♫ I’m Already There ♫

Lonestar lead singer Richie McDonald wrote this with Gary Baker and Frank Myers.  The song is about being there in spirit when you can’t be physically present. It was inspired by McDonald’s time on the road while touring with Lonestar, who were red hot following the success of their 1999 Lonely Grill album and its hit single, Amazed.

The title was something McDonald came up with after calling home and speaking with his 4-year-old son Rhett …

“I remember that night clearly to this day, just hearing that little squeaky voice saying, ‘Daddy, when you comin’ home?’ And when you’re gone for 6 weeks at that point, you just hang up the phone and you cry and you think, you know what, physically maybe I’m not there, but mentally I’m already there. I’ll never forget sitting in that hotel room in Southern California and just thinking, ‘I’m already there.’ There’s an idea. And that’s where it came from.

It was a way to help me through the separation at the time. Songwriting, for me, a lot of times it’s therapy. Just the chance to spill my guts out on a piece of paper or a computer or whatever it is and to put it to music.”

The song became very popular following the September 11 attacks on America as military personnel were deployed …

“This was a song that I wrote about being away from my family and a song that we could relate to every single night in the band being away from our families. But after 9/11 it took on a whole new meaning, especially with the men and women in the military. They spend years away from their families, and it put things in perspective for us.”

It’s a sad song, and the images brought a tear to my eye.  Hope you like it!

I’m Already There
Lonestar

He called her on the road
From a lonely, cold hotel room
Just to hear her say I love you one more time
But when he heard the sound
Of the kids laughing in the background
He had to wipe away a tear from his eye
A little voice came on the phone
Said, “Daddy when you coming home?”
He said the first thing that came to his mind

I’m already there
Take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
I’m your imaginary friend
And I know I’m in your prayers
Oh, I’m already there

She got back on the phone
Said I really miss you, darling
Don’t worry about the kids–they’ll be all right
Wish I was in your arms
Lying right there beside you
But I know that I’ll be in your dreams tonight
And I’ll gently kiss your lips
Touch you with my fingertips
So turn out the light and close your eyes

I’m already there
Don’t make a sound
I’m the beat in your heart
I’m the moonlight shining down
I’m the whisper in the wind
And I’ll be there until the end
Can you feel the love that we share?
Oh, I’m already there

We may be a thousand miles apart
But I’ll be with you wherever you are

I’m already there
Take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
And I’ll be there until the end
Can you feel the love that we share?
Oh, I’m already there
Oh, I’m already there

Songwriters: Richie Mcdonald / Frank Myers / Gary Baker
I’m Already There lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

Christopher Wray – Next Head Spy???

Amidst the chaos in his administration, Trump finally nominated a person to replace James Comey as Director of the FBI.  The man he named is Christopher Wray, a lawyer who served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division under the George W. Bush administration, and is currently a litigation partner with the law firm King & Spalding.

While I had heard the name, I knew very little about Mr. Wray, so I went in search of information, and here is what I found:

  • While serving as Assistant Attorney General, he was actually under then Assistant Attorney General James Comey, the recently terminated FBI director whom Wray would be replacing if confirmed by the Senate.

  • Wray was one of the attorneys involved in prosecuting energy giant Enron.

  • Wray represented New Jersey governor Chris Christie over the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal in 2013, which could cause some concern in the Senate, as Christie has been one of Trump’s ‘boot-lickers’ since himself dropping out of the running last year.

  • Those who have worked closely with Wray say he is low key, but stands up for what he believes in, and that he would not be swayed by inappropriate requests from Trump or his minions.

  • In 2005, Wray received the Edmund J. Randolph Award, the Justice Department’s highest award for public service and leadership.

  • He graduated from Yale University in 1989, and from Yale Law School in 1992.

  • Though he has a reputation as being professionally non-partisan, he has donated to various republican candidates over the years, including John McCain and Mitt Romney. He did not, however, donate to Trump.

Wray seems like a straight shooter, however there are a couple of bits of controversy that we should consider, and about which the Senate will certainly have questions for Mr. Wray.  From 2001-2003, Wray was an associate deputy district attorney in the Justice Department.

