Violence Leads Nowhere

This is the phrase that stands out in the latest Facebook post sent to me by an Egyptian woman whom I came to know when I was in Cairo earlier this year. I was there speaking to members of the various political parties on leadership at The American University in Cairo. In the room sat the entire political spectrum of Egypt’s budding democracy, and while they did not always agree on specific policies they were in complete agreement that democracy in Egyptian was paramount.
 
For those new to democratic ideals the thought that everyone is able to express opinions and ideas that may be contradictory to one’s own may be disconcerting. Further, if the entire focus of recent years has been on fighting the Mubarak regime the notion that resistance is the only way to get what one wants may be hard habit to break—and difficult or not, learning with work with those who disagree with us is the only way forward.
 
Which is why Americans might take a moment to reflect on the current outbreak of violence against us throughout the Muslim world. In this political season, the rancid tenor of this campaign and the outright intolerance for different approaches is setting a dangerous precedent not only within our borders but also throughout the world. If we are the shining example of a successful democracy, how are we any different from the chaos we witness on TV when we hurl words instead of stones?
 
The violence against Americans, or anyone, is wrong—most especially when the cost is the lives of brave diplomats and public servants working toward peace. And if we are ever to curb the political violence in other regions of the world, we must first seek to create a society that is free from it here.
 
As America enters the final stretch of the 2012 election cycle, can we examine how we conduct ourselves as leaders? Let us not only listen to those with whom we agree, rather let’s seek to understand each other with sincerity and have the courage to develop ways to move forward together. Sadly very few on the ballots this fall exemplify this type of leadership so perhaps taking to the streets and doing it ourselves is a good idea—and it just may be the lesson we can learn from the rest of the world.