The problem of the victim-hero
Friday, February 20 2015 @ 09:27 am PST
Contributed by: WatchCat
A discussion of the reactions to Kayla Mueller's death by the Jerusalem Post recently gave me a bad few hours. Amidst the feel-good commentary we all know, there were also statements amounting to "she got what she deserved" because of her Palestinian sympathies, "cultural marxism" and past activities with a nonviolent group that "interfered with Israeli soldiers." Let's break that down. The blogger in question cites 1) Beliefs 2) Feelings of guilt over blessings, and 3) participation in noviolent protests.
The devaluation of human life due to an individual's beliefs Must. Stop. Now.
The story and the criticisms of Kyla Mueller hit hard, because it so easily could have been me years ago. I saw injustice in the Middle East and I considered working for a similar organization. I said and wrote things which I regret. My peers did the same, and some did go on to do the same kind of things Kayla Mueller did. Their intentions were and are good. Yet the push for cultural understanding often overrode critical thinking. How does one prepare for hearing a mother scream that it's American money that paid for the bombs that leveled her home and left her children as refugees? Where is the balance between compassion and critical thinking when blood spills? It took me years to unpack the realization that guest speakers had lied to us.
I remember hearing that one of our government agencies didn't like it when people learned the language in country, because it often created sympathies for the host country. I thought it was moronic at the time, but now I'm not so sure. My experience with international programs says that counter-American opinions are always rewarded, while opinions which are in line with American politics are punished as narrow and unenlightened. It reminds me of Stockholm Syndrome; one assimilates to avoid a psychological crisis. But foreign affairs ARE a psychological crisis of hard choices for the welfare of a specific group. It is to our shame that we produce so few people who can wisely operate at that level.
Kayla Mueller will remain controversial, as any person who dies for a cause is controversial. I don't ask you to like her. I don't even know if I would have liked her. I don't think I like the person I was in the Middle East years ago. But she could have been your sister or neighbor or classmate. She was a victim of terrorism and of human frailty.
We preserve our humanity with our recognition of others', regardless of their fate.