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Why Do We Chose Silence Against Atrocities by our Friends?

Alexander Dawoody

“Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are.”

This simple, yet profound, sentence says a lot about choices in life that reveal our moral fiber. The friends that we choose in life are the mirrors that reflect our character. A decent person will choose another decent person as a friend, so does the honest, charitable, tolerant, just and peacemaker. On the other hand the dishonest person will always choose another dishonest person as friend, so does the liar, thief, opportune, self-serving and hatemonger. The friends of Jesus were just like him, good, charitable, loving and peacemaking. The friends of George Washington were just like him, brave, courageous and revolutionaries. Yet, the friends of Hitler were just like him, racists, hatemongers and murders.

Sometimes our friends may betray us. This does not mean that we are traitors as well and we may embody the characteristic of betrayal in our inner self. Rather, it is because we are humans after all, and human beings do make mistakes. The mistakes of our friends, regardless of how good they were when we chose them, are theirs alone and do not reflect our character. Things change and so do people. Each person is responsible for his own actions and his actions alone. When Judas betrayed Jesus, his betrayal does not reflect the flawless characteristic of Jesus Christ but rather it reveals Judas’ susceptible characteristic to error. In fact, Judas was thinking that he was doing good in what he did by enacting Jesus’ own wish, as it is revealed in the newly discovered Gospel of Judas.

As a country, the friends that we choose can also reflect who we are and what we stand for. If we choose to form alliances and close relationships with democracies such as England, France, Canada, Sweden and Brazil then we are reflecting our own democratic values and principles. But, if we choose tyrannical governments as our friends, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Pakistan, then we go against our democratic principles and become hypocrites in scarifying our moral standards for the sake of doing business and making money. This often puts us in a dilemma and makes our actions questionable. When those tyrant-friends start to do more bad things that widely become apparent to the world and demand action, it would become awkward for us not to say or do anything, especially if we were loud and decisive in speaking or doing something against others who were not our friends. When we condemned Qaddhafi’s genocide against his own people, the world heralded us for supporting democratic movements. Yet, when we failed to say or do anything about similar atrocities committed by the governments of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen simply because these governments are our friends, we became hypocrites in the eyes of the world.

Someone may say geopolitics and international relations are different from relationships on a personal level. In politics we have to talk with one another and engage in dialogue even with regimes that we do not like for the sake of world peace and diplomacy. Therefore, we as a country, do not have the luxury of choosing whom we have to deal with. We do business with others out of necessity, not choice. I tend to differ with this notion. Geopolitics is no different than personal interactions. We too, on a personal level, have interactions and do business with people out of necessity. The difference is that we regard people whom we interact with on a daily basis as acquaintances and do not confuse them with our friends who are the outer reflectors of our moral character. Yet, as a country, we seem to blur this boundary and allow ourselves to confuse our acquaintances with our close friends and then enter into a dilemma where we become handicapped with inaction when this acquainted-friend starts doing something extremely bad, such as mass murdering its own people.

So, looking at our friends in the world and whom we chose to be in close relationships with, what would that say about our moral fiber and character? Who we really are and what we stand for? Are we betraying our democratic ideals and becoming our own Judas?

ASPA member Alexander Dawoody is
assistant professor of public policy and administration at Marywood
University. Email: [email protected]

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