Kenny Steven Fuentes is a freelance actor/director, activist, and blogger who currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. His work can be seen on ‘The Activationist’ blog at Kennystevenfuentes.wordpress.com, and periodically he will also be sharing his ideas here at SmellsLikeHumanSpirit.com. Look for Kenny to appear on an upcoming podcast, follow him on Twitter @kentesian, and enjoy his first article:
This reaction is predictable, though not insincere. It would be really easy to devolve into warring camps, but I have no interest in that. I made a conscious decision to pick my battles over the social media (though if we spoke in person, you got the full story). But some time has passed, and there’s a few things about our collective response to the marathon bombings that bothered me. We’ve heard plenty about the media response (spoiler alert: it was terrible), and the human interest stories. But there are a few things I feel have been left unsaid.
I have a really hard time being angry at the Tsarnaev brother. At the time, I was afraid to admit it I have a logical and well-reasoned analysis for why I’m not particularly angry, but I felt guilty and struggled to express myself. I read and listened to statements like “We should hang them” or “These people are cowards,” but I couldn’t get into it. I just couldn’t. I think I understand now why I couldn’t get on board, but I feared that I’d be excommunicated before my first sentence finished.
I remember the period following the 9/11 attacks and recall the vitriol expressed towards many individuals who expressed anything but patriotic contempt for the attackers. It was a period of time when critical decisions with long lasting repercussions would be made. That was a period of time when hard questions needed to be asked, but many of those who asked hard questions were accused of lack of patriotism and made into pariahs.
In the aftermath of this period of temporary insanity, we launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, engaged inextraordinary rendition and torture programs to extract information, and began an assault on civil liberties that continues to this day. One wonders: had we listened to the dissenting opinions of the period, would we have acted differently? You’d be hard pressed to find someone now who thinks that invading Iraq was a good idea, for example. False confessions under torture during extraordinary rendition were used to claim that al-Qaeda had received training in Iraq. As a people, we placed an incredible amount of faith in our institutions. We support our troops, we support our President.
The entire week, I kept thinking back to that period and all the injustice that we did in the name of our righteous indignation. And I say righteous without sarcasm. I’m not saying anger itself is bad, but I do fear that our anger often plays into larger trends that are bad.
Have we learned anything since then? Clearly, this isn’t going to be as big an event as 9/11. We aren’t going to invade Chechnya. But there are still some hard questions that were not asked by anyone but a few brave souls.
So here’s my hard question: is our anger still righteous when we consent to atrocities committed in our name worldwide and on a daily basis? The keyword here is consent. Obviously, very few readers of this blog have ever perpetrated a war crime. But one doesn’t have to participate in an atrocity to consent to it.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me focus on one example. One of the aspects of the Boston bombing that upset people was the idea that there were two bombs set off, one after the other. Many claim that this is “double-tap” style attack. Time them moments apart, hit the same basic area. Create the expectation that the area will be attacked again, discourage people from coming to the scene to help.
I agree. This is an awful practice. But under the Obama administration, it appears to be policy. It’s common practice for drones to hit a target twice. As a result, civilians and medical personnel do not attempt to help the wounded because they know it’s possible there will be an additional strike. Remember how much we praised our first responders for running towards the explosion? Every time I heard this sentiment expressed, all I could think about was Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, etc. We praise first responders at home, while our government targets them abroad.
Moreover, it’s not entirely clear how many of the dead are al-Qaeda, local fighters engaged in local conflict, or outright innocent civilians. The Obama guidelines for who gets counted as an armed combatant includes all fighting age males in the target area. In essence, if you’re a teenage or 20-something male, and you’re near the target area, you’re considered fair game.
These are just a few aspects of our foreign policy that upset me. Here’s the full NYU/Stanford report on drones if you’re interested. Moving on…
When I saw the fear expressed by my friends who are still living and working in Boston, I felt two strong emotions: 1) Concern for their well-being and 2) Frustration that many aren’t concerned about violence until it happens near them.
The fear they felt last week is the fear that many people on the other side of the world feel everyday. Our taxes pay for it. There is growing opposition to the drone policy, but for the most part people don’t care. It brings to mind a quote from Boyz in the Hood:
Last fall, I got into a bit of a social media storm with some liberal friends of mine over a photo I posted on Facebook. I know, I know… Facebook flame wars are lame, but they do happen. Deal with it.
Once this photo was posted, many election season hissy-fits were had. I probably had the biggest one, in all fairness. But I stand by the sentiment. I offended some of my Democrat friends. That’s really too bad, because I refuse to consent, and I will not ignore atrocities conducted in my name. I will rabble rouse. I will share information with those who will listen. I will NOT vote Democrat or Republican.
And, hopefully, I am also educating. As you can see, my refusal to consent hasn’t accomplished much. But maybe if you refused, too… And a few more people…
I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just asking that you learn, think, and act. I don’t believe that most Americans would think the drone policy moral if they actually learned what was going on. When I first heard about the policy, I was also an apologist. Initially, I bought the argument that we were carefully targeting only the worst of the worst and minimizing civilian casualties. But as I did more research, read more reports and articles, I came to realize that our drone policy is little more than terrorism with a budget.
Hate the Tsarnaev brothers all you want. But recognize that justice is not an American privilege. An injury to one is an injury to all!
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