The excitement of campaign season has come once again! Many hopeful politicians have announced the intention to run, and are facing the praise and punishment of their platforms. Jeb Bush is among those who have yet to
announce. Following a speech Bush gave, “a college student named Ivy Ziedrich stood up an said… the origins of Isis… law in the decision by Bush’s brother, in 2003, to disband the Iraqi Army following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government” (Filkins, 1). While it may not be entirely accurate to say that Bush created Isis, the truth of Ziedrich’s argument is that “President Bush… or someone in his Administration decreed the dissolution of the Iraqi Army” (Filkins, 1). In doing so, thousands were put out of work. Bush enhanced the “creation of the Iraqi insurgency,” which contributed to ISIS, since “some of the men fighting in ISIS were put out of work by the American occupiers in 2003” (Filkins, 2). The following notion can foretold the consequences of America’s actions in the Middle East: when one does not know what they are dealing with in conflict, one does not know what the outcome will be.
A serious factor in America’s war in the Middle East is that American Society has distinguished itself as supreme for so long, that it has made virtually every other society “the other”. In a post 9/11 America, the most demonized “other” is Islamic society. There a need for the appropriate condemning and response to ISIS for the terrorist organization that it is. The issue is when appropriate condemning of one sector of a society, is warped into hatred for that society as a whole. We warp this condemnation so that the other is always to blame. Deeming another culture as “the other” often spirals into dehumanization. Once we view people as subhuman, we give ourselves the permission to do whatever we want to them, without having to take responsibility. We Americans do this within our own society, everyday, without even realizing it.
At every American barbecue, each individual enjoying a hamburger or hotdog is perpetuating the suffering of animals and the dehumanization of workers. Humans, especially Americans, suffer from Anthropocentrism. This is “the conviction that humans are the pinnacles of evolution, the appropriate yardstick by which to measure the lives of other animals, and the rightful owners of everything that lives” (Foer, 26). We see no animal as having value separate from the value it has for us. We have made animals “the other” and we have complete control over them. Americans have gone so far as to suggest, “that animals might not really suffer – not in the ways that matter most” (Foer, 77). With animals so permanently cast as the other, Americans have been able to enslave them in the cruelest ways, with majority of people not feeling an iota of remorse.
Even if Americans do see the moral issues that accompany an omnivore’s diet in terms of animal cruelty, there is still something else to be made “the other” so that we still may avoid accepting responsibility for cruelty in its entirety. Americans have decided to blame the work force of the factory farm, which is so utterly mistaken, since that workforce is at the complete mercy of the American consumer. First, we deem them “illegal aliens”, a fitting term for someone we wish to devalue. These workers, who have no rights, are then falsely labeled as depraved people seeking an outlet through animal slaughter. However, in Jonathan Foer’s experience conducting research for his book Eating Animals, he says, “the several dozen workers I met were good people, smart honest people doing their best in an impossible situation” (Foer, 254). For Americans, admitting this truth would mean the loss of a very convenient scapegoat. The practice of factory farming, which is a direct result of increased consumer demand, has us labeling people as monsters who are not. Worse yet, “ordinary people can become sadistic from the dehumanizing work of constant slaughter” (Foer 77). So even if Americans do let go of the notion that it is only depraved individuals working in slaughterhouses, factory farms manufacture many sickened minds alongside the rancid carcusses for us to blame.
While it may seem almost natural to dehumanize other cultures or groups that we see as threatening or evil, we are actually so practiced in the process that we can even dehumanize our own peers. There is no better example of this than the phenomenon of the school shooting. Not only is it unique to America, it happens amongst the group no one wishes to dehumanize: school children. When two students opened fire on their school on April 20th 1999, the America was shocked. The television station “CNN was locked in on Kosovo… night had just fallen on Belgrade, and American warplanes were… about to pulverize fresh targets” (Cullen 52).
Upon receiving information of the situation in Littleton, CO, “CNN cut to Jeffco to and stayed there non-stop” (Cullen, 52). CNN jumped at the chance to warn that there was a new “other”. On the other hand, the FBI agent on the scene had “assumed it was a terrorist attack” (Cullen, 70). And why wouldn’t it be terrorists? They were already on the receiving end of America’s blame and hatred anyway. Instead, Americans got a new group to condemn. It was the bullied, homosexual, Goth outcasts seeking revenge. Americans accepted this as truth, and proceeded to dehumanize groups fitting any element of this description.
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris were the only two individuals that carried out the Columbine massacre. Upon studying the massacre, it becomes apparent that Columbine too was rooted in dehumanization. Dylan dehumanized himself. He felt strongly that those around him considered him worthless and subhuman. Dylan wrote in his journal “Why would you never choose him”? (Cullen, 175) He was lonely, and it was because you did not want anything to do with him. Eric experienced the opposite: he was the perpetrator of dehumanization. It was evident in his journals that “he might kill hundreds, but the dead and dismembered meant nothing to him” (Cullen, 236). Dylan, a depressive, killed because of the hatred he had for himself. Eric, a psychopath, killed for personal gains he would earn from lowering others.
There is a crucial distinction between holding a group responsible for their actions, and dehumanizing a group. Once the blame spreads from those responsible, to what those responsible represent, the downward spiral from punishment to dehumanization begins. The most effective safeguard against crossing the line that we, as individuals and as a society, can implement is to be present in our lives. For an individual to truly be present in any setting, he or she must let go of self-absorption. By doing this, we become aware of others, and especially how we relate to them. If one can understand how they relate to an individual– a fellow citizen of the world, a Muslim, an immigrant, a slaughterhouse employee, a chicken, a depressed teenager, or even a convicted murder—we can no longer place exaggerated blame on that individual. We can hold them responsible, but only if we hold ourselves responsible simultaneously.
Burrell, Ian. “Violent videos don’t provoke young people. Violence does.” The Independent (London). (December 29, 1997 , Monday ): 811 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/04/22.
Burt, Jason. “The Rambo culture; Violent videos are linked to real-life brutality.” DAILY MAIL (London). (January 8, 1998 ): 927 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2015/04/22.
Cullen, David. Columbine. New York: Twelve, 2009. Print
Filkins, Dexter. “Did George W. Bush Create ISIS? – The New Yorker.” The New Yorker. N.p., 15 May 2015. Web. 10 June 2015.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Print.
O’Brien, Tim, and Suzi Leather. Factory Farming and Human Health: A Compassion in World Farming Trust Report. Petersfield, Hants, U.K.: Compassion in World Farming Trust, 1997. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Compassion in World Farming Trust, 1997. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
Susan, Klebold. “”I Will Never Know Why”” Oprah.com. O Magazine, Nov. 2009. Web. 01 June 2015.