Following the U.S. Down the Slippery Slope is Unethical

A recent article in the Huffington Post discusses the Canadian government’s current approach to terrorism.  In light of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Canadian Conservative Government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper is revisiting the anti-terrorism policies that were ushered in post 9/11 but allowed to lapse after five years.   One of them would allow for “preventative detention.”  We all know what that means – an erosion of civilian rights in the name of national security.  Incarceration due to suspicion alone.  

Do we really want to follow the U.S. down this slippery slope – holding people without charging them, perhaps eventually condoning brutal interrogation techniques (a.k.a. torture)?  Do we want to party in the streets when someone is murdered without due process, without the chance of arrest or the benefit of a legal trial?  Do we think assassination is an acceptable answer to violence?  

Clearly, if this can happen, we do not live in a democracy and we do not practice an ethical approach towards our fellow human beings.  It appears our leaders may be headed in the direction of the U.S.  Our southern neighbour, in its response to terror, has undeniably flouted international law and fueled already extant ire from those opposed to its political and economic treatment of other cultures and countries.  Being a struggling and declining empire can turn a country into a rogue nation blind to its own systemic violence.  That is a very dangerous place to be, and it is the dark side of characterizing yourselves as either invincible or as victims.  

I am not denying the perpetuation of unspeakable acts and the appalling deaths of innocent people.  No one should tolerate such brutality and despicable hatred.  I am arguing against a vindictive response that makes things worse rather than better.  What form should our intolerance of terrorism take?  Folding a sense of a people’s victimization into state policy is precisely what has happened in Israel, as if the terrible mistreatment of Palestinians in the present is justified if you belong to a people who suffered systematic eradication in the past.  So taboo a topic is the present manifestation of Holocaust history that many Jewish academics who have tried to criticize Israeli state policies have been mercilessly derided, while non-Jews who cast a negative light on these issues are cursorily dismissed as anti-Semitic.

What message do we want to leave the next generation in terms of what is appropriate as a stance against brutality and violence?  How should a nation respond to the threats against it?  Can it act responsibly within an ethical framework in ways that do not deny human rights, exacerbate conflict, or invite further violence?  This is a difficult and complex question that nevertheless demands urgent consideration before we devolve into a new world order of perpetual war.


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