For the all of the flak that Vice President Joe Biden takes for sometimes saying the wrong thing, he oftentimes can say the painfully obvious truth. On his visit last week to the Ukraine, Biden admonished Vladimir Putin and Russia by saying “stop supporting people who wear masks.” This applies far beyond the boundaries of Ukraine. As I was watching the training footage of Al Qaeda the other day, almost every person was wearing a mask. I fully realize it is a head covering pulled down over the face, but the key goal is anonymity.
Sitting in my comfortable seat in a country where it is OK for me to register my dissent, it is very hard for me to place myself in this situation. It is easy for me to send emails and vocalize my concerns to elected officials or as a shareholder to a CEO, which I often do. For those that live in a corrupt and/ or fascist country, anonymity in showing your dissent may be vital to keep yourself and your family alive or out of harms way. This caveat cannot be emphasized enough, as in countries like these, dissent is not tolerated. But, when dissent begins to harm people who simply get in the way, I find that troubling and I find that there can be an element of cowardice behind the mask. It is one thing to protest. It is another to kill innocent people.
Call me crazy, but at my age, I would observe that if you need to hide your identity behind a mask, then you are likely up to no good. Or, to put it another way, you may have given up the high road on how you have chosen to disagree with something. When I see people covering their faces, unless it is for religious reasons, to protect the sun and wind from the face or because the regime is so corrupt, it usually registers that the person is doing something they would be less inclined to do if someone saw their face. This issue becomes cloudy when you have a government that will harm protestors or their families.
I have been taught that the worse a person’s argument, the louder they yell or more they name call. If someone is using labels to define an action they do not like, that means their argument is poor. It usually means they are identifying someone else as the reason for your anguish and asking you to hate them. In my country, we have politicians and religious leaders call things Nazism or Apartheid when they want to demonize something. Even Putin knows America’s weakness, so he also is calling American’s actions as Nazism in Ukraine, when in fact, his troops are acting as instigators across the border in masks and unmarked uniforms. To me, the name calling is a way to mask intent or real discussion of the issues because your points are poor.
With Islamic extremist groups, Americans are infidels. That is a convenient label which is often used to paint America as an enemy. America is far from perfect and our leaders disappoint, but infidels? Give me a break. There is a former Islamic extremist in Great Britain whose new mission is to reach as many young Muslims as possible and say don’t let the extremists blame others for your shortcomings. He is telling these people that extremists are using their religion to divide people, hold people down (especially women), hold back freer flowing economies and not allow people to live a safer, secure life and raise their families worshipping their religion in peace. These are the kind of people who fear Malala Yousafzai and her power when she becomes educated. She is the kind of person who can shame people into acting against these extremists.
We have a worldwide poverty problem. We have a worldwide human rights problem directed at women. We have a worldwide corruption problem where people in power take and take and don’t help those in need. My blogging friend George Dowdell (www.georgedowdell.org) notes until we address this corruption problem, the have-nots will always have an uphill battle. Let’s begin with rebelling against extremists. We can start with those wearing masks. If you are using the mask to promote violence and hate, then your message is one we don’t need. If you have a grievance, come out in the open. If you are wearing a mask, you have given up the high road.