The war on dogma

The debate over America’s actions in Iraq has been hot and sticky. After many discussions with many people on this topic, I have realized that many still see current events through their privileged Armani glasses, through a vision distorted by mainstream media, by their parents’ rearing, by the rumours that float around in their circles of friends and by the hundreds of other societal forces that taint their view of reality.

Accepting this way of functioning means giving up free will, and granting that pure objectivity may not exist, and that we can never be completely free of the forces that subjugate us, we can still try a little harder to take off the Armani glasses, use our brains, and throw some sincerity into our analysis of the world.

I am the first to admit that this is a mightily difficult task, one that takes a great deal of mental effort and strong will, but the reward is worth it. The reward, of course, is being a step closer to true freedom.

If we are to be fruitful in our discussions, we must be sincere. Nothing is easier than to remain sheltered in the dogmas our parents raised us in, to be blinded by nationalism or to get carried away with youthful enthusiasm for a particular ideology. It is far more difficult to disarm our hostilities, to rid ourselves of automatic reactions and to really decide to address the difficult issues with a clear and creative vision.

If history has proven anything, it is that blaming the other side and attacking what is different than us frequently leads to more lives lost, more anger, and more frustration, and perpetuates the cycle of violence. What I would suggest to all those genuinely interested in discussing the issues of Iraq, Palestine, or Israel is to set aside any personal agenda and look at the facts with some objectivity. If we continue to be good subjects who zealously and blindly advocate for one side, then maybe our education isn’t doing a good job of opening up our minds.

There are two things I’m most sick of. One is people regurgitating things they hear from unreliable sources as if they are absolute truths. Such things include huge stereotypes of people and huge pieces of misinformation that the media subtly and sometimes directly tries to popularize. I know for a fact that when people, including my classmates, my professors and my acquaintances, look at me, they see me through a thick fog filled with a million and one stereotypes about what a Muslim woman in hijab is all about. They prejudge my beliefs, the way I think and what I accept and reject.

The second thing I’m sick of is people and states putting different values on different people’s lives. Before we can call ourselves Canadian, American, Iraqi, Muslim, Christian, atheist or anything else, we must call ourselves human beings. I may be an idealist, but I think if people would just value all human life equally, Earth would be a peaceful place.

I’m tired of people trying to draw strict lines of distinctions between groups of people. I’m tired of President Bush and his gang of narrow-minded followers repeatedly labelling Muslims/Arabs as barbarians, as natural born terrorists, as inherently evil. If you haven’t noticed the American government’s attempts to instill these ideas into the minds of people, then reread some of President Bush’s most popular speeches, such as his state of the union addresses, and you do not even have to read them carefully. He is not a subtle man.

The media supports and emphasizes this differential valuing of human lives. Let’s ask ourselves why the media portrays the death of one American soldier as a huge tragedy and spends several minutes filling us in on the details of his death, and personalizing and humanizing his tragedy for us, whereas the death of hundreds of Iraqis is lumped into an unemotional ten-second announcement?

Arabs/Muslims happen to live in some of the worst states of suffering on Earth right now. They hate dictatorships as much as any American. They are human beings who strive to live safe and comfortable lives. I am not anti-war because I am Muslim or Arab. I am not even anti-war at all, if war means getting rid of a tyrant dictator.

What I am vehemently against is the insincerity with which the U.S. has gone into this war, and the insincerity that many students hold on to when they judge current events. It seems to me that sometimes people have such sturdy expectations of what they will see when they open their eyes that what is actually there doesn’t even matter at all.

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