As part of his job, he played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks by overseeing operations. According to government documents since made public, he was made aware in February 2004 of the death of a C.I.A. detainee in Iraq that had been ruled a homicide and whose case was referred to the Justice Department.

Months later, Mr. Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had learned about the death from media reports and was not aware of a criminal referral from the Pentagon or the F.B.I., but did not say whether he knew of one from the C.I.A. That prompted Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, a Democrat, to accuse Mr. Wray of giving “less than a complete and truthful answer.”  The Washington Post, 07 June 2017

Certainly not a major scandal, but the Senate is going to work hard, I believe, to ensure that the next FBI director has a squeaky-clean slate, and that he will not be cowed by pressure from the White House.

Another issue could arise from the fact that his current law firm, King & Spalding, represents at least two Russian-controlled oil companies, Rosneft and Gazprom  (Am I the only person in the entire world without Russian connections???)  Now if the name Rosneft sets off alarm bells, it is because its CEO, Igor Sechin, was the one who offered Donald Trump, by way of Carter Page, a 19% stake in the company in exchange for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia.

It is unclear whether Wray himself worked directly on the Rosneft and Gazprom cases, but it is certainly enough to ask some tough questions, and to be leery of adding yet another strand to the spider web that is already enmeshing almost every member of the administration.  Also, if Wray did in fact work on the Russian cases, it would automatically disqualify him from working on the Russian probe, as he would already be considered compromised.

If I were a senator, in addition to questions related to Bridgegate, 9/11 and Rosneft/Gazprom, I would have one other very important question:  Why do you want this job?  Given what Mr. Comey has had to put up with under Trump, and given that Trump is almost certain to continue attempting to interfere in the FBI investigations, I should think that only a fool would even consider taking this job.  And Mr. Wray is no fool, so why does he want the job?

One other notable advantage to Mr. Wray is that since he had no role in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails, perhaps we can stop hearing about “those damn emails”!!!

The Man Who Went Beyond Idiot Of The Week … Alex Jones

“I haven’t done one for a while, and frankly I think it’s high time for an Idiot of the Week column!  This week’s idiot has crossed my radar more than a few times over the course of the last several months, but he usually doesn’t stay around long enough to really make me want to take a swat at him.  Tonight, however, whether because I am tired and crabby or whether he is just staying in my sights too long, I have decided to award the Filosofa’s Idiot of the Week award to none other than … drumroll … Mr. Alex Jones!  In case you do not know who Alex Jones is, he is a radio show host, documentary filmmaker, writer, and most of all, uber conspiracy theorist.  Mr. Jones is primarily the one responsible for the rumours and faux news about Hillary Clinton and John Podesta running a kidnapping ring that led to the shooting at the Cosmic Ping Pong pizzeria last week.  Nice job, Mr. Jones … almost got a bunch of people killed!”

jones-headerThat was how I started this post, but I have since changed my mind.  Idiots of the Week are idiots with strange views of the world, usually about as bright as a burned-out light bulb, but funny in their own way.  I have fun with my IOW posts, though to be sure there have been some jaw-dropping moments.  The more I researched Mr. Jones, however, I came to realize that there is not one single funny thing about this man.  We laugh at Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachman, but we cannot laugh at this man, as I believe he is pure evil, possessed of no sense of values, humanity, or compunction.  Further I believe that he is quite likely responsible, albeit indirectly, for murder.

Jones’ claim to fame is that he is a conspiracy theorist.  Nothing new there … there seem to be a lot of those around these days.  He claims that the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 were secretly perpetrated by the government to increase its tyrannical power, what has come to be known as a ‘false flag’ operation.  Stupid, but also not new … Richard Belzer has said much the same, and I do not think of him as evil.  Jones also claims that the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the Boston Marathon bombing were orchestrated by the U.S. government. He further claims that the Apollo 11 moon landing never happened and that the footage shown was faked – again by the U.S. government.  He claims there is no drought in California, and the Chinese invented the concept of global warming to undermine American manufacturing.  I wonder … does he get his ideas from Trump, or is it the other way around?  It would seem that every half-baked conspiracy theory that has been perpetuated in the past two decades is a part of this man’s belief-set.

