bin Laden is dead; terrorism isn’t

At the risk of alienating many of my fellow Americans, I’ve had another thought regarding the death of Osama bin Laden.  Actually, this struck me yesterday, but I’ve put off putting it into words until now.

Several pieces I’ve read since yesterday have referred to the expectation that, though bin Laden is dead, we don’t expect Al Quaida to simply close up shop.  Leader, mastermind, moneyman though he may have been, no one reasonably expects Sunday’s mission to make the world safe.  At this point, I’m not even sure I buy Obama’s declaration that the world is safer.

In working with at-risk youth, our ministry uses a particular teaching regarding de-escalation of potential violent situations.  It is called the assisting process.  I won’t put you through all the details of it (though perhaps I should another time), but, for now, will bring up just one point in the process.

When one has gotten the potentially violent person to a place of stablility and willingness to talk, the question one puts to them is “What do you want?”  “What do you really want?”

I have no doubt this works with heated situations between individuals.  I believe this strongly enough I thin kit would be worth trying between nations and organizations.

What does Al Quaida want?  What do other terrorist organizations want?

Our answer to this question, especially immediately following September 11, 2001, was that they want to inflict pain and suffering on us.

We made their actions all about us.  Mighty self-centered of us to assume it’s all about us, don’t you think?

Please understand; I’m not saying that the solution to terrorism is for civil folk to simply give them whatever they want.  Neither, however, is the solution to attribute motives to them from only our limited perspective.

Let’s face it; no one likes not being listened to.  No one appreciates not having a voice.  Some people would do almost anything to be heard.

Terrorism is not dead.  The world is not safe. It might get just a bit safer if we all commit ourselves to actually listening to others.

2 thoughts on “bin Laden is dead; terrorism isn’t

  1. Usually though, potentially violent situations between individuals is fueled by overheated affect. These calm-down techniques are useful in reducing negative affect, and also in separating the individuals from peers that may be (by being supportive of violence, or by taunting the person) exacerbating the situation. Violence fueled by ideology on the other hand is another proposition. I can’t see that listening to people (without acceding to their demands) that are committed to violence in the name of their ideology will make a whole lot of difference. Of course, we must first listen in order to determine what is the nature of the other person’s complaint against us … but I’m just saying that there is a limit to what listening can do.

    I am a big proponent of validation (between individuals). Often what we want, when we are so angry, is to have the other person understand why we feel the way we do, and to acknowledge that our feelings are legitimate. Also, when a person gets to the point of understanding how we feel, if they really care about us, we can negotiate change in the relationship.

    I don’t necessarily think this principle can be extrapolated to the clashes between ideologies, cultures, and religious values. I think Islam provides the biggest challenge of our day, to our general belief that people do (and should) have the right to their own beliefs … for example, the law that has been passed in France banning the burkah and headcoverings. Or allowing the application of sharia (spelling?) law in enclaves of Western countries. (The most glaring conundrum is that under sharia law, women receive little to no protections or standing as equals … so that women in sharia-compliant enclaves do not receive the same protections as non-Muslims in the same Western countries).

    • Kim, you point out important and very real differences between working with individuals and nations/cultures/groups. I will maintain, however, that something LIKE validation is or would be an important part of diplomacy/international relations.

      For instance, categorically defining Islamists (or at least Al Quaida) as evil and claiming that all they are interested in is tearing down the US does/did no good whatsoever.

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