What Must Be Protected
There's an article from the BBC today that no one read. It's about a protest that happened in Afghanistan and is well worth the four minutes it will take you to read it.
By now, we've all heard of Afghanistan, even if 90% of us can't find it on a map. And, whether or not you agree with the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, whether you believe what you saw in Charlie Wilson's War, whether or not you enjoyed The Kite Runner, one thing is clear: The right to peacefully disagree must be protected around the world.
Many global conflicts are a result of one group disagreeing with another. Some of these disagreements turn violent. In order to get a point across, one group kidnaps members of the other group. Or opens fire on the group that is voicing their disagreement. Or uses ethnic cleansing as a method of silencing a disgruntled voice.
And, whatever you think of US military might, the fact remains that the US is the only nation in the world with the capabilities and resources to go around protecting peaceful disagreement.
While such resources might currently be used to protect oil fields or keep a physical presence somewhere, I can very quickly get behind any cause that aims to protect the right of any individual to express disagreement. Tell me that force is necessary to stop a group from killing another due to a difference of opinion, and I'll stand behind that decision. Show me how unilateral intervention will allow a minority faction to voice their concern, and I may even show up to fight with you. Explain to me how you'll be allowing women in Afghanistan to protest the capture of an American aid worker and I'll write a check, tell my friends, and pledge my support.
One of the most meaningful and patriotic experiences of my life happened in April 2006, when I and thousands of others gathered in Washington, D.C. to voice our concern regarding the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. We peacefully gathered steps from where our elected officials work in order to tell them that we’d like them to do something about this.
Many folks in other countries don't have this luxury. But they must.
So you can talk about providing jobs, opening trade lines and promoting democracy all you want. But in the end, if a minority group can't tell their leaders why they disagree, or can't ask for the intervention of their government, or can't plea for equality, then have we really improved anything?
I haven't believed there was much progress happening in Afghanistan until I read today's article. And then these quotes jumped out:
Rallies by women are rare in Afghanistan, and all the more so in the conservative southern city of Kandahar where 49-year-old Ms Mizell and her driver Muhammad Hadi were kidnapped from a residential neighbourhood.
Some 500 to 600 women, many wearing the burqa, gathered in a wedding hall on Tuesday for prayers and speeches calling on government officials to work for the captives' release.
If you ask me, that's a beautiful sign of progress, even though many more steps in the long journey towards democracy and safety must be taken in Afghanistan.
But a guy can hope.
Allow someone to disagree with you today. Vote for someone next week that will allow people to disagree with him or her and then work across lines and divides for a solution that is best for everyone. Experience the rich tapestry of humanity that is the difference of opinion, and always fight for the right to be able to peacefully disagree.