Thursday, January 29, 2009

Name Calling

My oldest son tells a story about me that I'm sure can't be true. He says when he was four-years-old, he was dragged into the house by his little elbow and taken to the sink to have his mouth washed out with soap. He had called his best friend a name, he tells anyone who will listen... It was Slowpoke. Oh, surely I was not that maniacal over our number one non-negotiable rule, which was: No name calling. Then again - perhaps I was. Nothing good ever happens when we start calling people, or groups of people, names. Ever. Have you heard of the Institute for Propaganda Analysis? It was formed in 1937 by a team of social scientists, educators and journalists who were concerned that increased amounts of propaganda were decreasing the public’s ability to develop its own critical thoughts. The organization went belly up in 1942. Analyzing war propaganda in the throes of war (WWII) was not profitable. But, take a look at what the IPA published in 1938 on the subject of name calling:
"Bad names have played a tremendously powerful role in the history of the world and in our own individual development. They have ruined reputations, stirred men and women to outstanding accomplishments, sent others to prison cells, and made men mad enough to enter battle and slaughter their fellowmen. They have been and are applied to other people, groups, gangs, tribes, colleges, political parties, neighborhoods, states, sections of the country, nations, and races."
Name calling is bad. Given that, what do we make of the U.S. State Department's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs)? The government came up with a number of terrorist qualifiers in 1997 - detailed reasons groups might make this frightening list of FTOs. In summary, if a group is foreign and hijacks, assassinates, harbors, or otherwise engages in "any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of the United States or any State)" then it is an FTO. This list of 42 organizations (current number) is designed to "play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and is an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business." Not surprisingly, the democratically elected Palestinian government, Hamas, is on the list. So is the Palestine Liberation Front, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. No Israeli organization is on the list. But, then, injuring seven Palestinian school girls in an air attack in the Southern Gaza Strip doesn't specifically make the list of qualifiers. Israeli military troops did that yesterday. They were trying to hit a suspected Palestinian fighter who was on a bicycle. Trying to take him out with explosives from the air. Here's what that looks like, in case you're wondering: I don't know about you...but this would terrify me if I lived in Gaza. My children would not be going to school. In fact, we would not be leaving our underground bunker for any reason. And I might be calling Israelis terrorists. "The name caller is feeling weak right now," is the advice my parenting book gives me for talking to my kids about making a response to being called a name. Another "useful self-thought" say the experts, is this: Whatever people say about you really says nothing about you, but it says a lot about them. So, what about that FTO list? Peace.

1 comment:

Darlene Hello said...

You know, it's really easy to be an artist if the only colors you have to paint with are black and white. Shades of gray tend to complicate your choices. Your description of what happened to the 7 innocent people killed while trying to take out one "enemy" reminds me of the criminal jury I served on a few years ago. I, along with 11 others, convicted a young 28-year old man of attempted murder for firing bullets through homes with sleeping children as he tried to complete an assignment he accepted from the head of a prison gang to kill one of their own whom they felt had stolen money from them. We convicted this young "terrorist" on the basis of what could have happened to all the innocents involved had he been a better shot. I feel for all those who have been killed or injured while they were in the way of another "terrorist" receiving justice. I just read a quote today from Harry Trumen, which I agree with: "There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know." Most of us Americans have lots of history to study if we want to learn how the name-calling in our history developed. We might even start to get a clue why everyone in the world doesn't love us.