COLUMN: Not all Middle Eastern people are associated with al-Qaida
Sept. 11, 2011 changed the American mindset in the same ways that the Cold War manipulated the minds of Americans for years before we began to trust people outside of our own country again.
In a day and age where our generation was raised to treat everyone equally and welcome both change and outside cultures, I can barely fathom living in a world where you are literally scared to trust people outside of your culture.
Yet, on a daily basis, we live in fear of the Middle East and the capabilities we’re not completely certain is has.
We’ve been taught to believe, fear and even hate the Middle Eastern region and its people for the actions of a single al-Qaida group. Frankly, you wouldn’t logically hate all children because one child in a grocery store pitched a temper tantrum. You might roll your eyes and wish the kid would stop crying, but you would never consider seriously injuring that child, and all children, for that single child’s actions.
A friend of mine, who happens to be an airman in the Air Force Reserves, recently posted a long and concerning rant on Facebook. He said, “I am sick and tired of these [al-Qaida] members trying to blow up our airplanes and kill innocent American civilians...Terrorism is never going away, and they are going to keep targeting America until they annihilate us,” and “I am going to sound like a complete jerk by saying this, but maybe we should just send the atomic bomb over to Afghanistan and obliterate these assholes. We have been nice for too long!”
Frankly, I find this antagonistic view from United States military personnel very disturbing. The military is supposed to represent and protect the American population.
Do you remember as a kid when your class would go on a field trip and your teacher would warn you to behave because you are representing your school? I feel the same way about the military representing the United States. This is not the view I feel toward the Middle East and this is not the view I want represented within the Middle East.
I feel like many people don’t actually understand who or what al-Qaida is. Many people associate the actions of a single terrorist group with the entire region. Al-Qaida is known in the Middle East, but it doesn't compile the entire or even majority of the population. By bombing an entire region, you are not punishing al-Qaida. You are punishing thousands of innocent people who are caught in the cross fire of America’s war.
The Middle East knows America by our actions. There are some great things we have done in the Middle East, but these great things were accomplished with war and everything that war entails. Sure, Afghans know we want them to have the freedoms of democracy that we have in the United States, but they also know that we have killed and even raped and pillaged to get them to the war-torn point they are at now.
When confronted by his hateful commentary toward Afghanistan, my military friend referenced World War II when the United States bombed several populated areas of Japan to render them unable to fight. Although our goal to paralyze Japan was reached, thousands of innocent civilians were killed, families were split apart and major cities in Japan were completely destroyed. Further, Japanese-Americans in the United States were imprisoned for their race in work camps.
Many agree that the harsh actions taken against the Japanese bordered on over-the-top and unethical. A country does not always stand behind its leaders, and citizens should not be punished for the actions of their country. We use soldiers to fight soldiers so civilians don’t have to fight. We allow our people this privilege, and if we want the same freedoms for other countries, we should allow other civilians to survive and let their soldiers fight on their behalf.
This hateful view of the Middle East and its people frightens me more than the Middle East itself.
I entrust soldiers to fight on my behalf for freedoms I believe in. I do not entrust soldiers to bomb children and innocent people of another country for a war I no longer support. It really scares me that our soldiers either believe in this or are trained to believe in this.
A popular saying from my grandfather is, “a good soldier is always ready to fight. A great soldier is scared to use his weapons.”
It’s easy enough to say that you would completely do-away with a troublesome area with the push of a button, but what if that area was the area you lived in and if you were one of those people? What if you were being punished for the actions of a small terrorist group — say the Ku Klux Klan, or the Bloods and the Crypts? Would you die for your geographical location?
Could you still push the button knowing the people cowering behind the terrorist group?
Elyssa Szkirpan is a journalism sophomore.