It has become a tradition in America for organizations like the MATV Foundation of Erie, PA to offer a showing of community strength at the scenes of violent crimes. The idea behind such gatherings is to send a message that violence is unacceptable to the community while allowing community members to present a unified show of force against perpetrators of violence. The Paris March, involving millions, on Sunday, January 11, 2015 was intended to send a similar message in response to the Paris Terror Attacks.
Unfortunately, the news quickly shifted way from an anti-violence message to petty, gossipy partisan politics when pundits realized the Obama Administration had not sent a more recognizable official to the gathering. Where many pundits have even gone so far as to criticize President Obama for failing to personally attend, the reality is that these types of events are meant to reflect the feelings of a community. Politicians have plenty of forums to voice their anti-violence message, so making the Paris March about political leaders only undermines the entire point of the rally.
Furthermore, politics is just one factor that can easily muddy the meaning of anti-violence gatherings. Where the Civil Rights Movement was often attacked for being a communist initiative, which discredited the effort in the minds of many, the Paris March can easily be misrepresented as an anti-Islam rally, especially since the most famous victim of the Paris Terror Attacks was a cartoonist targeted for his disrespectful depictions of Islam. Unfortunately, there is also growing anti-Islam sentiments in places like France and Germany while the French government has a recent history of enacting what could be considered anti-Muslim laws, e.g. banning the use of the burqa.
After the September 11th terrorist attacks, many Americans blamed Islam out of anger while others are simply just bigots and they seized upon a tragedy to send their message of hate. As a whole, Americans do not hate Muslims. Westerners do not hate the Russian People, even as we must continue to confront Vladimir Putin over his support of violence in Ukraine. The People of Hong Kong do not hate the Chinese People; they simply want to choose a government that reflects their interests. In fact, most people do not hate the wealthy, even as we protest against growing wealth disparity caused by policies that benefit them at the expense of everyone else.
Consequently, the Paris March against terrorism can only have meaning if its message is not distorted by those who want to use anti-violence demonstrations to push their beliefs and agendas. Anti-violence movements must thoroughly be about combating violence against all the victims of that violence. Because the list of attendees for the Paris March included political leaders who have a record of suppressing political freedom, i.e. the ability to voice ones dissent, the size and message of Sunday’s rally is in jeopardy of being overshadowed by politics and those wishing to divide the world with hate.
What would really send a message of solitary to all victims of terrorists and offer a united show of force against the perpetrators of terrorism would be for the Paris March to be duplicated around the world at the sites of other terrorist attacks. Just as the Arab Spring spread like wildfire across the Middle East to demonstrate the frustrations the Peoples of the Middle East shared against their unresponsive, often abusive governments, terrorists need to see a similar showing. It is, regrettably, the rulers of the Middle East who have helped create instability by refusing to embrace changes, particularly the loss of their power, and suppressing the voices of their Peoples.
With that in mind, terrorism is something government cannot effectively police without the support of their People. When government is despised just as much, if not more, than terrorists, the People become the enemy and the terrorists become the heroes. As such, Middle Eastern leaders need to fully embrace civil liberties and free speech in order to harness the support of the populous to combat terrorism. Similarly, Western governments need to stop playing political games and start becoming more responsive, i.e. less dysfunctional, to the needs of their citizens as well. When that is done, terrorism will become the enemy and the People with support the government’s efforts to deal with terrorism.
Read old posts