José Martí wrote in the Buenos Aires newspaper La Nación, on January 1, 1888, about the hanging of anarchists accused of throwing dynamite at the police during a Chicago workers’ demonstration in Haymarket Square: “Neither the fear of social justice nor the blind sympathy for those who attempt it, should guide the people in their crisis... He who worthily serves liberty, only he who, at the risk of being taken for its enemy, preserves it without trembling from those who jeopardize it with their mistakes.”
The four anarcho-syndicalists were later executed despite the identity of the true perpetrator remaining unknown. They paid the price for their role in the struggle against the prevailing power.
These events occurred in May of 1886, and Martí’s texts denounced, with equal emphasis, both the crime of slander, and the extreme strategies of those slandered. In his effort to build a new nation of balance and fairness, he advocated reasoned government and the uprooting of excessive violence that could make difficult the healing of wounds, such as that incipient Chicago attack. Despite the passing of 131 years, and the difference in circumstances, the wisdom of our National Hero allows us to think ahead and pause to reflect amidst the confusion to correct the path forward.
Recently, at Mass held in the Colombian city of Medellín, Pope Francis emphasized the influence of iniquity in outbreaks of violence. In his words, he stressed that if the pressing problems of poverty and hunger are addressed, if the abuse of power and repression are halted, and there is fair distribution of resources, a social balance will be achieved that will eliminate the "need" for violence, which is born of despair and impotence.
The Holy Father also referred to realities that could be applied to the analysis of the foundations of terrorism, a phenomenon that could be described as one of the major blights impacting contemporary society.
This September 11, which, as Silvio Rodriguez would say, “still howls its chilling double toll,” may be the right time to pause and reflect on the future of civilization, if terrorism can not be stopped.
Not just because, as “everything happens the same day, produced by similar hatred,” September 11 shows the various ways in which terrorism can be manifested. Namely, does it channel resentment or is it an alternative for the weak? Is it sword or shield? Is there good terrorism and bad terrorism? Is this not a matter of mere perspective, of those within or beyond its vortex?
Some try to associate Islam with terrorism and death, and this is precisely the countercultural idea that the imperialists need, omitting the message of peace and coexistence that Islam shares with other religions.
Just one fact here. Thanks to the “backward” and “demonic” Muslims, much of the knowledge of antiquity came to the West, which had been consumed by the flames that engulfed the Library of Alexandria, or the unstoppable pyres of the Inquisition.
Mexican national hero Benito Juárez said that respect for the rights of others meant peace, and working to help those who can not fight for their rights does not imply arming extremists pursuing ulterior motives. If we were to respect the right of nations to decide their destiny, and not launch wars in which millions of innocent people die, perhaps we would not have victims filled with so much hatred, or those resorting to any means to minimize their disadvantages.
Those who now blow themselves up in public places, run people down, stab, and are persecuted as terrorists, were once “freedom fighters” who the United States trained in the use of explosive devices and irregular warfare.
Something depicted in the film, Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), based on real life, in which a U.S. congressman, an anti-communist tycoon and a CIA agent decide to provide Afghan Mujahideen with explosives, automatic weapons, and anti-aircraft missiles to fight against the Soviets, supporting them in their war because they had the right to faith and government.
For reasons that are not so hidden, these terrorists appear when they are most needed and prepare the scenarios for the “opportune” political economy wars of capitalism. Al-Qaeda, DAESH, Boko Haram are just alias of the same monster, fed by those who claim to defend themselves against it.
There is another form of terrorism, that perpetrated by the state, which has been practiced by various governments around the world, supported by powers that are now targets, to quash progressive left movements with military dictatorships, death squads and assassinations. A chapter of history that has Chilean President Salvador Allende, the Latin Americans disappeared in Operation Condor, Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, and many others as its victims. Those who murdered the ecologist and indigenous rights activist Berta Cáceres, who imprisoned Milagro Sala, who disappeared Santiago Maldonado, who have caused mourning in Cuba for several decades, and today are merciless against Venezuela, are also terrorists; not just those who attacked in Nice, Oslo, London, and Barcelona.
Terrorism, in any of its facets, is inexcusable. Social justice is the goal, not building walls or expelling immigrants. If abuses are eliminated, a conscience of peace could be achieved. But Martí said as such in better words more than 100 years ago: “Nor deserving of forgiveness are those who, incapable of taming the hatred and antipathy that crime inspires, judge social crimes without knowing and considering the historical causes of which they were born, nor the impulses of generosity that produce them.”