Jones is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as an anti-government extremist.  “Alex Jones is almost certainly the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America … To many, Jones is a bad joke. But the sad reality is that he has millions of followers who listen to his radio show, watch his “documentaries” and read his websites, and some of them, like Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, resort to deadly violence.”  Millions of followers.  Think about that one for a minute.  Millions of followers.  And we wonder how Donald Trump won the election?  Those millions of followers, neither well-educated nor strong enough to think for themselves, have been brainwashed by the likes of Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, Breitbart, and to a lesser extent Fox News.  At the end of an interview with Jones in 2015, Trump told him, “Your reputation is amazing. I will not let you down.”  Our nation needs help!

Let’s take a look at some of Jones’ more outrageous statements/claims:

  • “Humanity has got to get off-world. We need access to the life-extension technologies. Talk about discrimination, forget skin color. I want the advanced life-extension! I want to go to space! I want to see interdimensional travel! I want what God promised us and I won’t sit here and watch Satan steal it!” (Huh?  I don’t even know what the ‘man’ is talking about! Think ‘lunatic fringe’)
  • “Obama is hardcore Wahhabist; he is al-Qaeda.”
  • “We’re going to return the republic. We’ll never be perfect but my God we’re not going to keep babies alive and harvest their organs. We’re not going to sell their parts for women’s cosmetics. We’re not gonna have Pepsi with baby flavoring in it.” (What the heck has this guy been smoking???)
  • “A lot of liberal women, as you know, the new thing is having a jihadi…There’s nothing sexier than a jihadi because it’s so fun to have him step on your head and kick you in the gut. Now, if the man treats you good and loves Jesus, he’s bad. But if he kicks you in the teeth and stomps on you, it’s liberal, it’s trendy, you go smoke hookah with him, and it’s fun.” (Oh for Pete’s sake!!!)

Jones is notorious for epic rants about “New World Order” plots for world government, enforced eugenics, secret internment camps, militarized police and behind-the-scenes control by a global corporate cabal. In his estimation, the only way to avert this dystopian future is if true patriots resist before it is too late, and his tens of thousands of acolytes are taking heed, building bunkers, hoarding food and investing in precious metals – and, in some cases, resorting to violence.

Frequent readers know that I am an avid supporter of freedom of the press and freedom of speech.  However, this man is dangerous.  He is not the press, he is an entertainer, and a peddler of venom.  If his ‘entertainment’ were seen by the masses for what it is, I would not be as concerned, but more and more, people are distrusting of the mainstream media and turning to this man for their “news”.  There is nothing newsworthy about him or his propaganda.  His radio show garners two million listeners, and his website, Infowars1  is heavily followed, the latest statistics reporting that he receives more than 75 million page views per month!   His followers are largely white males over the age of 45 in the middle-income bracket ($100,000-$150,000).  No surprise there.

U.S. Code § 2383 – Rebellion or insurrection: “Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

By the above definition, what Mr. Jones does can be considered inciting sedition.  However, sedition laws are touchy and it is unlikely he could or would ever be punished for the crime, even if brought to trial.  However, there are laws against incitement to violence if the case can pass the test of three factors: to be subject to restriction, speech must have the intent and the likelihood of causing imminent violence.  One of the most famous cases of its kind, Brandenburg v Ohio, was over a 1964 incident:

Clarence Brandenburg, a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader in rural Ohio, contacted a reporter at a Cincinnati television station and invited him to cover a KKK rally that would take place in Hamilton County in the summer of 1964. Portions of the rally were filmed, showing several men in robes and hoods, some carrying firearms, first burning a cross and then making speeches. One of the speeches made reference to the possibility of “revengeance” against “niggers”, “Jews”, and those who supported them. One of the speeches also claimed that “our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race”, and announced plans for a march on Washington to take place on the Fourth of July. Brandenburg was charged with advocating violence under Ohio’s criminal syndicalism statute for his participation in the rally and for the speech he made. Convicted in the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Brandenburg was fined $1,000 and sentenced to one to ten years in prison. On appeal, the Ohio First District Court of Appeal affirmed Brandenburg’s conviction, rejecting his claim that the statute violated his First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment right to freedom of speech. The Supreme Court of Ohio dismissed his appeal without opinion.

