In the days since the Turkish protests have begun, I have come across at least two (here’s one) misleading articles in the Slate online magazine regarding the relative safety of tear gas (while still being against its use). Both Slate articles failed to recognize the difference in effects that tear gas has on healthy young males and the rest of the population, especially women, children, the elderly, and others with compromised immune systems. The commenters also failed to recognize this fact, instead jumping to the question of if a government can’t use tear gas for unruly protesters, what can it use?
To address the commenters – Let’s set aside the obvious and often repeated fact that a government’s definition of unruly protest and the public’s definition of peaceful assembly often happen to collide. First of all, violence against your people or the people of another country should not be the go to solution. It seems as though politicians have forgotten about true diplomacy, and the fact that consensus building is not a conflict resolution tool that should only be extended to leaders of other countries with large arsenals. The people deserve to be heard before policies are imposed from above: failure to recognize the values of the governed is the key cause for “unruly” protests.
Slate is not the only magazine guilty of this failure to recognize the potential harm to reproductive health, or the health of those outside the “norm”. Although weapons manufacturers state tear gas is safe to use, the studies relied on as proof of its safety are outdated and were not conducted on a wide swath of the population (as ethically, chemical weapons cannot and should not be tested on pregnant women) – they were conducted over a short period of time on relatively healthy male Army recruits. By downplaying the dangers of tear gas, those who are not soldiers with access to protective gear or healthy immune systems are put at higher risk. It’s time to tell the truth. For the sake of those suffering silently, the rest of us need to speak out. Chemical weapons are not the answer.