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Article contains graphic descriptions of violence.
After the Oregon shooting, I watched Obama’s speech to the American public. It was heartfelt and powerful, and I could not help but agree with the President’s call for legislative gun control. He was visibly upset, and so was I. I can’t imagine feeling that my safety could be so easily compromised by someone with their finger on a trigger. And yet, sometime between listening to Obama claim that America would “wrap everyone who is grieving with prayers and love,” and the hospital bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Oct. 3rd, I lost faith.
On the first of October, a shooter opened fire at Umpqua Community College, killing nine. This is not an article asking you to be any less passionate about gun control, nor do I want to diminish this tragedy. Instead I want to ask you the uncomfortable question of why we allow Obama to call for the preservation of American lives, while simultaneously disregarding Afghani ones.
A large factor is rhetoric. We have become far too familiar with the excuse of terrorist activity justifying civilian casualties. The American military has admitted that they may have caused “collateral damage” to the Kunduz hospital – which was bombed for an hour – killing both employees and patients. “Ten to fifteen terrorists” were using the hospital, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry, “they are dead now.” Meanwhile, hospital staff reported seeing patients in the intensive care unit burn in their beds during the resulting fires. Regardless of whether or not the Taliban was using the hospital as a base, the Red Cross, Doctors without Borders and the UN have all condemned the act as a war crime. Terrorism should not be an excuse that we are willing to accept for this loss of life.
In his response to the shooting at Oregon, Obama asked us to be compassionate. To think about those “who were studying, and learning, and working hard, with their eyes set on the future.” He begged us to “let young people grow up.” His statement about Kunduz in contrast was short – less than 200 words posted on the Whitehouse website – and dry. Mr. President, it is hard for me to swallow your compassion for grieving families when it is selective.
I recognize the implication of asking the President of the United States to try and care for all lives globally. I understand that the leader of one country cannot possibly guide us single handedly to beat the world’s swords into ploughshares. Suppose you argue that Obama was elected by the American people, for the betterment of the American people alone, and thus his focus on gun control and mass shootings is not unwarranted. Maybe you disagree that all lives should be of equal value to the President, regardless of citizenship. This insular thinking is counter productive.
We are part of a global community, and the actions of individual governments have widespread ramifications, not just for others, but for ourselves. American mistreatment of foreign civilians backfires by destabilizing the Afghani government, which is forced to justify attacks on citizens from their supposed ally. It must be hard to swallow the Taliban as the ultimate enemy when Americans are the ones who bombed your hospital. If Americans want to bring stability to the Middle East – if for no other reason than protecting themselves from terrorism – then the path to doing so is through the preservation of civilian life.
If Obama wants gun control, I fully support it, however I want it to come with restrictions on military might. Mr. President you were right in saying that “our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” but I will not be convinced that you are genuine until your actions – not just words – show that you care not just about Americans, but also lives abroad. Until then, we should not accept your apologies.
Photo Credit: Doctors without Borders