As an American living and working in Canada, I am both intrigued and saddened by two political events of the past ten days in these two North American countries—the take-out of Osama bin Laden by the U.S. military and the take-over by a militaristic Conservative majority government in Monday’s elections in Canada.
Both shake my Anabaptist moorings to the core. Frankly, I am groping for hope and a whole lot of healing in the days ahead. Both countries, bent on meeting violence head-on with guns and billion-dollar stealth fighter-bombers, keep plunging the world into a “cycle of hate” (Braun, p. 13)—a cycle of animosity that “must be broken.”
It seems as if our peace witness, our votes (hopefully) for candidates with a different agenda, have gone silent. With the prophet Isaiah we wonder how long it will be before Yahweh will “judge between the nations, arbitrate for many peoples—when they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”
On the US side there seems to be an endless, ongoing obsession with the bin Laden killing, provoking a host of reactions—celebration, triumph, relief, closure and renewed grief. On the down side, it has triggered an ugly renewal of the torture debate, the apologists for which the New York Times says are both “cynical and disturbing.” It calls torture, as the Bush administration administered it, “immoral, illegal and counterproductive.”
Spokespersons for the political right in the US couldn’t contain their glee over the killing of bin Laden. Sarah Palin said Americans were “united in celebration” and Mike Huckabee, celebrating the death of a madman, murderer and terrorist, “welcomed bin Laden to hell,” as if he has jurisdiction over that torture chamber for the wicked.
On the Canadian side, the problem of increasing militarism as a strategy for national security is even more endemic. The now firmly entrenched Harper government, often described as a divide-and-conquer regime, may well dominate the country’s direction for more than a decade, according to Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin.
Not only is Harper committed to the purchase of 65 F-35 stealth bombers at an estimated cost of $30 billion (working out to as high as $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Canada), he has, in the words of writer Marci McDonald “aligned himself with the wing of the Jewish community that holds the most uncompromising views on the Middle East peace process.”
That alignment came very close home to Mennonites in our work with Kairos, when as their partner through Mennonite Central Committee, we suffered a $7 million “defunding” by CIDA (Canada International Development Agency) ostensibly for its “boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel—a move equated with anti-Semitism”—a charge that was later found to be baseless.
Not only are these political strategies of stepped-up security and balance of power in the Middle East where an “Arab spring” is sweeping across dictator-controlled countries, out of touch, they have not proven effective over the long haul. Bin Laden, without stealth bombers or drones, it was noted by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, was very effective “in nearly bankrupting the U.S. economy” with his 9/11 attack.
But more fundamentally, it is wrong. It doesn’t see the world with God’s eyes, as David Steven, a pastor writing on The Mennonite’s website noted: “When Al-Qaeda and those like them enter another country and kill people we call it ‘terrorism.’ When the U.S. military and intelligence personnel and those of our allies enter another country and kill people, we call it ‘justice.’ I wonder if God sees it that way.”
Student Intern to develop CM youth section, website
Emily Loewen, studying for her master’s of journalism degree at Ryerson University, Toronto, begins today, May 16, as Canadian Mennonite’s student intern. She will develop a youth section for the bi-weekly publication which references an interactive link on the magazine’s website, featuring news, issues and topics that engages high-school and university-age Mennonites. She will work out of the Waterloo office as a team member of the CM staff. From Langley, B.C., she is a 2009 graduate of Canadian Mennonite University and last year was a summer intern in Mennonite Central Committee’s United Nations Liaison Office compiling research on international issues, attending UN meetings and monitoring news from conflict zones.