Why is it called violent extremism when “they” do it to us?

Frida Berrigan

Frida Berrigan December 9, 2005 In an interview with the BBC yesterday, the host asked me how we as Christians could walk to visit the prisoners at Guantanamo, many of whom had been picked up on battlefields throughout the world and were commited to killing Christians. He asked about Norman Kember, one of the men kidnapped by violent extremists. He said Norman had been shown on British TV with an islamic symbol and was about to be killed. The BBC man said he was accused of being a spy. How can you walk for people like that? Are you walking for those people? First, I responded that we still don't know who is being held in Guantanamo. So many have not been charged with any crime. We have no idea if they are guilty of killing Christians. We have not given them access to the rule of law. Instead, the US government has created a modern Heart of Darkness, an island of impunity in the midst of this beautiful country where the rule of law does not apply. I continued, asking how can the world's sole superpower and a nation that purports to bring "democracy" to the world so flagrantly disregarding such a central pillar of democracy--the rule of law. When he pressed me on Norman Kember, I said we are with him and he would be with us. We are walking with Anne Montgomery, a 79 year old nun who sets a mean pace, bus has also lived and worked in Iraq and Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams. Why is it called violent extremism when "they" do it to us? and called justice when we do it to them? When we hold ourselves above the law, when we create a whole new standard for ourselves and that standard is violence and torture and impunity-- even in the name of the war on terrorism--what do we expect in return? The response to violent extremism will be violent extremism. It will perpetuate itself, feed and grow and intensify ad infinitum and without rest until everyone is dead or has blood on their hands. Unless someone says "no". And we are walking to be that "no". We are walking because violent extremism ENDS with us. We are citizens of the empire, but we are Christians first. And as Christians we reject the privileges of empire--the money, the security, the violence. And we walk through this beautiful countryside, disarmed, to visit the prisoners, and to pray and fast and await the intercession of the holy spirit. And then the gates of the prison will be thrown wide and we can begin to imagine a true security based on humanity instead of violent extremism.

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Frida Berrigan writes for TomDispatch, Waging Nonviolence and other outlets. Her book, It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised By Radicals and Growing Into Rebellious Motherhood, was published by OR Books in 2015. She lives in New London, Conn., with her husband, three kids and six chickens.

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