Home » Sam Richards: A Radical Experiment in Empathy at TEDxPSU (Full Transcript)

Sam Richards: A Radical Experiment in Empathy at TEDxPSU (Full Transcript)

And back home what do you see? Poverty, despair, struggle. Look, you don’t live in a wealthy country. I mean this is Iraq. This is what you see — you see people struggling to get by. I mean it’s not easy. You see a lot of poverty and you feel something about this. These people have designs for your resource, and this is what you see? It doesn’t feel good.

But here, a couple other things? Something else you see that you talk about. Americans don’t talk about this, but you do. There’s this thing this militarization of the world, and it’s centered right in the United States. And the United States is responsible for almost one half of the world’s military spending. Four percent of the world’s population and you feel it, you see it every day. It’s part of your life and you talk about it with your friends. You read about it.

And back when Saddam Hussein was in power? The Americans didn’t care about his crimes. When he was gassing the Kurds and gassing Iran they didn’t care about it. When oil was at stake, somehow suddenly things mattered.

And what you see? Something else? The United States, the hub of democracy around the world? They don’t seem to really be supporting democratic countries all around the world. There are a lot of countries, oil-producing countries, that aren’t very democratic but supported by the United States. That’s odd.

Oh, these incursions. Here, let me help you. These incursions? These two wars? The ten years of sanctions? The eight years of occupation? The insurgency that’s been unleashed on your people? The tens of thousand, the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, all because of oil. You can’t help but think that. You talk about it. It’s in the forefront of your mind always. You say, “How is that possible? Come on.”

And this man? He’s every man. Your grandfather, your uncle, your father, your son, your neighbor, your professor, your student — wants a life of happiness and joy and suddenly pain and sorrow. Everyone in your country has been touched by the violence, the bloodshed, the pain, the horror. Everybody. Not a single person in your country has not been touched.

So here, but there’s something else. There’s something else about these people, these Americans who are there. There’s something else about them that you see. They don’t see themselves. And what do you see? They’re Christians. They’re Christians. They worship the Christian God. They have crosses, they carry bibles. Their Bibles have a little insignia that says U.S. Army on them. And their leaders, their leaders, before they send their sons and daughters off to war in your country, and you know the reason, before they send them off, they go to a Christian church and they pray to their Christian God and they ask for protection and guidance from that god.

Why? Well, obviously so that when people die in the war they are Muslims. They are Iraqis. They’re not Americans. You don’t want Americans to die. Protect our troops. And you feel something about that. Of course you do? And they do wonderful things, beautiful humanitarian things, but these humanitarians, I mean because these people, they’re there you read about it, you hear about it, they’re there to build schools and help people and that’s what they want to do. They do wonderful things, but they also do the bad things and you can’t tell the difference. And so you don’t.

And this guy, you got a guy like Lieutenant General William Boykin. I mean, here’s a guy that says that your god is a false god. Your god is an idol. His god is the true god. The solution to the problem in the Middle East according to him is to convert you all to Christianity. Just get rid of your religion. And you know that. Americans don’t read about this guy. They don’t know anything about him, but you do. You pass it around, you pass his words around. I mean this is serious. You’re afraid. He was one of the leading commanders in the second invasion of Iraq, and you’re thinking “My god, if this guy is saying that, then all the soldiers must be saying that.” Right?

This word here. George Bush called this war a “crusade.” Man, the Americans they’re just like, “Crusade, whatever, I don’t know what that means.” But you know what it means. It’s a Holy War against Muslims. Look, invade, subdue them, take their resources. If they won’t submit, kill them. That’s what this is about.

And you’re thinking “My god, these Christians are coming to kill us.” This is frightening. You feel frightened. Of course you feel frightened? Of course you feel frightened. Why wouldn’t you feel frightened?

And this man, Terry Jones, I mean here’s a guy wants to burn Korans, right? And the Americans, “Oh what, he’s a knucklehead, he’s a former hotel manager, he’s got three dozen members of his church”, they laugh him off. You don’t laugh him off. Because in the context of everything else, all the pieces fit. I mean of course this is how the Americans think, and so people all over the Middle East, not just in your country are protesting.

He wants to burn Korans, our holy book. These Christians, who are these Christians? They’re so evil, they’re so mean. I mean this is what they’re about? This is what you’re thinking as an Arab Muslim, as an Iraqi. Of course you’re going to think this. How can you not think this?

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