News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: "That's How Those People Are"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"That's How Those People Are"

Juan Cole makes some interesting observations about violence in Iraq. Amidst his general remarks about the Iraqi election, he says:

If these things were happening daily in Washington, Virginia and Maryland, Americans would freak out. Even just a little sniping paralyzed that area not so long ago. Americans know a war zone when they see one.
This brings up an interesting, much too neglected fact: Americans seem willing to live with violence, as long as it's someone else's neighborhood...

I used to watch that very short-run TV show, Over There. Forgetting for the moment why the show didn't win a larger audience, I'll just say how gritty and almost realistic the show was. Sure it purveyed a rather think-skinned realism and it wore its patriotism on its sleeve, but it really tried to portray the "inside view" of how war affected the grunts in the field.

That was the good part. The bad part--at least as I see it--is the almost superficial way it dealt with the violence that the troops visited upon the Iraqi civilian populatin. One thing in particular stands out: time after time you'd see these soldiers kicking in doors of people's homes, ordering everyone out of their beds--men, women, and children--and making them lay down on the ground with guns pointed at their heads.

I know I'm a sucker for empathizing with the victim, but I can't imagine that many Americans seeing those scenes would feel at least somewhat uncomfortable. At least, I imagine, most people would put themselves into these Iraqi families' place and feel the real terror and rage that anyone would feel in such circumstances.

That's what I believe... But then I think about our own violence in our mean streets. How much violence do Americans allow, that is not think about or even begin to imagine, in their own land? I am thinking about the streets where gangs live and children are accidentally gunned down during drive-by shootings. So, to say that Americans care about violence perpetrated against others just doesn't cut it, I think. Violence is okay, as long as it happens hidden away somewhere, or when it's perpetrated by the poor against the poor, becuase that's "how those people act."

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