Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The value of a life

It's been way too long since I posted here. I apologize. I think I'll try for a little less length and a little more frequency. Starting now.

So the topic today is one of they many interesting factoids I've heard lately about current islamic opinion. I've heard it said that many in the Islamic world believe that the West - and America in particular - does not value the life of a Muslim as much as the life of a Christian (or a Jew).

They've come to this conclusion, having watched the U.S. invade and occupy Iraq apparently without due concern for the life, human rights, and safety of the Iraqi people. And now they hear the president rally behind Isreal's war in Lebannon, apparently comfortable with the loss of Muslim life that gets in the way. We have a policy, and we are willing to pay a cost to acheive it, so long as that cost is primarily borne by the (Muslim) population and our gas prices don't go too high.

But I want to tell Muslims - from the heart - that this perception is simply untrue, and it is offensive and disturbing to hear this. We don't value Muslim life differently than the lives of people of other faiths. As evidence of this, I offer U.S. foriegn policy. The U.S. has been happily complicit with genocides of people of all faiths around the world. True, the people of Darfur are Muslim, but the Rwandans were mostly Christian. The Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge were Buddhist. We have gladly supported regimes who have brutally repressed and murdered their own population, whether Catholic, Buddhist, or Animist. Just look at central America. No, the truth is the reason we ignore the misery of most Muslims is simply that we value the lives of the poor less than the lives of the wealthy. The people of poor countries, especially the lower classes and the native peoples, are vast unwashed masses to us.

Every week seems to bring some natural disaster that wipes out hundreds or thousands of impoverished people like ants. We feel powerless to prevent such things. And we don't need to care about them so long as we don't have to look at them. And that's what we do: we ignore the misery and poverty of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and those who practice native religions alike. How can we be expected to care much about such people, anyway, if they don't care enough about themselves to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (What? They don't have shoes? That's no excuse!).

Note our response to the misery of our own poor in New Orleans during the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. The government was utterly leisurely in its response to that calamity, even though it occurred right here at home because it - as most disasters do - primarily affected the underclass. The devoutly Christian underclass.

So I say this to the Muslims in Iraq and Lebannon enduring daily violence, sorrow, and fear, which American policy facilitates: just be glad you're not also black.


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