During the Second World War, air crashes were mostly due to anti-aircraft defences meant to protect civilians from bombings. At that troubled time, the casualties consisted mostly of crew members. Enemy planes were shot down to be prevented from wreaking unjustified destruction.

Those days changed the course of the world but people can understand that it took blood, sacrifice and indomitable will to end the reign of terror. As Dr King (1957) would put it quoting Poet William Cowper: “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”

WWII ended but aircrafts continue crashing because of technical issues, human errors, terrorist acts or the elements. While all these air accident causes might be condoned, you will never be able to put yourself back on feet after learning that a plane which had on board more than one hundred passengers was targeted by a missile, whether anti-aircraft, anti-missile, ballistic or ground-to-air.

All these death-causing weapons escalation are dangerous enough to shake the foundations of peace on an international level. The prospect of a Third World War is not yet brushed aside.

Anyway everybody would like to fly without being nagged by the fear of a sudden incomprehensible disappearance like a dry leaf burnt by a match stick.

When an aircraft stalls and crashes and becomes a bunch of scattered tiny pieces, the whole world mourns for it and sad official faces gather around microphones to make public statements in front of cameras as if they had no means to avoid it.

On Wednesday of January 8, 2020, as the Boeing 737-800 took off, the 176 passengers who left home for their personal activities did not know they would be considered as simple targets in a dark sky. They ignored that the minute their means of transport made a tear in the sky, some feeble-minded “missile-happy” on the ground would not want “to miss their launch”.

Some of them were certainly peacefully sleeping or even dreaming, others having a small talk and laughing to relieve the stress of the flight. They included 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, 4 Afghans, 3 Germans and 3 British nationals (Cnn.com). Seven countries lost lives as precious as those of the warlike people who took them without batting an eyelash.

However this is no way an isolated barbarity. On July 17, 2014, a Boeing 777 crashed killing 298 people; on October 4, 2001, a Tupolev-154 exploded in the air with 78 people on board; an Airbus A-300 was shot down on July 3, 1988 with 290 people killed; a Boeing 747 was hit in the night of August 31-September 1, 1983 killing the 269 passengers, to list a very few (Aljazeera.com).

When the United States of America had got stuck in an unjustified war in Vietnam investing billions of dollars in military endeavours, they did not realise that sending young men into the Vietnamese jungles was just penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Conscientious objectors such as Dr King spoke against it, denounced it and opposed it to their last energy. In one of his speeches delivered as an indictment of war on April 4, 1967 and entitled “Beyond Vietnam (King, 1998),” Dr King said, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

During the Iraq War started in 2003, it was frequent to watch TV and see Americans rejoice in learning that two or three GI Joes were killed whereas hundreds of Iraqi insurgents died. When you do not dig the whole military story of both sides, you cannot realise how silly people become because of violence.

Those Iraqi rebels or soldiers who lost their lives were fighting almost single-handed with the slightest means possible ranking from an AK-47 to an improvised explosive device. On the other side, every single American soldier cost thousands of dollars for good training, decent salary and ultramodern equipment. To cap it all, the US army spend a great fortune in combat vehicles, warfighters and drones everyday.

In June 2019, Iran shot down a $220 million drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle which could fly at an altitude of 55,000 feet and stay aloft for 3 hours straight (Wired.com).

Since protecting our vulnerable world counts, that money alone could be used to build hospitals and fight poverty or replant the burnt 8.4m hectares of Australian lands and forests (The Guardian.com). Violence also has mental and psychological consequences. A study made by US army researchers in 2010 found out that up to 31% of soldiers returning from combat experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) that affected their jobs and relationships at home or in life. This often led to suicide or another form of terrorism on the American soil (Health.com).

Our world is incessantly and dangerously being governed by reckless so-called leaders whose religious bigotry or ill-manners are plunging it into a dark abyss of terror. Nowadays our countries are tragic actors. While the famous actors threaten each other with nuclear weapons, the least famous play second fiddle and others play both ends against the middle.

“Where do we go from here: chaos or community?” Dr King would ask. But he would also add, “When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men. When we foolishly minimise the internal of our lives and maximize the external, we sign the warrant for our own day of doom (King, 1968).”

However, what we are so sure about is the pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church would take arrogance and vanity down a peg or two. His integrity and sense of action would not give any chance for resignation to the sheer folly of our twenty-first century leaders.

By Mouhamed DIOP, PhD candidate at Université Cheikh Anta Diop (Dakar, Senegal)

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