Monday, May 11, 2009

Massacre in Sri Lanka and traffic concerns

Another bloodbath. Another mass-killing. Once again certain forces in the United Nations warned against a coming nightmare, and once again too many ignored the warnings. The New York Times reports UN spokesman, Gordon Weiss, saying that over the weekend the civilian death toll had gone substantially up and included more than 100 children. Thousands have been wounded over the past month and the pain and suffering is incalculable. But once again Western Governments have barely raised an eyebrow to another massacre. Here in Canada Tamils have been engaging in various peaceful protests, ostensibly aimed at just getting a meeting with a representative of Prime Minister Harper’s government. At first the Government said that they would not meet with anyone who was displaying the flag of the Tamil Tigers, because the Tigers are considered a ‘terrorist’ organization and the flag is banned in Canada. (The whole idea of banning a symbol is another sticky issue we can leave for another time.) But even when the Tamil protesters removed the flag, the government refused to meet with them and hear their concerns. And average Canadians seem to be horrified not by the massacres in Sri Lanka but by the gall of protestors ‘holding up traffic’ during their protestors. People forget the long and  significant tradition of peaceful resistance from Thoreau to Gandhi  and the roll that such protest can play in waking people up to important issues. But the real tragedy here is the degree to which Western Governments, particularly right-wing ones, are willing to ignore the brutal militarism of governments with which they are allied, all the while painting practically any resistance movement with the brush of terrorism. The Tamils have legitimate and serious concerns regarding their treatment by the Sri Lankan government, concerns that have been largely ignored by governments in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Now average people are paying the price for the failure of those in power to act on behalf of the weak and vulnerable. It seems to me that people turn to armed resistance only as a last resort and over time these resistance forces often lose touch with their roots and become little more than criminal enterprises. But the regression into crime and violence is the failure of people and governments to address injustices from the earliest possible moment. The Tamil Tigers may in fact be a terrorist organization. But we need to get past such issues and talk to whoever is willing to talk and speak up for those with no voice. Instead of worrying about whether a protest group is holding up traffic let us open up a discourse with them and try to address their concerns. And most of all let’s remember that governments can be just as criminal and brutal as ‘terrorists’ in the pursuit of their interests and the most vulnerable are always the ones who pay. 

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