Tuesday, September 25, 2012

State of Mind

You may remember back in January when a picture surfaced of several marines who appeared to be urinating on the corpses of killed members of the Taliban. The photo, which was accompanied by a video of incident, went viral, led to riots and demonstrations like those we are seeing now, and has now led to two of the individuals shown being Court-Martialed for the incident.

I link to the story above for a few reasons. First, I like to cite my sources. Second, I want to draw attention to the fact that there are incredible similarities between this incident and the more recent video that was released that upset the Muslim world for its portrayal of the prophet. Both were carried out by Americans, both seemed to be blatantly and needlessly disrespectful to an entire culture, and neither group seemed to fully think through the consequences of their actions. Even the response at the time of this photo was the same: people took to the streets, there were violent demonstrations, and I believe people ended up being killed as a result, though my memory fails and the Internet won't dredge up the information for me.

The other thing that gets me, though, and the final reason I posted the above link is because it highlights an underlying issue that I have pointed out many times; that is, the apparent lack of empathy that many Americans have for others. I encourage you to read the comments on the linked article. Many people celebrate those soldiers for peeing on their dead enemies, and say they should receive medals (purple hearts in some cases) rather than a court-martial.

Their justification for this? Eye-for-an-eye mentality. They see what we have suffered at the hands of extremist Muslims, and so believe this is called for. What they neglect to consider, as usual, are the consequences for their point of view. I can agree that we have enemies in the Muslim community, and that we are doing what we can to rout them out and establish a democratic ally in the region. But I also happen to believe that things like this, along with the recent video, are slaps in the face to an entire religion, and an entire region that takes that religion very seriously (where we have military boots on the ground, no less). Is that really a wise course of action? You can believe whatever you want, and speak out about whatever you want, I grant you. But isn't a little common sense in order?

And here's where it really gets me. Things like the photo and the video make a whole lot of people upset, which makes the region unstable and threatens the safety of our troops. These same people who celebrate those derogatory  bits of ridiculousness are the first to decry the violence and volatility of the region, and call these people savages, etc. But who's really the savage? Why would someone do or say or produce something that they know is going to enrage a large group of people, possibly cause the death of American heroes, and then claim that they care more about those heroes than anybody else? It's repugnant, but that's where we're at.

So, how do we deal with this? What do we say to the people who think pissing on a corpse is worthy of a medal? How do reach those people, logically? I don't know, and I hope we figure it out soon, because I for one do not want to see what the next piece is that causes the Middle East to erupt into fits of violence.

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