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How We Respond to Violence

            In the past two months, politicians and community leaders have offered many ‘thoughts and prayers.’ We sent them to those affected by the massacre in Orlando, after a gunman walked into a nightclub and killed 49 people. We sent them again when at least 292 were killed by a bomber in Baghdad, and we sent them this past weekend in Nice when a driver killed 84 people watching the Bastille day fireworks with their friends and families. Add the attacks on police in Dallas, those in Baton Rouge, and the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and we have collectively been exposed to an extraordinary amount of violence.
            Our opponent, Doug Lamborn, recently published a newsletter under the sensational title “TERRORIST HORROR,” and suggested that if we simply acknowledge the threat of “radical Islamic ideology” we will be more capable of eliminating the threat of terrorism. This is part and parcel with the Right’s critique of the President. They say: “if Obama said radical Islamic terrorism, we would be a lot safer. If he just recognized that terrorism is a problem with Islam, we would be prepared to do what’s necessary to stop it.”

Stonewall Inn— from Wiki user Rhododendrites

            This is nonsense. Though extremist ideology may be catalyst of a terrorist act, religion is not the cause. Poverty, disaffection, discrimination, hopelessness, and untreated psychoses are the things that push an individual to the brink. Rhetoric that burdens a community of people with the violent acts of disturbed individuals will only lead to more disaffection, more discrimination, and potentially more violent acts. Without the help of our Muslim brothers and sisters, we will never defeat terrorism.          

We cannot continue to be the country that reacts to violence with more violence and xenophobia. The Republican Nominee has called for “carpet bombing”ISIL, and has said that killing “terrorist families” will make our country safer. These ideas have consequences. Civilians are being killed every day by drone strikes—with little to show for it in many cases. On Tuesday the United States bombed a village that was thought to be an ISIL stronghold. Eight families—over 85 people—were completely wiped out. It will be among the highest number of civilian casualties by an airstrike in this conflict.
            Every time a civilian is killed, we have created a potential recruit from ISIL. When we destroy the infrastructure of a country—ensuring that there are fewer jobs and opportunities—we have created another potential recruit. Every time we blame Muslims, or bomb communities, or threaten people, we are doing ourselves tremendous harm.
            We need to change. 
            Violence, misogyny, and hate need to be met with inclusivity, opportunity, and community building. Strong communities are the antithesis of terrorism, and people with opportunities rarely harm their neighbors. Investing in social programs, infrastructure, and creating employment is a large part of the solution.
Abroad we must work with our partners in Iraq by providing them with intelligence and support. But there have to be limits. Over and over again, our choice to intervene in these conflicts have caused massive destabilization. Both ISIL and al-Qaeda  have us to thank for creating the power vacuum necessary for their rise. 
            It’s time to rethink whether what we are doing in Iraq and Syria is helping. If we’re not seeing progress, and the civilian casualties continue to mount, then perhaps we should rethink our strategy. Whatever the solution is, the status quo cannot continue.
            This cycle of violence and hate will only beget more of the same. It’s time for it to end.



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