Ben Tanosborn [send him email] writes a weekly column, which can be found at www.populistamerica.com
Our political origins in this United States. how soon we forget them!
It was through revolution first, then societal evolution that we have become the people that we are today. Our predecessors' initial struggle included, no doubt, some form of terror against the British, or their sympathizers, before a constitution was drafted and the US became a nation of laws, "our own laws." That was America's proud march to independence and freedom.
Not only was this nation birthed by revolution, but the rights of its inhabitants were restated clearly by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 at his inaugural address: "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it."
Revolutionary rights. when constitutional rights are either absent or fail. Politics' last rites; mankind's sacrament for those left without hope. so that they may have a rebirth. These are rights that may not be taken away, for they are intrinsically a part of everyone inhabiting this earth. Rights of last resort, one might say.
Somehow, and for some unimaginable reason, Americans find it difficult to accept that other people in the world may have similar aspirations, maybe encased in different traditions. Or perhaps it's our government that finds it difficult to understand how other groups, societies and nations have the urgent need to unyoke themselves from their oppressors, or those intent in changing their ways and traditions.
Of late, the march is on in most of South America, from Cape Horn to Lake Maracaibo [Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela], to find better social and economic justice by veering to the political left - that being done at a prescribed national pace: in short evolutionary steps by some countries, and revolutionary but peaceful strides by others. Fortunately, because neither political independence nor overt US military presence are at stake, change received its start democratically, at the ballot box, with absence of economic or homicidal terror.
Not so in the Middle East and beyond, from Jerusalem to Kabul, where there is also a march, but where social and economic justice play second fiddle to the graver issues of territorial dispossession and foreign intrusion in cultural, economic, political and religious affairs. It is in this region that the extended arm of Uncle Sam is not seen as a sign of help and friendship, but one of mistrust. And as if wearing a bracelet with a stamped Star of David on the wrist had not been enough, the US had to pound its fist over the sovereign peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. All in response to what were deemed as acts of terror - which begs the question. just what are these acts of terror in response to?
Terror, in a political and not a criminal sense- assuming such distinction can be made, is nothing but a weapon that the weak feels forced to utilize against the strong. And the level of terror to be used, to be effective, needs to be directly proportional to the disparity in power between the two; or as viewed by the weak, between oppressors and oppressed. And that sums up the case in the Middle East for organizations such as Hamas, Hezbollah, and the many different groups adding to the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, whether Al Qaeda militants or its mutants. These terrorists, denounced by the American establishment as criminals, see a redeeming and justified reason for their acts. Finding themselves lacking representation and justice for their causes, they can still hold on to one thing: their revolutionary rights. In this case: Jihad!
If Americans have a revolutionary right to overthrow a perverse government that they cannot otherwise peacefully change. how can Bush and his minions at the Pentagon justify imposing their will on other people, in their own land to boot, and expect no retribution, no payback?
Hamas, in its resounding victory in last week's Palestinian elections, has brought home the reality that terrorism has many disguises, and can be seen in many different ways. And an organization with some lofty causes and citizens' appeal cannot be considered "all that bad." After all, heading the list of critical political issues for the Palestinians are the change in the political status quo, and putting a stop to the corrupt ways of their government. both issues addressed head-on by the Hamas politicians prior to the election.
Terrorism of the political variety would probably diminish or even cease to exist if the US stopped instigating it by its actions, relying more on dialogue to achieve its goals, instead of military action which is but another form of terrorism.
Bottom line: there is no moral justification for taking anyone's life. That's why there must be constant dialogue by all parties, no one excluded, to address conflict. Revolutionary rights must be first exercised at the negotiating table. First. and last, among men of good will.
? 2006 Ben Tanosborn