent, intolerant and hateful religion. Instead of working to build up their own countries from the inside, to bring about real and long-lasting change, they are turning their energies into a destructive movement.

America, as a nation, strives to meet the ideal of being the embodiment of religious and cultural tolerance, the melting pot where everyone has an opportunity and makes up a part of the whole. No where is perfect but that is the ideal, and I think that the US has been more successful at it than perhaps any other nation. We value and preach tolerance, but our foreign policies support intolerant governments.

President Bush claims that, when it comes to terrorism, you are either with us or against us, but who is "us"? Is it the nation that provided the very same person we despise now, Saddam Hussein, with the capabilities to produce chemical weapons to use against the opponent in the Iran-Iraq war, killing thousands of Iranians? Or perhaps, is "us" the country that currently provides more monetary support to the state of Israel than any other nation in the world? Ask a young Palestinian or a young Israeli if they feel terrorized. We say "you are either with us or against us" when it comes to terrorism, and yet we continue to provide Israel with the weapons that only serve to keep themselves and Palestinians in a vicious circle of terror.

If history has taught us anything, it would be that hate breeds hate, and violence only begets more violence. The supposed "War to end all Wars," WWII, did not turn out to be the last, nor will our most current war be the last if we continue to deal with conflicts with the same old mentality in which we have always dealt with conflicts. History has continually tried to teach us that violence is not a long-term solution, and we continually choose to ignore that.

Plan A does not seemed to have worked very well for the last couple of thousand years, so maybe we should think about devising a Plan B.

I am all for God Blessing America, but I am also for God Blessing Iraq, Pakistan, Cambodia, Malaysia, China, Greece and Bosnia. God Bless all countries, all people around the world, because we are not disconnected from them. Our actions have global impacts, and our thoughts about one another, whether negative or positive, will come into fruition, this is what we call social consciousness.

Being anti-war does not mean you are anti-American or that you don't pray every night for the thousands of troops, American or otherwise, all over the world. Being anti-war, for me, just means that if war has continued to happen throughout the centuries, then there is an underlying problem in society that must be dealt with if we are ever to elevate ourselves as a world community.

As long as we continue to cut off the branches, thinking that the tree will die, we will continue to experience violence all over the world. If we continue creating destructive and intolerable environments in which groups of people continue to be degraded and weakened emotionally, intellectually, and economically, we only lay the foundation for hate, anger, and terrorist activity. Because after all, terrorism is traditionally used by the weak against the strong, and when you get to the point when your life is so horrible that you are willing to blow yourself up, that is a problem that affects the entire world, weak and strong alike.

Maybe I am an idealist, but I am not a pacifist asserting that we should do nothing to protect ourselves against terrorists. I am just saying that we should start treating the disease instead of the symptom. We should take a step back and try to understand why these things are happening and attempt to change them from the source.

So, I'm just going to wander around police stations, looking for us. The "us" that gives millions of dollars in humanitarian aid every year to people in need, more than all other countries combined, the "us" that has given me, as an Iranian immigrant, and now a naturalized citizen, the freedom to speak out and agree or disagree with our foreign policies, not the "us" that supports the killing of the innocent, and inadvertently, the creation of more terrorists.

May is... Mamnoon Month
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