This is our truth, tell us yours
Last night in what was probably the most surreal subtweeting ever I was posting Renaissance works of art depicting Jesus on the #TerroristSympathiser tag. This was prompted by the discovery that the Lib Dems, led by an evangelical Christian, are supporting the bombing of Syria. Before you bring up various wars in the old testament, go away and read John 13, 24-25. Actually just go away.
So my incomprehension at someone who claims to be Christian supporting the bombing of their neighbours is huge. I am not however a libdem, and I leave it to them to consider why they are supporting air strikes. The term terrorist sympathiser being used against anyone who opposes bombing has struck me as speaking to something seriously wrong with our culture..
Understanding why things happen is surely vital to preventing them? Of course I am used to people preferring not to understand. In both the sexual abuse of children and sex work people prefer fewer facts, less thought, less understanding. The problem is less asking of why means fewer interventions that actually work. Suddenly the “terrorist sympathiser” jibe makes sense, it’s no different to those who claim that demanding sex workers rights is about “john’s” or funding treatment of pedophiles means you are on the side of abusers.
Of course understanding, or wanting to understand why someone behaves a certain way is not all about sympathy. But if we are willing to really try to understand, then a certain amount of “walking in another’s shoes” is required. I am reminded of a quote from another book which has had a huge influence on me.
Pity? It was Pity that stayed [Bilbo’s] hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that he took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity. Gandalf LOTR
I dont know what it is like to be bombed, to spend years living in terror, to see the babies of Fallujah born with heartbreaking deformities due to the use of depleted uranium. I am fortunate in that I have never had to flee my home, travel across continents, to end up in a shanty town on the very edge of Europe. Nor have I grown up in a western country where my very race and religion are reasons to monitor my actions, where not agreeing with the government is seen as proof of radicalisation.
Does this mean I agree with the actions of IS? Frankly that’s a ridiculous question, like asking if I agree with pedophilla because I want to see research into why some people abuse children. However I can use my knowledge and imagination to understand why people are drawn to an extremist cult. With other cults, from Charles Manson to the Scientologists we have realised that understanding is far more helpful than name calling.
Being a terrorist sympathiser may actually be a genuine solution to what is happening, a solution not offered by more bombing when every bomb simply convinces more people that the west is the enemy. However we seem to be at a place where “something must be done” matters more than making sure that something does not cause even more harm than doing nothing.