Today it seems as if we are being very easily led down the path towards war. Terrible actions by those with extremist philosophies have pushed us further and further down this path of hatred and violence, pushed us to a place where we can’t see what is in front of us and have trouble looking behind us at where we’ve come from. We stumble forward in this miasma of hatred and intolerance, angry and afraid, looking for a direction to go, a path forward that allows us to live without fear and violence surrounding us. As we struggle to find our way in this fog, we can see a path ahead of us, a path well-lit by those controlling our media and our governments. The signposts are garbled on this path we are on, contradictory even. Some tell us of our “enemies”, extremist Islamic philosophies and radical ideologies, and some tell us of what our weaknesses are that led us to this place, such as a lack of fear of the Christian god’s wrath and an embrace of “degenerate” acts such as liberalism and homosexuality. No matter how garbled these signs are and how confusing these signposts are, they are leading us to one very obvious place, war, specifically, war against Islam, or if you are in the Islamic world, a war against western culture.
In the past week since the horrific shootings in Paris, I have watched a terrifying dynamic play out within our communities. I have watched anti Islamic violence and racism sweep across France and I have seen racial and religious intolerance sweep through our communities like the rising water of a tsunami. I have seen members of my community call out for extreme and unfocused retaliation against the Muslim world, everything from military strikes on Islamic holy sites to a call to “purge the world of Islam”. First of all, I would like everyone to think very hard about what this type of action would look like. How does one bomb a holy site or city without becoming the monster that you are hoping to defeat? and what exactly would “purging’ a religious philosophy shared by over a quarter of the world’s population resemble? We must be vigilantly wary of those who so easily point us in the direction of an enemy when we are afraid and angry. We must think beyond our triggers and emotional reactions and act from a place of clarity and morality, not fear. Because we are in the middle of a war right now. It’s a war that we have been in for our entire lives and it is so pervasive and all-encompassing that it is barely noticeable to us. Like proverbial frogs in boiling water, we were born in this war, and as the heat of this war is raised, we sit by idly as the world around us starts to boil.
But the war that we are surrounded by and the war that we are being relentlessly led to are not the same war. We are conditioned from childhood to look towards the horizon for something to fear. There is an enemy, our leaders tell us, waiting out there to take away our way of life. We must all fall in line and obey the authorities or risk the loss of everything we love. Whether it’s the Russians who are going to destroy us or more recently Islamic terrorists that hate our freedom, the enemy that our governments and media sources point us toward is always a distant other, looming on or coming across our borders. But we should be cautious when we are given such a simplistic answer to an obviously complex and nuanced issue. Because the war we are engaged in is not a religious war, although religious ideologies are being used as tools in it. It is not a war between nations but a war that is going on within most nations. It is a war being waged over control of wealth and resources, and humanity and all life on earth, has been reduced to just another resource to be controlled. The reason that our eyes and anger are pointed to this other is because the people perpetuating this narrative are terrified of us recognizing the actually battlefield for what it is. Their control is completely reliant on the fact that the people that they are controlling do not realize that they are being manipulated. This is why it is crucial that we open our eyes to the war happening around us and to combat the attitudes and mindsets that keep our communities divided and afraid.
The true enemy to our communities does not hide behind extremist philosophies, they are extremist philosophies and those that hold these hateful attitudes close and live by them. The only people who truly desire a world-wide religious war are a very small number of Muslim and Christian zealots and those that profit off the making of war, and it is vitally important for us to see beyond this media created fog of war and focus our efforts on the difficult task of diffusing this narrative of fear that is being spoon fed to us every day. The battles that must be fought today are battles against extremism, not in support of it, and the way we combat extremism isn’t with more extremism with a different face. Extremism is defeated with tolerance. This does not mean we need to tolerate extremist violence. Violent crimes need to be taken seriously and those that commit them must be apprehended and face justice, but justice does not include retaliation against others because they share the same religious beliefs as the criminals.
We must be tolerant of those we disagree with and those that are different from us. We must look at the mindsets and belief structures that surround us and fight the cultural conditioning that we have all received. We must confront racism in our communities and in ourselves. We must confront the sexism and misogyny that plagues our society. We must treat the poor with dignity and respect and do everything in our power to make our communities safe and hospitable for everyone. Because these toxic attitudes of intolerance and hatred are the tools that are used to keep our eyes off the real issues in the world and if we let ourselves remain distracted by them, we will be led by our noses down a path of sorrow and horror, a path that leads to a continuous global conflict that only benefits those that profit on warfare.