During the 1960s, the so-called “flower children” suggested that we sit down with our worst enemies and sing songs, share a meal, have a few beers or maybe some pot, and “give peace a chance.” While I was (and still am) a pacifist, that approach sounded naive and unworkable.
It’s easy when a war is far away to say, that’s a civil war and should be decided by the people who live there. It’s harder to say that when the war is on your doorstep or the news is broadcasting a steady stream of information about the kinds of atrocities now being perpetrated by ISIS in northern Iraq in the name of their religious and cultural views.
Like most doves, I have a few hot buttons that make me think more like a hawk. I have no patience when it comes to crimes against women (stoning, mutilation, honor killings) or crimes against peoples (such as the Yazidi) based on the absurd, stone-age belief that one’s god wants them to do such things. It’s especially sad for a dove whose beliefs are based on a spiritual foundation, to see the horror committed by others in the name of a religion.
Generally, I’m tolerant of other religions and really feel no missionary zeal whatsoever to tell people who are worshiping their god to stop doing it and come worship my god. I don’t know why so many people care about the spiritual practices of others.
I grow intolerant, though, when anyone says their god is telling them to kill me or torture me. I see no spiritual component whatsoever in such attitudes and as an angry dove, I quickly think “those people are worshiping a misguided tradition rather than a god.” And, as a dove who is being pushed by circumstance to think like a hawk, I think that if I were flying a drone over a bunch of men about to kill women and chidren for purportedly religious reasons, I would fire a Hellfire missile.
The issues, of course, are larger than one band of religious thugs, and one or two Hellfire missiles. We cannot kill every ISIS thug. And right now, we don’t know how to change their minds. Perhaps some day we will figure out what makes them tick and how to stop it. Until then, the atrocities are mounting up in real time and they require us, I think, to take a pragmatic look at how we should respond as civilized and sympathetic people.
Doing little or nothing should not be the default answer to ethnic cleansing against entire peoples or faith-based crimes against women.