The Seeds of War (a parable)

by Benjamin Kuipers

I offer a parable to illustrate the seeds of war.

The point of this is NOT to say that the West is somehow responsible for terrorism. Obviously, the terrorists are responsible, and they must be brought to justice. However, we need to understand the mechanisms in place that feed terrorism beforehand, and that would be invoked by certain types of retaliation. It makes no sense to act without understanding the context.

The purpose of this parable is to provide intuition about one such mechanism.

Written 10/2/2001 in the aftermath of September 11.
Think about the aftermaths of Afghanistan and Iraq, too.
To fight terrorism, you must know where it comes from.

Imagine that you and your family live in a really bad neighborhood. You struggle every day to make ends meet. You try to keep your children safe from the criminals who live in your area. You work hard to teach your children to be good people, and to live right, even though they are surrounded by examples of people who get rich through immorality and crime. You go to church with your neighbors, and try to support each other in the same struggle, since the odds against each of you are overwhelming, but together you may have a slightly better chance.

You watch TV, and you see rich people in the suburbs who have everything you ever wanted, who worry about crabgrass in the lawn instead of gunfire in the street. You work two jobs at minimum wage, hating the fact that your children are home alone, while the people on TV complain about the high cost of gas for the SUV taking the kids to soccer games. You and the members of your church tell each other, and try to believe, that different people have different lots in life, and each follows his or her own path to salvation. Meanwhile, on TV, you hear the people in the suburbs complaining about how all the people in your neighborhood are criminals, and lazy, and should be run out of town. You try hard to remember that they don't understand, and to forgive them.

Then, one day, a really terrible crime is committed by a gang from your neighborhood. A bomb goes off in the suburbs, and many innocent people are killed.

You are shocked, and your heart goes out to the families who are suffering. A few of your meaner-hearted neighbors say that they are glad that the suburbs now know what it's like. You shut them up, telling them to have compassion for anyone who suffers. A few particularly foolish kids dance in the street and show up on the evening news. Your church holds a prayer service for the victims of the bomb.

The police barricade the streets around your neighborhood, and won't let any of you out, though a few sneak past. On TV, you hear some of the rich people in the suburbs say they want to bomb your entire neighborhood to kill the whole gang. If that also kills innocent people like you and your family, well, that's too bad, they say.

How do you feel? What do you do?

Now, suppose the police actually do bomb your neighborhood. The bombs kill your parents, your wife, your daughters, and your sons. In your family, the only survivors are you and your youngest son.

How do you feel? What do you do?
What does your son grow up to be?