There is one thing

A friend this week said to me that she can’t stand Donald Trump. I heartily agreed.

‘But,’ she said, ‘there is one thing I agree with him on.’

One thing? I expected her to say his business acumen, or his larrikin attitude.

‘I agree with his view on the Muslims,’ she said, to my surprise. ‘We need to wipe them all out. It’s the only way to solve it.’

Huh? Speechless.

Surely … surely, if you agree with that particular Trumpian view of how to tackle extremism, you go the whole way and support absolutely every bit of bullshit that comes out his mouth? Surely! I mean, what is there left to disagree with once you’ve decided GENOCIDE is okay??

I had nothing to say.

Actually, I had lots to say, but I had to say it quickly. Here’s the abridged version.

Countering extremism with violence is a zero-sum game. It looks like this:

HATE x VIOLENCE = FEAR

FEAR x HATE = VIOLENCE

VIOLENCE x FEAR = HATE

And so on.

Nobody wins—in fact, everybody loses. As the Prophet Bono saith, Don’t become a monster in your efforts to defeat the monster.

Only one thing counters hate AND fear, and that’s love. Do I know what that looks like on the ground, in actual encounter with people holding extremist and hateful and violent views? Not really, because I’m not being paid to come up with any solutions. But I know that it looks more like how Manchester responded to its recent terrorist attack (I’m singing Don’t Look Back In Anger as I’m writing), and how Ariana Grande reacted (by holding out her arms and embracing a city in pain), than it does trying to wipe out every Muslim on the planet, the vast, vast majority of whom don’t hold extremist views (I won’t even dive into the issue of Christians holding extremist views who are no less deserving of being wiped out under the “Let’s fix everything with genocide” model).

Love is the treasuring of the otherness of the other (Karl Barth) in relational encounter … in other words, understanding, dialogue, mutual respect and empathy. That’s not an easy fix. It’s certainly more complex than firing a missile from a drone. It will take decades, generations even, to tackle the issue of extremist terrorism, because it took generations for it to develop. But we’ve seen generational monsters defeated by love in our own lifetimes … I’m thinking the IRA, the Berlin Wall, South African apartheid, the Soviet Union … so we know it’s possible.

At that point my friend hung up.

And I was left needing an avenue to purge my thoughts.

Welcome to Burning Belly.