Thursday, November 19, 2015

Of Suffragettes and Suicide Bombers

Irony Never Quite Killed So Well
Recently I saw the historical drama Suffragettes, coincidentally in the immediate aftermath of the recent Paris attacks. The two events are quite different to be sure, but both also carry the common element of wielding violence to influence authority.

In the case of the British suffrage movement, London mailboxes were sabotaged, royal and public buildings damaged and a devoted woman stepped forward to her death injuring both horse and jockey in the process.  In Paris, several armed political Islamists connected to ISIS attacked a stadium, a performance hall and several other venues resulting in hundreds of injuries and over a hundred deaths including their own.  In both cases, the aggressors sought change by making a deadly statement.

The causes couldn't be more different.  The suffragette aggressors sought political equality with their male counterparts.  The ISIS aggressors arguably seek to reduce attacks on their expansionist and oppressive, politically Islamic regime.  

And of course, the scale of these two events are quite different both in human lives lost and property destruction. But one need look no further than September 11th to find a similar disparity: nearly 3,000 American civilians were killed compared to nearly 150,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the retaliative war.  Does a higher number of innocent people dead correlate unequivocally to a greater wrong?

Such statistics is enough to make one question seriously whether violence can ever succeed at resolving the difficult problems that continue to challenge civilization.  In an ideal world, everyone would lay down their weapons and discuss the best way to get along.  Established power structures will veto that idea outright.

Still, I am a realist.  Judicious retaliation may need to be part of a short term solution when a rebellious group is actively attacking, regardless if the attackers are suffragettes or ISIS members.

Long term, however, even the most precise targeted violence with the highest claims of justice will not solve the overarching issues at hand.   Undermining ideologies which leverage falsehoods, oppression and violence takes the deepest compassion and perseverance of long-sighted people. Only by investing in secular government and secular education can we create societies which provide its people with peaceful paths to effect progressive change.


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