>Will the Real Freedom Hater Please Stand Up?

>Last month Richard Reid – you remember him, the shoe bomber – was sentenced by a US district court Judge William G. Young to 80 years in prison for attempting to blow up an airliner on approach to Miami. In his sentencing speech Judge Young told Mr. Reid that in order to have done such a thing he must hate freedom.


At the risk of losing a few friends and maybe more than one reader I hereby, whole heartedly disagree with Judge Young.

I dare say; No one hates freedom. Not Muslims, Christians or Jews. Not Capitalists, Socialists, Liberals or Conservatives. Not one person on this planet hates freedom. Anyone who would agree with the statement “I hate freedom” is more likely confused than sincere.

The American historian, political commentator and leading authority on terrorism, Walter Zeev Lacqueur once said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. Since 9/11 this sentiment has lost much of its popularity. I can understand why, after you have been attacked it’s hard to say your attacker was just standing up for his freedom, but it’s still a lot more accurate than calling all terrorist freedom haters.

When I began this blog several months ago one of my first posts was called, “My Peace Statement”. It’s there in the archives on August 9, 2009 if you want to take a look. In it I stated my position on peace in one sentence;

Peace, Without Justice, is Oppression.

I still hold firmly to that statement. Terrorists are most often oppressed people that resort to violence as a last ditch effort to be heard. Their message is always loud but very rarely understood by their oppressors. All too often the response to terrorism is to redouble efforts at “security”.

We build walls, both metaphorical and physical between “us and them” that serve to create a false peace and ignore the broader issue of justice and oppression.

The world over, hot beds of terrorism are often areas of extreme poverty that are rich in natural resources like oil and diamonds. Those resources are exploited by the powerful and used as tools of the oppression. We vilify the locals calling them terrorist or insurgents when it’s really us who are the more violent oppressors.

When you oppress a local population, steal their resources and force them into abject poverty sooner or later someone is going to stand up and say ENOUGH. Nelson Mandela did it, so did Ghandi. Regardless how they were perceived by their rulers at the time, history has proven both of these men right, they were not terrorists, they were true freedom fighters. There are countless others throughout history, most notably the leaders of the American Revolution, terrorists who destroyed a boat load of tea in the name of freedom.

Do I agree with terrorist methodology? No! Do I think that we should negotiate with terrorists? No!

I do think that we need to take a long hard look at the regions of the world that spawn terrorism and figure out how to engage with the local population. We need to offer them justice so they do not become oppressed and therefore feel they have to resort to violence.

Peace and Justice, like two sides of a coin, cannot be separated.

…to be continued!


  1. >Lauren, I think you started out sounding a little softer headed than you probably really are, in spite of the disclaimer.I do suspect that more than a few people trying to blow up their own shoes etc., etc., may be deluded, dillusional or demented; I have probably paid less attention to that news story than most people so I cannot speak to it specifically but… It is true, I think that defeated, depressed, hungry and angry people may be easier to recruit for such evil schemes as suicide attacks. I think that for the better part of several centuries most Americans have felt, deep down, that we were untouchable. Beyond that, most Americans, the ones I knew at lest, believed and expressed the impudent notion that it was necessay to take advantage of other countries in order to avoid scarcity here at home. It is becoming increasingly apparent now that the Golden Rule is a better idea than we once thought. I live in farm country, where a big concern is for a "fair playing field" when facing agricultural imports. Actually, I think "fair" is a key word to our national security. We cannot afford to go soft on terrorits, neither can we afford to objectify foreigners, as if they existed merely to enrich Americans. This has always been true, but it is still coming as a surprise for a lot of people, that one must try the shoe on the other foot. Apply the same standards to ourselves that we wish to apply to other nations.However, I think that just being "nice" to certain cultures will not work either. It is a dangerous world, a world of ignorance, fear, and deliberate scapegoating on the part of national and international leaders. Without education, without being taught to question authority, the masses will always be jerked around by one malignant elite or another.That's just how the world works. Education. Enlightenment. They come slowly if at all, and how often it is that we learn too little too late.

  2. AnnieH says:

    >Hi Lauren, I enjoy reading your blog. You have an easy style and make lots of sense. Thank you

  3. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Hey Ellsworth Stay tuned for my next posting – tentatively titles "Let's Label" – I think you'll like it.

  4. >Very thoughtful blog post, and thoughtful comments from Ellsworth. How does Sam Huntington's "clash of civilizations" fit into these ideas about peace and justice? Not very well, I think, because he believes in distinct "cultures" with hard borders between them.

