Self-righteous: convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others : narrow-mindedly moralistic – Merriam-Webster.com
As we see the fruits of our violent international interventions in the desperation of our Afghani allies – again – we seem to have forgotten the lessons of the past (again). We called it “nation-building” and “humanitarian aid.” We called it “fighting terrorism” except we failed (once again) to defeat terrorism with terror, to defeat violence with violence, to combat narrow-mindedness with narrow-mindedness. Somehow, once again, we failed to use the Golden Rule, we failed to “see” our “enemy” clearly; his viewpoint, his honor, his pride, his homeland and his beliefs.
The Romans had a similar plan back in Biblical times. It was called “Pax Romana,” but it used terror and intimidation on less well-equipped, less well-trained, less well-disciplined civilizations to try and mold them in their own image – just like us. And if you strip away all the miracles and the paganism and the “born again” frills, Jesus was talking about compassion. Certainly in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, he was talking about compassion for enemies, of seeing the good, the value, the humanity in someone who opposes your views (or, at a minimum, your deadly incursions into the land of his ancestors and his tribe).
Or we could look at the lessons of the Dark and Middle Ages when Christianity and Islam ruled much of the world through the same violence and intimidation and with absolute control and undisputed authority in the territories they controlled with equal but opposing dogmas and self-righteousness. We could see our Christian ancestors in the militant Islamic response to both the Soviet Union’s religious Communism and the United States’ religious Christianity: “NO!”
But we don’t have to go back that far. We saw this before in my lifetime as we left Vietnam with a whole lot of pain and suffering in our wake, with 3,000,000 Vietnamese deaths and a world of destruction, pain and suffering in our past and nothing much to show for the American boys we forced to go over there and “fight for our country.” Except it didn’t help our country one bit. It helped the ghouls of war, the champions of violence, the entrepreneurs of destruction and the “military-industrial complex” as we fought people that weren’t rightful enemies, that couldn’t have done the same things to us if they had wanted to.
As we blame others for this latest setback to narrow-mindedness, I suggest a bit of soul-searching. After all, the vast majority of us voters supported this at the outset. We support “greatness” in vast numbers and both political parties and, in our narrow-minded, nationalistic, narcissistic view of the world, bullying lesser powers, Third World nations, is “greatness.” Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Ukraine are in our rear view mirrors but North Korea, Iran, and Syria are coming up and just on the horizon in our journey through the adolescent phase of “nation-building” and “fighting for our country.”
The problem seems to be that, in earlier times, this was remarkably successful. We terrorized Japan with nuclear bombs and they unconditionally surrendered, becoming our own willing colony with 50,000 US soldiers firmly implanted there on a permanent basis, leaching billions of dollars from taxpayers and enhancing the careers and the esteem of our occupational troops and their commanders and suppliers.
We and the Soviets fire-bombed Berlin into submission eventually and again got that submissive response, becoming our colony as well, divided 50-50 between the victorious allies-violent enemies. We have over 35,000 troops permanently stationed there today and we’re not bringing them home either despite finishing the mission more than 75 years ago.
NATO stole Kuwait from Iraq in 1919 and used its deep water port to export oil “bought” from the wealthy royal family we installed in power after World War I as well as oil recently stolen by slant-drilling under the border with Iraq. We’ve got over 13,000 men and women in uniform over there ensuring our insatiable appetite for “black gold” is satisfied with oil prices far lower than the rest of the world pays for the same commodity.
But recently we haven’t been getting the same cooperation, the same submission, the same glorious delusions of “greatness” or generosity or virtuousness. Recently, it’s become all too real, all too close, and all too falsely justified.
And recently we’ve been re-fighting the same wars, the same battles. We pretended that the Civil War (in which many of our ancestors participated on both sides) ended slavery, that 40 acres and a mule was an adequate start when it just led to economic and social discrimination rather than legal slavery. A hundred years later, we started to admit their great-grandchildren into full citizenship and we’re still working on it along with trying to give women equal rights as well. Of course the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be ratified, but we’re working on it.
Maybe it’s time for a little humility. I don’t mean humiliation. The difference is admitting that we, you and I, are part of the problem; that it isn’t the politicians we elected that are the only ones responsible for these periodic setbacks; these recent blows to our overblown grandiosity and greed. Why can’t we be just a nation among equal nations? What is the reason we want to be a “superpower,” (read “terrorizing power”), a “nation-builder” (read “colonial power”), or an occupational army (200,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen stationed in other countries around the world armed with city-killing nuclear weaponry and other means to instill fear into ordinary citizens in foreign countries).
Why can’t we see clearly? Fighting terror with terror no longer works if it ever did. Bullying “lesser” countries no longer is a viable national strategy and no longer (if ever) leads to “peace on earth” or “Pax Romana” or stability or a “brotherhood of mankind.”
It’s time we tried a different approach and followed a leader like Jimmy Carter whom we shunned for an actor that promised us “greatness” and a return to the days of the old west where might supposedly made right.
We started to interfere in Afghanistan by funding and arming Osama bin Laden and the same people that just took over Kabul when they were fighting the invasion of the Soviet Union. And we ended by funding and arming them as well. What good have we done for the average Afghani? What might an unaligned person forced to live in a war zone all their life feel about our armed and dangerous interventions?
What would Jesus, the nonviolent, turn-the-other-cheek Jesus, the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Jesus say about this? Has violence worked? Is that the only plan we have to make the world safer for our great-grandchildren?
There’s got to be a better way to do this.
©David Ney Dodson, Phoenix, AZ, August 2021