I am writing this to journal a situation and reflect on it for myself. I know we all have blind spots, I know I have many, and I love all my friends who bring them to my attention. I think it is important to share observed weaknesses and blind spots, it’s the trait of true friendship. However, a true friend knows how to deliver that message while still showing love and allowing dignity to remain in tact.
This post is not to point out someone else’s blind-spot, it’s me thinking through the issues and complexity of a situation I find myself in. I feel like I am viewed as the “bad guy” or somehow I am in the wrong for knowing things I never wanted to know. When is it my job to bring the “truth” to light, and when do I just stay out of it? AND in this situation, sharing the details of the situation would put me in a position to judge who is right and who is wrong. AND to add to the complexities, the situation spans several cultural boarders and personality types.
I have an analogy.
An American civilian is learning the details of a war. He is proud of his soldiers, if they win the battle or not. As he learns the methods that are being used in this war, he is saddened. Those sharing the information are only sharing the horrible behaviors of the opponent in the war. The opponent comes from a culture where once someone dies you must remove a portion of the clothing. But the civilian does not understand that culture, so he is shocked to think that the opponent is not only killing the Americans, but then going to rob a dead man. The civilian becomes angry at the opponent, believing this behavior is unacceptable. He complains to other countries who are not involved in the war. He brings attention to these behaviors of the opponent. Those he complains to know that the American soldiers are also doing some things that are against the culture of the opponent. Maybe the opponent is even offended that the Americans will kill one of their solders and NOT remove a portion of the clothing. They feel the Americans have taken things to a new level of disrespect by not following the simple cultural ritual of removing a portion of the dead man’s clothing.
In this case my fellow American Civilian is asking me to be equally upset by these actions. But what I know is that these American solders are doing more than just not following the opponents culture, they are also participating in acts considered deviant by American standards. These soldiers are using unapproved methods of torture on the opponents.
- If I agree with the fellow civilian I am judging the opponent soldier of horrible behaviours, that are in-fact part of the norm of their culture. They are not going out of their way to do unnecessary acts against the dignity of the American soldiers, they are only following what is actually respectful in their own culture.
- If I do not agree, then I look unpatriotic.
- If I disagree, or if I share the details of the torture methods used by the Americans, then I am putting the American soldiers at risk. The information may become public. Maybe that’s okay, to bring the truth to light… but there is still one missing detail, the opponent is exercising many, many unapproved torture methods, they are participating in supporting activities that are detrimental to our existence. I KNOW this information first-hand. So, if I bring the issue to the media, these American soldiers will lose even more power to secure America. WHO AM I to decide what is right or wrong in this war. Who am I to take a soldier from battle because I don’t like the methods being used. By taking those soldiers out I am putting many, many more Americans at risk!
In the end I believe I am doing the best for everyone by staying quiet about it. In this case I happen to know the civilian’s son is leading some of these “unethical” practices. I want to tell him, I want to show the civilian he should stop judging me for being unpatriotic, because what he can’t see is that I am being very patriotic, I am realizing the importance of the work his son is doing to protect America. Not only am I not taking it to the media, I am not destroying this father’s dignity by telling him the “wrong” his son is doing. And why… why would I do this? Because I am a descendant of the opponent country, yet a true American who believes that sometimes “rule” can’t apply across certain cultures or situation. I cannot and will not be a judge. And because the civilian is my brother and I don’t want to bring shame or sadness to him about his son. The final result, my brother hates me because he believes I am unpatriotic, he believes I am offending him and his son.
Is it best for me to tell my brother the truth to pull myself from his shaming talk? Or, is it best for me to keep quiet for the benefit of all of America and my brother’s dignity?
“Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart, and who love lowliness, whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.” – Blaise Pascal
I too am opposed to the methods being used in this war, but I see the truth. And so I must humble myself to be hated by my brother because I love him that much, and I realize being shamed by my brother is small in comparison to the totality of damage if I speak the truth.
What I wish:
I wish that my brother would step back for a moment and realize I am a good person, and that I have supported him over the years and that I wouldn’t ”ignore this issue” (in his eyes) unless I had good reason. And I wish that if or when the truth comes out about all of this, that my brother won’t hate me for keeping these secrets. I want him to realize I was trying to protect him, his son, and my people of the opponent country. I was only trying to do the right thing for many people, but that the choices were not black and white.
It’s true that my brother may have done it differently. It’s also true that he may have advised me differently, had he known the facts. But I am not in a position to tell my brother the story, so please don’t judge me for not judging others. Please assume I am still the good person you thought I was and please don’t hate the opponent, my people, because they come from another culture where their way of waging a war is different than the American way.
“The greatest humiliation in life, is to work hard on something from which you expect great appreciation, and then fail to get it” – Edgar Watson Howe
“Humility is the only certain defense against humiliation” – unknown