Though I am no legal scholar, common sense dictates that Mr. Jones’ radio show and website are venues through which he incites his followers to perform acts of violence.  Just two examples are the aforementioned incident last week at Cosmic Ping Pong, and the death threats against Lenny Pozner, the father of a Sandy Hook victim.  Again, I do not lightly call for restrictions on the 1st Amendment, and it disturbs me to do so now, but this brand of yellow journalism is particularly dangerous in the atmosphere of racism and hatred we are seeing today.  It is only a matter of time before his propaganda takes root and through the hand of somebody who heeds his call, takes innocent lives.  It is likely that it has already happened, when you consider cases such as Dylann Roof and others who have committed acts of extreme violence based on their belief in faux news.

My question is whether Mr. Jones actually believes the garbage he spews, or if it is all done for entertainment value?  I cannot be sure, as I do not know and do not wish to know the man, but everything I have read about him in research for this post indicates that he truly believes in what he says, and began formulating his ‘theories’ at a very young age.  If that is the case, he is indeed far from sane and needs to be given help.  On the other hand, RationalWiki states that he, “specializes in making up conspiracy theories to entertain his audience.” If he is doing this for entertainment value, he needs to be punished by law and removed from his public venue.  Does that violate freedom of speech?  I don’t think so.  Your thoughts?

1 While I have shared a link to Jones’ Infowars website, let the reader beware.  It is a dark place and though I was hoping to obtain some first-hand information for this article, I simply could not stomach what I found there.

A Story With A Happy Ending

I’m in the mood for a happier story today … hope you are too!

It was a chance meeting of two politicians at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, and it went largely unnoticed, lost in the noise and bluster that defined the convention.  However, it may just have been the most, if not the only, shining moment of the entire convention.

The two men, Texas State Senator Brian Birdwell and candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana, Rob Maness, would appear to have nothing in common beyond the fact that they are both republicans and both just happened to be attending the convention.  Mr. Maness was meeting with former Texas governor Rick Perry, discussing Mr. Maness’ current campaign, when Mr. Perry suggested that he meet with Mr. Birdwell.  An aide was dispatched to bring Mr. Birdwell to the meeting.

maness

Rob Maness

birdwell

Brian Birdwell

 

 

 

 

 

Upon introducing the two men, Rick Perry, who was aware that Maness had been in the Pentagon on 9/11, said “Rob, I want you to meet somebody. He was in the Pentagon on 9/11, too.”  Naturally, a common bond had been formed with those few words, and the men began to share their stories.

In 2001, Birdwell worked for the Army and, on the morning of Sept. 11, was in an office in the Pentagon with two colleagues watching the live footage of the Twin Towers burning. At 9:35 he stepped out to go to the bathroom, telling his co-workers he’d be right back. It was the last time he ever spoke to them.

Less than 10 minutes later, as Birdwell left the bathroom, American Airlines Flight 77 barreled into the side of the building, the nose of the aircraft less than 20 yards from where Birdwell stood. He was engulfed in flames, parts of his polyester Army pants melted to his skin, his arms were skinned, and he collapsed with blood and black soot caked to his charred body. He lay there in the burning hall thinking of his wife and his teenage son and their goodbyes that morning. He tried to accept that he was dying.

Yet, minutes later, he was being carried out of the building and a medic on site quickly hooked him up to an IV. An Air Force officer who was helping the wounded held his leaking IV line and tried to keep him awake.  Birdwell was eventually taken to the hospital where he would spend 26 days in intensive care. More than 60 percent of his body was severely burned, and he would have 39 operations during his excruciating recovery, which took about four years.

pentago-911As Birdwell told his story, Maness recalled that day, remembered holding a leaky IV line, assuring the wounded man that he would be okay, despite the fact that appearances said otherwise. And suddenly he knew that here stood the man he had thought about every day for 15 years.  Here stood the man whose fate he had wondered about for so very long.  “When I realized that I was looking at the same gentleman, I started to cry and told him I was so grateful that he was still alive. We hugged each other and neither of us could believe that we were talking again. What are the odds?”

