24 July 2005

Point of view

    "First of all," [Atticus] said, "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-"
    "Sir?"
    "-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
      To Kill a Mockingbird
      by Harper Lee
Today I was posting some comments to this post at The Center of NJ Life. I was critical of random searches in the NYC Subway and NJ Transit, and someone asked me for alternatives. After explaining why I thought random searches wouldn't work, I voiced support for better information sharing, espionage, and good old detective work. I also said need to address root causes in our foreign policy. That's a buzz-word laden way of saying I think we need to do more to understand what is leading people to terrorism.

Here's the thing. I almost left that last one off. I wanted to avoid the inevitable accusations that I hated America and supported terrorism. I was remembering Karl Rove's remarks in June. I went ahead and put it in. We'll see if the thread gets derailed or not.

I've been thinking about this whole root cause thing for awhile. As a software developer, I deal with root causes often. There's a problem with an application, bad behavior, a bug. For example, I have a label on a button. All of a sudden, the label is garbled. What do I do? I can just reset the label, fixing the immediate issue. But something garbled that label. There's still a bug, and odds are it will manifest elsewhere. To do it right, I have to dig in a little, look at what's changed recently, maybe step through the program as it runs watching everything. That takes more effort, of course, and the solution is more complex. Yet that is clearly the right way to handle it, and the solution is more robust.

Like the quick fix, we have a quick answer for why terrorists hate us. "Because we're free," is what Bush has said more than once. It's a great soundbite that plays well in big speaches. But it denies the complex issues at hand. It turns a blind eye to real problems that lie at the heart. Until these root causes are addressed, this hatred will manifest itself over and over in new and different places. I am not advocating for apeasement here. I don't believe we should bargain with terrorists. We need to truly understand what motivates these people to such extreme actions.

It can't just be that they're evil. No one is born wanting to do this. People learn to hate. Mohammad Atta came into this world just like the rest of us. He was an innocent little kid once. He learned to hate us. Why is that? Have we really thought about it? Are we doing anything to change that? Shouldn't we be? And why is it un-American to do so?

I know most of the people who read this, so I know I'm preaching to the choir here. But I'm just so sick of hearing that the only solution is to "brandish steel," as Rove put it. We've brandished plenty of steel, and what has it gotten us?

1 comment:

Matt said...

Regarding the subway searches, Flex Your Rights Foundation has an excellent Citizen's Guide to Refusing New York Subway Searches detailing how to reject a potential search while entering the subway. Thought you might be interested.