Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto
Died 12/27/2007

This isn't something that I usually spout off about. It has been my experience that it is better to keep your political and sometimes, religious ideas/beliefs to yourself. It is such a charged subject that I find it rare that people are genuinely curious about what you think. More often than not, people just want to convert your views to match their own. I'm not interested in fighting with people over their personal beliefs. If they're willing to engage in a thoughtful, intelligent conversation, without resorting to mudslinging and name calling, I'm more than willing to share what I think. So for those reasons, I don't usually get up on my soapbox about politics and elections etc. But this irritated and upset me enough that I couldn't stay silent.

On Thursday, December 27, 2007, former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad. She was a woman who had already served two terms as Pakistan's Prime Minister and after returning to Pakistan after an 8 year, self imposed exile for her own protection, she was shot and killed in the streets by a suicide bomber. This was a woman that fought for democracy, defended human rights and fought against militant religious fundamentalists. She was a woman of power and authority in a country that is home to a strong militant Islamist/Al Quada power base. Her death is a great loss, not only to our country but to the world and freedom loving people everywhere.

Her death, tragic as it is, is not the reason for this entry. I am saddened and slightly appalled by the way in which her death has been used by some of the Republican Presidential candidates. Newsweek asked each candidate, as well as other world leaders, their reaction to the assassination and the reactions of some of the Presidential candidates were disappointing, to say the least. Many used her death as a chance to further their own political agenda. I felt their reactions were overly political and inappropriate. Yes, I understand that they are political figures and we are entering an election year. Of course, they can't open their mouths with out making some sort of political point or plug for themselves. Really, I get it. I simply found that some responses were more sympathetic than others and some were more condescending than others.

For example, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said, "This is devastating news for the people of Pakistan, and my prayers go out to them as we follow developments regarding this dire situation..." Okay, fine. If he had left it at that, it would have been fine, a tad formulaic but what do you expect? But he doesn't stop there. He continues, by saying "The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan's upcoming election stands in Stark Contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through the Constitution." I find it condescending and inappropriate when expressing "sympathy" over the loss of someone such as Bhutto. It sounds slightly arrogant, as if the United States is better at Democracy than the rest of the world. Of course we are. We've been working at it longer! That doesn't mean that we're better than others, just that we've had a bit more practice.

I think my favorite response came from Senator John McCain. He didn't even bother with expressing sympathy or regret at Bhutto's death. He said that Bhutto's death "underscores yet again the grave dangers we face in the world today and particularly in countries like Pakistan, where the forces of moderation are arrayed in a fierce battle against those who embrace violent Islamic extremism. Given Pakistan's strategic location, the international terrorist groups that operate from its soil, and its nuclear arsenal, the future of the country has deep implications for the security of the United States and its allies. America must stand on the right side of this ongoing struggle." I would think that Sen. McCain would be a little more upset about the death of a woman, who if elected, would be one of our country's greatest allies in the war against terrorism.

I think the candidate with the best response, the response that was most balanced was, Hilary Clinton. Now, I'm generally not a Hilary supporter and I'm not going to vote for her, but what she said had a great balance between the political and the personal/emotional. She said, "I have known Benazir Bhutto for a dozen years, and I knew her as a leader. I knew her as someone willing to take risks. I hope that if there is any opportunity to the government and people of Pakistan to respond to this tragedy
appropriately, it would be to move more steadfastly and determinately toward democracy. She has given her life for that hope, and I know that the people of our country stand in solidarity with those who believe as we do in the rights of people to be heard at the ballot box." (my emphasis added)

Yes, her death is a reminder of the threat that is out there. The threat to our way of life. The threat to democracy and freedom everywhere, I'm not arguing that point.But I don't think it's appropriate to use her death as a way of creating fear and anxiety in our country as a means to gain points in the polls. I think it's inappropriate and disrespectful.

To read the full article and others about Bhutto, click here.