Bearing Witness in Afghanistan

This week, Michael and Stephanie talk to Kathy Kelly, life-long nonviolence activist, co-founder of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and co-coordinator of the Ban Killer Drones Campaign. This week she discusses her extensive experience in and thoughts about Afghanistan. American intervention, she believes, was — and indeed, continues to be — entirely misoriented, escalating rather than resolving the violent conflicts there. She offers some practical and clear advice on what good and productive involvement might entail, and provides concrete ways we might engage. She also pushes us to reconsider our preconceived ideas, both about the Taliban and ourselves; in doing so we can start to empathize, re-humanize and be less afraid:

First of all, I think we need to do what you and Michael have advocated in the Metta Center for a long time. We have to find the courage to control our fears. We have to become a public that isn’t so whipped-up into being afraid of this group, afraid of that group, that we will continue to bankroll efforts to kind of eliminate that group so that we don’t have to be afraid of them anymore. That’s one thing.I think it’s really important to keep on building up our sense of controlling our fears. 

A second thing, very practically, is to get to know the people who are bearing the consequences of our wars and our displacement…My young friends in Afghanistan were emblematic of people who wanted to reach out to people on the other side of the divide. They talked about a border-free world. They wanted to have interethnic projects.

Only when we truly look at Afghanistan, when we see it and its people in all their rich complexity can we come to a better understanding of what they want and need. Only by actively listening to individuals and groups on the ground will we learn how we might be able to join them in finding ways to resolve conflicts and rebuild. And all this depends on a firm commitment to nonviolence, genuine humility and honest self-reflection:

…nononviolence is truth force. We have to tell the truth and look at ourselves in the mirror. And what I’ve just said is really, really hard to look at. But I think that it’s required to better understand who we are and how we can actually say, “We’re sorry. We’re so very sorry,” and make reparations that say we are not going to continue this.

Transcript archived at Waging Nonviolence

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