Home Boko Haram: Us against them mentality cedes no middle ground

Boko Haram: Us against them mentality cedes no middle ground

chris-graham-header2The name of the group responsible for the kidnappings of dozens of girls from schools in Kenya, Boko Haram, translates loosely to “Western education is a sin.”

Not a lot of room there for middle ground, is there?

Bush era apologists will remind us to the end of days that the black-white view of the world that its critics saw as overly simplistic was in actuality all too realistic. There is more nuance to things than they were willing to concede, but it is time to give them some credit for being at least partially right.

There is a sizable contingent of people out there who not only don’t like us, but actively want to rid the world of us.

“Western education is a sin.” A sin, apparently, unpardonable, and punishable by being sold into sexual slavery.

The term “war on terror” coined by the Bushies had as much a political connotation as it did anything else. A war on terror is never-ending; terror as a mechanism of political change is never going to go away, like you can never get toothpaste to go back into the tube.

Terror as a tactic is unfortunately alive and quite well 11 years into our war on it, and its target is squarely on our foreheads. When a group chooses as its name a term that denies another group’s very right to exist, its aims are pretty clear; the goal is not to negotiate, not to find common ground, not to agree to disagree on certain points. It’s to eradicate.

Our far right sees the world in pure good-vs.-evil terms: the terror groups like Boko Haram are at least in spirit inspired by Islam, so all we need to do is rid the world of Muslim influence, and we’ll be OK. Our left looks at this situation the way it looks at any situation: let’s all gather ‘round the campfire and see that we have much more in common than we do at odds, and we’ll all be OK.

Boko Haram and its ilk are another fringe that it’s hard to pinpoint on the same spectrum that we know using Western definitions of good guys and bad guys. These groups look at us the same way our far right looks at the Muslim world: shoot first, and if you ask questions, ask them later, but questions aren’t important.

To those who would retreat to our side of the world and let history sort things out, do keep in mind that the arc of history tends to bend toward those who refuse to cede any ground in a dispute, and in that context, if our very existence is a sin, well, that’s a bend that we’re not going to be able to navigate all that well.

– Column by Chris Graham



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