  5. Lauren Sheil says:

    >I haven't fnished the book yet but you're right. So far Huntington hasn't offered any solutions.

  6. Mo.Garcia.Jr says:

    >From an American side, we are dealing with the fact that America is no longer a 'super power'; hence the multimedia escapism that has become so commonplace in our society.

  7. Lauren Sheil says:

    >Mo.Garcia.JrI disagree. America is not only still a super-power, it's the only true super-power left. It's lonely at the top, you actaully have to work harder at maintaining your friendships. Unilateral policy making is part (but not all) of what ails America these days.

  8. Mo.Garcia.Jr says:

    >Thanks! I will share my opinion and whatever insight may come to me when I read your posts, and when I feel they may be appropriate. I look forward to reading more, though politics is most definitely not my niche.In that vein, even I feel that America's declining position, influence and idealistic standing place in the world at the moment is most definitely not at the top. In order for America to be considered a superpower (one word, apparently), it must exist as such in the world as a whole, not within its own borders.This is a short, fairly interesting story from The Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2009/0408/p09s01-coop.html

  9. Jason says:

    >Hey Lauren. Just thought I'd pop in and comment on this too.Your quote of the judge is a bit off. I did a bit of Googling and spotted the entire quote at Snopes.com. Here's the relevant bit:"It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose."So, it's not that he accused Reid of hating freedom, but of hating American values and ways of life. Interesting read when you read the entire thing in context.Now, as far as your point about "Terrorists are most often oppressed people that resort to violence as a last ditch effort to be heard. ", I completely disagree.Most often? Really?Who was oppressing the Taliban? Who is oppressing Kim Jong Il? What of all the state sponsored terrorism where it's the oppressors performing terrorist acts? I'd actually say that the leadership of most terrorist groups are hardly oppressed at all. They are typically affluent, well educated, and probably at or near the top of the social ladder in many of their countries.As far as the lone-gunman, Timothy McVeigh type terrorists, well, again, how was he oppressed? he was an American citizen. He had none of his rights violated. He suffered no particular discrimination.I respectfully disagree with your characterization of terrorist groups as "oppressed peoples trying to make their voice heard".

  10. Lauren Sheil says:

    >JasonIt's the Globe & Mail that got it wrong then, that's were I got the story from. Don't you think that the way the world shuns Kim Jong Il and the Taliban is a form of oppression? They may be on top in a small corner but just like the school yard bully their power is extremely localized.

  11. Jason says:

    >I think you've put the cart before the horse.The world shuns dictators like Kim Jong Il and the Taliban because they are about as close to evil as we could possibly find. One is a maniac who allows his people to starve in squalor while viciously hunting down and murdering anyone who might possibly complain while the other is a group who practiced horrendous torture and mutilation of their own people.Condemning people like that is a far, far cry from oppression.And, there is no such thing, anymore, of localized power. North Korean missiles find their way to Iraqi weapons platforms for years before the first Gulf War. After all, the Scud was a modified Taepodong guided missile. Taliban training grounds provide the expertise for those who would murder hundreds of innocent civilians. London, Milan, and, yes, New York, just to name a few.So, no, I would not call the international condemnation of groups such as these to be any form of oppression. I would call the international condemnation of these groups to be about the only moral act you might find on the international stage.By the way, read the Snopes article, http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/shoebomb.asp – and it is really enlightening. The judge's comments were in response to Reid's statement that:"At his hearing on 30 January 2003, Reid was sentenced to life imprisonment by Judge William Young. After admitting his guilt to the court for the record, Reid also admitted his "allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah," defiantly stated "I think I ought not apologize for my actions," and told the court "I am at war with your country." Judge Young then delivered the statement quoted above, a stinging condemnation of Reid in particular and terrorists in general."

  12. Lauren Sheil says:

    >You'll never get me to condone violence in any form or to call a person evil. Misguided, yes, selfish, yes but not evil. I don't want to get into a big theological debate here but, evil is not a human attribute, the very first chapter of the bible spells that out pretty clearly, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Genesis 1:31). That includes humanity. The difference between condemnation and oppression isn't that far removed at all. The only thing separating it is action. Not unlike the difference between lust and outright intercourse, you can move from one to the other in a second. As any elementary school teacher will tell you, bullies want attention and the most effective way to deal with them is to give it to them in a positive way. Otherwise they're just going to pray on the weak or launch sneak attacks on the strong. Sound familiar? We need to engage the bullies (oppressors) and resist the temptation to oppress them in return.

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