Sunday, June 01, 2008

"One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter"

I've been a bit bugged by that saying recently, and it doesn't seem like I've seen it dealt with adequately. I can't promise I'll do it here now.

I was just imagining a bunch of people living in a tyrannical state, going on a quest to change things - maybe revolt in some way, peacefully or otherwise - they're not sure yet. They go to consult some wise, old coot who's known for living free (I imagine Sam Elliot playing the part). Anyway, somehow that saying gets tossed into the conversation. Elliot responds, thoughtfully,
"Well, now, the trouble with that saying is that you're ignoring that fact that there are two groups of people involved. And each of them is maybe made up of two groups. Let's talk about the Freedom Fighter/Terrorists first. They're the ones the sentence talks about.

"Are they fighting for a just cause? And are they using the best means at their disposal? If you really want to get deep into it, and you should if you're talking about changing your country, you need to think about what is a just cause and what are the best means? More important, you need to know what you mean by "just." I've heard some humdinger definitions of that word in my day, and the trouble with the world... the biggest troubles, not all the troubles... are the direct results of two bad ones carrying the day.

"But I don't want to forget what I started to say, and you all didn't climb up some mountain to hear some sage with his head in the clouds. So let me talk about the group that kinda goes unmentioned in that saying. They're the people doing the name-calling.

"Who are they?

"Say it's the government: is it a just government? Are they doing everything the best way? I think those questions are important. To my way of thinking, that question of justice keeps coming up.

"I keep coming up with "no, no no and no" to all the groups I've ever heard of. So I just try to be as just to everybody as I can. I try to be kind, helpful...and stay out of the way of people who don't warrant kindness and help. Defend myself if I have to.

"Out here the question doesn't come up much. I've done some fighting, but look where I am: my enemies are a long way away. And I didn't chase them off. Looks like they chase me off. But, then, most folks I deal with out here warrant kindness and help.

"So I found my place. I reckon I'd fight again if somebody tried to kick me out of here."

I don't reckon Sam got to all the answers there. Raised a few more questions, in fact. I can think of five or six more just based on what he said here. Besides "what is justice?" "what is a just cause?" you can ask "what is freedom?" "what is terrorism?" "what is tyranny?" "is there a degree of tyranny I can live with?" "who gets to decide?"...

I've seen, and believed, some pretty good answers to most of those questions. I've seen some I didn't believe. But I do believe everybody should think about them, and I don't think many people are. They're thinking about "whose fault is it that I'm in this crappy situation."

But that leads to a whole nuther train of thought.

No comments: