For half a century, from the end of World War II until the fall of Communism, the world was divided into two parts: the good guys and the bad guys, the West versus Communists. Russia and the U.S. never attacked each other directly–we fought our wars through other countries. If a guerilla movement anywhere in the world aligned with the Communists in order to overthrow a repressive government, we backed the other side, even if we ended up shipping weapons to a cruel dictator, who impoverished his citizens while filling Swiss bank accounts for himself. Cold War exploitation by both sides was a major reason that African democracy never had a chance. South America is just now crawling out from under its effects. No wonder the U.S. is hated in so many parts of the world. And some of the allies we backed later became our enemies. We even backed Iraq (against Iran) at one point. The reason we know Saddam is hiding bioweapons is because we sold them to him! We now have a welcome breather from those Cold War days, but in the wake of 911, it looks like we may do it again.
Today, Muslim fundamentalists declare they’re fighting Western oppression in the name of worldwide Islam. Maybe they really believe it, the way some Communists did before their beliefs became just another form of fascism. We have to be careful to show the Muslims of the world that we are not against their religion–only those members of it who want to destroy us. Otherwise, we’ll again end up supporting any government that declares itself to be against Islamic fundamentalism, no matter what its other policies are, and we?ll inspire more and more young, idealistic suicide bombers, ad infinitum.
In our media-dominated world, it’s not so much what we do as what we are SEEN as doing. We need to get more involved in trying to bring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian situation. When the president makes a speech about religion, he needs to remind the world that the Koran links Jews, Christians and Muslims together as “chosen people.” We have to be strict with our Muslim allies about basic human rights, and not let their vows to fight off fundamentalists give them an excuse to treat their citizens unfairly, while we look the other way.
Those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s remember constantly looking over our shoulders for an H-bomb flash. There were bomb shelters in our basements and “duck-and- cover” drills at school. Whenever I hear UFO researchers dividing the visitors into “good” and “bad” aliens, I always find out they grew up during this period. The constant undertone of anxiety eventually led to the sexual and cultural revolution of the 60s–we just couldn’t take it anymore. Now that era seems to have returned in another form. If we again divide the world into us versus them, we’ll have another 50 years of worry. Bin-Laden and his crowd learned that divisive Cold War tactic from us, but that doesn’t mean we have to fall for it.
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