Both Maness and Birdwell say they will stay in touch now that they have re-connected.  This bond formed in the middle of chaos has strength that most of us will never completely understand, but that we can all appreciate.  Both men say not a day has passed that they did not think of the other.  Both have given back to the world as a result of their experiences that day.  Birdwell started a nonprofit, Face the Fire Ministries, that supports burn victims and wounded service men and women. Maness helped found an advocacy organization to prevent veteran suicides.  Out of the rubble of that day have come some amazing stories like this one, and out of the darkness of the convention last week came this one shining moment.

Thirteen Years Later

I am taking a 4-day hiatus from my blog, going camping with a special friend, and will be away from computer and from news of the outside world from Saturday, July 2nd through Tuesday, July 5th.  I have scheduled a few of my “oldies but goodies” and will see you all when i return to the real world (maybe?) on Wednesday, July 6th.  Please don’t go away … I shall return, rested and happy and ready to start ranting once again!  This one was originally posted on September 11, 2014.

This is what I posted yesterday on Facebook. I don’t often post on Facebook, as I work hard at not offending friends or family and I realize that my posts may frequently be offensive to some, but once a year, on the anniversary of 9/11, I reserve the right to post my thoughts and feelings about the event itself and how it has impacted us today:

Thirteen years ago, an event changed the lives of every person in the U.S. and many more than we will ever know outside the U.S. It has been compared to Pearl Harbor, and rightfully so, in the sense that it was an event that would, in one way or in many ways, have far-reaching and ever-lasting consequences. We all lost someone or something on that horrific morning of September 11th, 2001. Whether we knew and cared for someone who lost their lives that day or not, we still suffered a loss. Whether we were in New York City, Washington D.C. or Seattle or Dallas, we suffered a loss of some of our innocence and security. A loss in the belief that as Americans, everybody loved us and we were invulnerable to the traumas that beset other nations. A loss of the belief that we were safe in our everyday lives. All gone in just 102 minutes on an otherwise beautiful late summer day.

I wish I could say that the lessons we learned on that day have led us to be better people, more caring, kind and compassionate people. I wish I could say that we began, both as individuals and as a nation, to think in a more global sense about our roles and responsibilities in the world. I wish I could say that it made us just a little bit better, and for a short time, I believe it did. For a short time, we stopped to ask people if they were okay, we opened not only our wallets, but also our hearts to those who had suffered the most. But it didn’t last long and now, thirteen years later, there is more hatred both on an individual level and a global level than there was before that fateful day. There is less tolerance among people in this country and among nations as well. Racial tensions have escalated in the U.S., religious intolerance is at an all-time high in the U.S., and we seem to have closed both our hearts and minds to anyone who is different or believes differently than we do.

Almost 3,000 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001. More than 1,000 first responders have died as a result of injuries or diseases from their efforts at the site, and the numbers continue to mount every month. Although an exact number is difficult to determine, thousands of U.S. servicemen and women have lost their lives in the resultant wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These figures do not even take into account civilians of other nations who lost their lives as a result, either direct or indirect, of 9/11. Yet at this time, global terrorism is at an all-time high, and when we most need to be unified, to stand together and try to resolve our problems together, we are fighting amongst ourselves over the immigration of children from South America, fighting over gun regulation, fighting over gay marriage, birth control, and affordable healthcare. Politics and placing blame seems to be more important than human rights and trying to learn to live in global peace and harmony. Perhaps we lost more than we ever imagined on 9/11 …. perhaps we also lost our humanity.

JASTA – A Bad Idea

Sometimes there is a disconnect between the brain and the heart, and while we may feel that one thing is the proper course, the brain reminds us that it just is not so.  This post is about one such situation.

