What do Osama Bin Laden and Stephen Harper have in common? Two men I don't like, even fear. Two men who, based on deeply-held faith and convictions, deliberately plot and implement destructive assaults on freedom and security. Last Monday one was murdered, the other given more power. Both present a challenge to treat with respect, love and fairness.
As a Quaker I seek to find and respond to the Light, to "that of God", in everyone. As a Peace activist I believe in finding common ground, believe that violence and anger just propagate a cycle of more violence and anger. As a parent and global optimist and lover of Broadway musicals, I deeply believe in Goodness and reject catastrophic pessimism - the sun will come out tomorrow.
Monday morning radio brought macho chants of "USA! USA!" as proud/relieved Americans figuratively stomped on the grave of the man they had just murdered. Part of me joined in that rejoicing of the removal of a man who had caused/fed such fear and hatred and suffering in the world. I pragmatically recognized the wisdom of the quick execution of an unarmed man in front of his wife rather than bringing him in for a prolonged judicial mire. Obama's troops had finally delivered the clean and instant psyche-salve they'd been wanting for 10 years.
Then a gentle sadness settled in like mist, making it hard to see anything clearly. This was murder, capital punishment. No-one's pretending that Al Queda is finished, or that Western-Muslim relations are any better today than they were yesterday. Stopping a person from causing harm is right and necessary, but it was still violence that doesn't take away the root cause of the historical conflict. How can I rejoice at the end of this one man's reign of terror while at the same time condemning the methods of his removal?
Before I could reconcile these conflicting reactions of relief and condemnation, the unfathomable news came that my fellow Canadians had rewarded Stephen Harper's contempt -- contempt of parliament, women, the global south, indigenous peoples, climate, free speech, the non-profit sector, democracy, public health care, workers rights, etc etc etc - rewarded this contempt with unfettered majority power. The long-term harm he caused as a minority leader was already impressive; what he can do now that 40% of voters and a ridiculous first-past-the-post electoral system have handed him a majority is truly frightening.
But just like Osama, or Obama for that matter, he's just one man. Yes he has great strength and political astuteness and drive, but he didn't invent all the fear that led so many to follow him. He didn't invent disregard for the environment. He's not the founder of the Church of Unlimited Economic Growth, just its latest pope who believes in his own infallibility. When he's done, others will rise in his place, and even if he'd stayed in the minority or lost to the NDP, the set of beliefs he represents would continue.
So just as I can't rejoice at Osama's end of power, I can't despair at Harper's increase in power. Both rejoicing and despair do nothing but increase their power. Instead, I have to try to understand what they believe, and operate from a place of compassion and respect for all. I don't pretend to be spiritually evolved enough to love either Obama or Harper, but I can and must respect that their extreme actions are motivated by a strong faith, love for their family, and vision for what the world should look like.
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