Becoming What You Abhor: The Lesson Learned from "The Family"
Recently, eleven members of a group known as "The Family", who are in fact an extremist faction of both the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), were indicted on 65 charges, all related to "eco-terrorist" attacks that were carried out over four and a half years and spanned five states.
While it is easy for most of us to empathize with their concern for the environment and animals, and their discouragement and outrage at how little the masses of society care about these concerns, it is harder to understand what they thought they were accomplishing with their violent attacks. If their goal was to help further world peace on all levels (ecologically, spiritually, physically, etc…), isn't it counterintuitive to destroy, blow up, vandalize or otherwise harm anything? As the consummately wise Gandhi believed, we cannot achieve peace through violent means. It may be easy to think that we must shock or jolt people out of their complacency to make any change in the world, but change is usually not something that comes about in one moment of epiphany. Usually, it is a series of gradual changes that take place over time. Unfortunately, when someone uses violence, even if it's to highlight an important injustice or wrong that is happening in society, they then relinquish their right to speak for positive change as they've become part of the problem. Michael Franti, of the group Spearhead, ask the all-important question in one of his songs, "Are we part of the solution, or are we part the pollution?"
However, the tone and words that officials in the U.S. government have used to condemn these acts strike me as the epitome of hypocrisy. Although the technical definition of terrorism, according to the American Heritage dictionary, is "the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons," I would like to propose a change in that definition. Even though most can justify war as lawful and necessary, aren't the bombs we're dropping, the guns we're shooting and the sanctions we've imposed intended to intimidate and coerce societies? And aren't the majority of these people innocent of any wrongdoing, but unfortunately happen to be in the wrong place at the terribly wrong time?
As the Bible so clearly advises us all, don't point out the speck of wood in another's eye when you have a log in your own. It also warns: "Judge not, lest you be judged."
Henry J Hansen