Boston Bombing

Before seeing any official reports about the tragic bombing in Boston, I knew that something big, and probably quite terrible, had happened. As a rule, unless working on an assignment that requires 24/7 diligence, I give myself the luxury of keeping my ringer off while working. By the time I picked up my phone late Monday, I found 4 missed calls and over 50 related text and e-mail requests for comment/input both civilian and military, already pending. Fear is a powerful catalyst.

As a nation, we are horrified by the vicious and callous acts of the bomber (s); we grieve for the victims and their families; and we are afraid.

It is too soon to know whether or not the Tsarnaev brothers will ultimately be found to be responsible for the bombing, but it is not too soon for us to begin individually and collectively to come to grips with what has happened. The fact is, we are not, and never will be, completely safe from those who choose to commit seemingly random acts of violence that kill and maim. Those intent on causing harm as a way to gain notoriety or vent rage born of political, ethnic, religious or extremism, mental illness (or some more general form of social pathology) live among us. What we can and must do, is to resist any attempts by the media, members of our government, or armchair analysts, to convince us that attacks like these can be neatly categorized and squarely blamed on a particular group or practice.

Humans naturally fear chaos. Violence and instability leave us feeling frightened and overwhelmed, and in our struggle to understand what is happening, we are vulnerable to those who provide simplified answers that allow us to feel as though we are back in control. Once we have a person/group to blame, fear turns to anger. The response is understandable as a coping mechanism for the short term; but, it’s useless in helping us to heal, or to prevent similar heinous events in the future.

So, what can we do? First, offer assistance and comfort to the bombing victims and their loved ones. Second, come to accept that those who are responsible are deeply damaged people. It is true that terrorists are not born, they are made. And as Desmond Tutu memorably pointed out, there are no examples of terrorists that have not themselves been terrorized by others. I do not and would not excuse their behavior, but what must be understood is that there are not enough, and never will be enough, police, military or home security personnel to prevent these kinds of incidents altogether. Our only hope is to help create a world where people do not feel the need, or the right, to massacre others. We can only do this through openness and inclusion; by isolating, bullying, blaming and shaming those people or groups that are seen as outside the mainstream by nature of their appearance, ancestry, belief system, or social/political association, etc. we risk fostering and nurturing hate, radicalization, and extremism

In my work, I have met with individuals and small groups who identified themselves as warlords, arms dealers, insurgents and terrorists. They are people. (Except perhaps some of the arms dealers.) While it may never become clear to us why, one thing that they all have in common is the idea that they are being forced into what they are doing; they truly believe that they do not have a choice. In their minds, it is external forces and an environment created by others that has put them into their current, inescapable situation. Those of us who have not walked a mile in their shoes see things quite differently. But history has demonstrated that neither ideas nor mental derangement can be defeated by force.

Whatever disturbed reasoning was behind the recent tragedy in Boston, we would do well to resolve not to opt into the easy way out of blaming an “ism,” political militancy, ethnicity, etc. By doing so, we make ourselves out to be victims; we feed the flames of bigotry, and support a dangerous “us” vs. “them” mentality.

Except for the members of our First Nations tribes, we are a country of refugees. Unlike any other country in the world, once you arrive in the United States and are embraced as a citizen, you are an American. (If that doesn’t seem remarkable to you, just try doing that in France — for example – where even after citizenship and residency of 20 years, you would never be considered “French.”) We have a history of opening our arms to members of the human family from everywhere in the world and we stand proud of the fact that we are a nation of many cultures, faiths, and peoples. But like many countries before us, we have become increasingly suspicious of those who we envision to be the least like our imagined idea of the American “norm.” We have tightened our borders, and become much less welcoming, and at times, outright hostile, towards those who arrive hoping to build a better life, just as most of our ancestors did.
If we are to heal, if we are to make our nation safer for our children and our children’s children, we must do a better job of learning about one another within our borders, improving our international relations outside our borders, and electing leadership more representative of our population, including ethnicity, faith & gender. We must teach our children to appreciate our differences, while focusing on the overwhelming similarities and ideals that most human populations share.

And finally, we would do well to remember these lines made famous in South Pacific:
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught, from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

We must take these words to heart.
We know better; I trust that we can & will do better.

In Consideration

In Consideration… April 12, 2013

For those who don’t already know me, my name is Dianna Wuagneux and my background is in Cultural Anthropology & International Relations with a specialty in stabilization and conflict mitigation in Fragile States and Nations in Transition. I am American & currently live in the States although my work often takes me overseas.
Working with people in war-torn environments: farmers and hackers, teachers and politicians, “terrorists” and healthcare workers, arms dealers and humanitarian aid organizations, religious leaders, diplomats, the US and allied militaries, and the men women and children caught in the crossfire, has helped me to understand more deeply what I care about most, and how I want to spend my personal and professional energy. That is to:
 Discover new and expanded ways to be of more meaningful service to those in need; including clients, colleagues, insurgents, and those in harm’s way.
 Keep an active and open dialogue with experts in related fields in order to learn and share information in an effort to improve both policy and practice.
 Openly exchange information that may be useful to those who are interested in, or involved with, peace building, such as may be found in: related articles/white papers/conference materials, books, online interviews, grassroots endeavors, the doings of noteworthy organizations, and bits of relevant news.
 Create a forum through which to share experiences and insights that will help those in my own country, and others, gain a better, more realistic and comprehensive understanding of conflict in the world, and how as Nations we might be of assistance in better ways than we have historically, and equally, educate and inform others how we sometimes inadvertently (and sometimes intentionally) exacerbate conflict and contribute to destabilization, loss of life and property (theirs and ours).
And finally –
 Help people come to recognize how similar we are across borders and in doing so, facilitate a greater sense of kinship with one another. Many people in the world feel disillusioned when it comes to their future and that of their children. They feel misunderstood and powerless, taken advantage of by the power brokers in their society. Few feel an affinity for the individuals and groups that have chosen to bring them into a state of economic vulnerability, insurgency, or war. This is as true in my own country as it is in more disadvantaged states.
Across the globe regardless of politics, language, ethnicity, or faith, most people are moderate in their views as well as their behavior. Their main concerns are the same — putting food on the table, the protection and well-being of their parents, children and loved ones. They want peace. We are neighbors on this pretty little blue rock, and life will improve for all of us once we decide to collectively and consistently act like it. That’s all for today :-)
I will write when able and when moved to do so. I invite thoughts and comments that are in the spirit of this philosophy and those that may be of worth and inspiration to the like-minded.