A Native Perspective on War, Terrorism and the MOAB Bomb*
By Mark Charles
Friday morning the hosts of Fox and Friends celebrated Thursday’s dropping of the MOAB bomb by the United States military against ISIS in Afghanistan. This was the largest non-nuclear bomb ever detonated in combat, and they aired the video of the explosion to the song by Toby Keith, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” One of the hosts commented that the video is in black and white, “But that is what freedom looks like. That’s the red, white and blue.” Geraldo Rivera then added that one of his favourite things in the 16 years he’s been on FOX News is watching bombs drop on bad guys.
Last week, after the U.S. launched a barrage of missiles against Syria in retaliation for chemical weapons Assad utilized against civilians, Brian Williams, speaking on MSNBC said he was tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen, “I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.” Brian went on to describe the missile launch scene as “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments.”
Terrorism is evil and needs to be confronted. But when we go beyond confronting terrorism to blatantly celebrating the deaths of terrorists, and praising the beauty of our weapons that destroyed them, we are blurring the lines of humanity. And once those lines are crossed, and we dehumanize our enemy, it is a short and slippery slope to becoming the very thing we claim to be fighting against. Soon, we begin looking for prominent religious leaders and institutions to provide theological cover for our violence, and justification for our actions.
As a follower of Jesus, who was a tribal man brutally executed by a state working in conjunction with its religious leaders…
As a Navajo man, whose ancestors endured acts of genocide and forced removal by a United States government that was armed with a Doctrine of Discovery, and therefore believed it had a manifest destiny to ethnically cleanse and rule these lands from sea to shining sea…
And, as the grandson of indigenous grandparents, who were taken from their homes and educated in boarding schools run by a government and churches that believed it was their civic and religious duty to “kill the Indian to save the man”…
I humbly offer some words of caution.
May we not celebrate war.
May we not glorify violence.
May we not dehumanize our enemies.
For if we could refuse to dehumanize our enemies, it would make the terribleness of war all the more real. And maybe, just maybe, cause us to engage in it less often.