Wisconsin shooting and its violent echo around the world
It is feeling pretty rough out there: the Wisconsin and Colorado massacres, a civil war in Syria, killings in the Sinai. These violent events call leaders and individuals to acts of moral courage, and to remember what we have in common with each other.
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Moscow’s stubborn support for the violent and beleaguered regime of Bashar al-Assad helped precipitate Kofi Annan’s frustrated resignation as UN peace envoy last week. Along with China, Russia blocked concerted action through the Security Council – a stance increasingly hard to justify against the backdrop of Assad’s brutal response to what started as a peaceful rebellion. China and Russia have played the outlier role for years, blocking joint international action on a raft of sensitive security issues. But as Syria shows, no advantage can excuse the wanton slaughter of innocent people by their own government.Skip to next paragraph
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The second sphere for action is, well, us. States are usually slow to redefine interests, often rightly so, and politicians are calculating even in the best of circumstances. But civilization advances through individual and collective thought and action at least as much as it does by the exercise of political power.
Sikhism rejects discrimination by caste and teaches equality. It joins with Islam, Judaism, and Christianity in the recognition of a single creator. Important theological differences distinguish between and within these traditions, but they all share a love for God and for justice, peace and compassion. But so much of modern conflict masks the commonality of such principles held by people around the world.
Four years ago, detractors of Barack Obama angrily – and falsely – derided this relatively unknown presidential candidate as “a Muslim” and “an Arab.” Earlier this year, a woman in a political rally referred to Mr. Obama as “a monster.”
The president’s rival has faced similar scorn. Some Americans are deeply skeptical of Mr. Romney’s Mormon faith, questioning his Christianity and morals and casting suspicions on his motives. Such attitudes should have little place in what should be a dignified contest of ideas for a noble calling.
Wade Michael Page walked into a Sikh temple and opened fire as families were gathering for a day of worship. It remains unclear whether he thought his victims were Muslim – a common mistake in America brought starkly into view in recent days. But hate needs no clarification.
Deep concern and care for the victims and their families and communities in Aurora, Colo., and Oak Creek, Wis., need not prevent a forgiving thought for the troubled young men who turned so horribly on innocent people. Or, for that matter, a suicide bomber. That level of desperation deserves a more constructively compassionate response. Society will not rid itself of ignorance, fear, and despair through retribution, as we see over and over again – not least, in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Our swelling global population requires cooperation rather than conflict. Security, whether within a community or across borders, ultimately rests on the hard work of finding our good in each other. There is far more to what unites humanity than what divides it – common aspirations for a better life, the dignity of work, the satisfaction of accomplishment, the hope or faith in something higher than ourselves and, of course, love.
That commonality is worth more of our emphasis, from the world’s leaders and from each one of us.