At issue is S.1535, Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), passed in the Senate yesterday and now headed to the House of Representatives as H.R.3143, that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia. First, the rationale behind JASTA: 15 of the 19 hijackers of the 9/11 attacks were Saudis.  Part of the job of the 9/11 commission in 2002 was to investigate how the hijackers were able to operate without alerting U.S. intelligence agencies.  Though the commission’s report was released in 2004, some information was classified and remains so today, including 28 pages pertaining to the Saudi government’s involvement. Recently there has been a major push to declassify and release this information which could, if JASTA becomes law, result in private lawsuits filed in the U.S. courts against the government of Saudi Arabia.

Senators John Cornyn and Chuck Schumer introduced the legislation in 2013 and it enjoys bi-partisan support, though last month Senator Lindsey Graham temporarily blocked it based on concerns that it could backfire on the U.S. Their stated purpose with this bill is to send a message to all nations that they can and will pay a price if they harbor terrorists or in any way aid terrorism, and to afford justice to 9/11 victims. While many see this as a positive move, I see more harm than good that could come as a result of its passage into law.

President Obama has said he will veto the bill should it pass the House.  The ramifications of this act becoming law could be widespread and have the potential for an economic domino effect. The Saudis hold hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. assets and have indicated that they would sell up to $750 billion in U.S. Treasury securities if the law were to pass.  To do so would cause a severe blow to the U.S. economy, the Saudi economy, and would have the potential to de-stabilize the world economy.

Saudi Arabia is our ally and this legislation, if passed, would undoubtedly alienate Saudi Arabia and undermine a longstanding, albeit strained relationship with a critical U.S. ally in the Middle East. Additionally, Senator Graham’s concern is the possibility that it could open the door for foreigners to sue the U.S. government, accusing Washington of supporting terrorism.  Senator Schumer disagrees with that argument, saying “We’re not busy training people to blow up buildings and kill innocent civilians in other countries.” I mostly agree with him, but … I would not want to see that door opened, especially in light of Trump’s claim that he will bomb terrorists and kill their families which, in itself, could easily be considered an act of terrorism.

The Senate unanimously passed the S.1535 yesterday.  Senators Schumer and Cornyn are talking to leaders of both parties in the House in hopes of expediting the vote there.  Paul Ryan has expressed concerns, surprisingly, as that puts him on the same side as President Obama on this one.  If H.R.3143 passes but the president vetoes it, as he has said he will, Schumer and Cornyn believe they can muster enough votes in the Senate to override the veto.

In the end, even if this bill becomes law, it is likely to accomplish very little and potentially cause many more problems.  The idea that it will provide justice to the victims of 9/11 and their families is ludicrous.  I cannot see that anybody will derive any satisfaction from suing a foreign government for their failure to take proper counter-terrorism measures 15 years ago. The likelihood of monetary compensation is slim to none, and what good is it anyway … you cannot replace human life with cash.  As far as sending a message goes … other nations in the Middle East will simply laugh at the notion.  In short, what seemed like a good idea to the heart, does not seem like much of one to the brain.  At least that is Filosofa’s Word.

Aujourd’hui, nous sommes tous parisienne (Today we are all Parisian)

I haven’t posted to this blog for a couple of days. In light of the terrorist attacks in Paris and their terrible effect on the world, I felt that my usual snarky, pithy posts would be in poor taste. I knew I would write a post about those attacks, but my broken heart needed some time and space to process it all first. I still don’t have much to say about it, most of what I would say has already been said by others who are far more qualified than I to do so, but I offer here a few brief observations:

