My dad sent me an e-mail today with the subject line: Bush doctrine working? Inside was a link to an article:
http://web.archive.org/web/20081202150020/http://www.deanesmay.com/archives/006331.html and the request, “Comment on this please.” Because I’m a good daughter who always does what her dad asks, here is my comment.
Dean Esmay, the article’s author, writes, “But in a part of the world where power has always come first and foremost through the extension of brutality, it is violence and fear that are the fastest way to get respect. They don’t think, ‘Oh, you’re a bully, that makes me mad, I’m going to hit you back.’ They think, ‘Oh. You’re tough. I’d better treat you with respect.'”
This is relevant to an ongoing discussion that Michael and I have been having on the general topic: Can You Dismantle the Master’s House Using the Master’s Tools? Perhaps you can do it, but then what have you got? Another master whose house can be as easily brought down? An ongoing cycle, or worse, spiral of escalating violence? We, as a nation, won our independence from imperialism through violence: the Revolutionary War. Or did we? Once we threw Britain off our backs, didn’t we in turn become the Imperialists?
But let’s look at the question a little deeper. Dean gives the example of the psychologist who stands up to her patient:
“Dr. Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist who’s worked extensively with violent criminals, says it pretty well:
“‘In my private practice, I don’t work with terrorists but I do work with violent people. I used to believe (as many of my colleagues still do) that empathizing with my patients and increasing their self-esteem would help them on the path to self-actualization. Of course, for some anxiety-ridden patients who need faith in themselves, the technique of empathy and support works. However, for those patients with serious violent tendencies, just the opposite is true. With those patients, I’ve found that setting clear boundaries and making judgments about their immoral behavior works like a charm.’
“‘Those patients who threatened me backed down only when I got up in their face and told them forcefully to stop — the slightest hint of fear or intimidation (or sympathy!) on my part was met with increased threats. In the real world of private practice, confronting real murderers, I learned to act in ways that were different from what I had been taught in graduate school.'”
What is Doctor Smith doing that makes her powerful? Is she lashing out with brutality and violence? Or is she standing up to those who are violent and brutal out of a clear and strong sense of purpose? If she had to use physical force, would it be motivated by a lust for brutality or by a deep sense of care and concern for the well-being of both herself and her patient?
See, I think that while sometimes the tools look the same on the outside, maybe what’s important is HOW they are used. Two people could use the same gun in self-defense. One person aims to disable, kill only if unavoidable, so shoots only as many times as necessary. The other person, out of anger and vengeance, shoots to kill and then pumps another couple of rounds for good measure. They have both achieved the short-term goal of self-preservation. But is the attacker gone? In the first case, yes. In the second, the victim has become the attacker, and the cycle continues.
What do you think is going on in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison today?!?!? We take young boys who have not yet developed a deep sense of self and their place in the world, who are often impoverished financially, intellectually, and (for lack of a better word — don’t cringe Michael) spiritually, and send them out to dismantle the tyrants’ kingdoms using the tyrants’ tools. GUESS WHAT THEY BECOME? Why should this result shock us? It’s common sense. Cause and effect. To liberate Iraq, we send an army of slaves. Is it no wonder the slaves get out of hand when given a little of the master’s power?
Bush’s language of liberation: what hypocrisy! What hubris! When we ourselves are a nation of slaves. Slaves to our big cars and houses and designer labels. Slaves to an American Dream that is manufactured by Madison Avenue. We are a nation of hungry ghosts: with huge stomachs and tiny mouths, we can never get full. Can never have enough. Always eating, eating, eating. Like the monkey whose paw is caught in the trap and could free himself if only he’d let go of the banana. But he just won’t let go of that banana. Most of us have no clue what “liberation” actually means, much less how to free someone else.
So, okay, in practical terms, if the goal is not to “liberate” the Iraqi people but simply to oust one tyrannical regime, we have done that. As far as true liberation, I’m afraid that we are as far from it as we have ever been. That’s human. And eventually, either by our own actions or the natural forces of the universe (of which our own actions are, of course, a part, so what I’m really saying is either sooner or later), humanity will be gone. And ultimately, what will any of our efforts have achieved?