  • In the days following September 11, 2001, we were offered many expressions of sorrow, compassion and support by our friends in other nations and, while profoundly touched by this, I also found myself wondering how they actually felt when they heard the news and watched the planes flying into buildings, people jumping or falling from 100 stories above the ground, fires, tears, and so much more. Did they actually feel the same horror that we did, or were they merely being kind? I think I now know that yes, while their grief may not have quite matched our own, I believe they did feel an immediate sense of horror and a profound sense of grief, as this is how I felt on Friday, watching the news coming in from Paris. I cried real tears and felt a genuine ache somewhere deep in my core. I still do. My heart goes out to the people of Paris. Grief is a complex emotion and I suspect none of us fully understand it, but the manifestations are all too real.
  • We must guard against playing the blame game. Within the first few hours after we received the news of the attacks, I began seeing Facebook posts and comments on news stories declaring that all Muslims were to be regarded with suspicion. Some even suggested the U.S. and other western nations should immediately expel all non-citizen Muslims. Others suggest that this lends support to the idea of a wall to “protect” our borders. First of all, this happened to France, not the U.S. It is rater like hearing that a rabid dog bit a child across town, and in response shooting your own dog. Second, and this should be obvious to everyone, but apparently is not, all Muslims are not evil, all Muslims did not commit these atrocities, and we cannot judge 24% of the world’s population based on the actions of such a miniscule percentage as make up terrorist organizations. When we make blanket, bigoted statements like these, we are judging nearly one-quarter of the entire global population based on the action of a mere handful. Most Muslims are as shocked, saddened and horrified as are we at the events of Friday night. We must not let ourselves fall into this trap.
  • Post 9/11, a number of fact-finding committees went into action to determine what happened, how it could have happened, who knew what and when, and how we can avoid a repeat performance. No doubt the same thing will transpire in France in the coming days/weeks/months. My prediction is that they will find much the same thing we found in the U.S.: that although we did not know what was coming, we had enough pieces to the puzzle that we could have and should have known. The problem in the U.S. was two-fold: a) the pieces were scattered among different agencies who did not communicate very well with one another, and b) the people who were in a position to do something did not listen effectively to the information they were being given. I am not very well-informed about the workings of the French government nor the European Union, but I do think they will find that they, too, had enough pieces of the puzzle to conclude that they could have, should have known that these attacks were imminent. My position has been, for many years, that the world can no longer afford to be a hodge-podge of nation-states, each living in isolation and secrecy, but instead we need to become a global community, sharing information in the interest of worldwide peace and safety.
  • Brian Jenkins,  Director of the Security and Subnational Conflict Program of the Rand Corporation, wrote in 1975 that  “Terrorists want a lot of people watching, not a lot of people dead”. (http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/reprints/2006/RAND_RP1215.pdf)  There has been a shift in that attitude during the last decade, but to a large extent it is still the case that terrorists do what they do in order to achieve their political goals by gaining the attention of world.  It is inevitable that mass attacks like Paris last Friday, or 9/11 fourteen years ago are going to generate a great deal of media attention, however we need to find ways to inform without handing the terrorists a win.

Today, tomorrow, and in the days ahead, our hearts go out to the good people of Paris and to those who will be tasked with figuring out what went wrong, how and why, and to those tasked with finding and bringing to justice the perpetrators of these horrendous deeds.

9/11 – Fourteen Years Later

My 9/11 post is late this year. I’m not sure why, but I simply did not have the motivation to write earlier. I was heartened to see a record number of posts on social media sites. Even though I was not able to look at them all, I was pleased to see that so many people took at least a minute out of their day to remember. It seemed that there were more posts this year than in years past, and I hope this is a trend that will continue into the future. Just like Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust, we simply cannot afford to forget the lessons of the past.

Now those of you who know me at all can probably sense that there is a “but …“ coming. So here it is. Almost every post I saw had the words “we will never forget” or “we will always remember”. And yet, while it is likely true that nobody who was alive and of an “age of cognizance” has forgotten the event, the horror they felt, it appears to me that many have forgotten the lessons of that day. In the past year, I have been appalled by the increasing hatred and vitriol put forth by so many otherwise rational and seemingly sane people. Today we are seeing a level of racial hatred that I cannot remember since the 1960’s. There is unprecedented bigotry toward anybody who is “different”, whether in the area of gender orientation, race, religion, culture, economic status or politics. We seem to have forgotten the basic premise stated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence that “All Men Are Created Equal”. We seem to have forgotten how to tolerate beliefs and values that may not fully agree with our own. We seem to have forgotten how to respect one another, how to care about our fellow mankind.

I think one of the things that bothers me most is the fact that some are actually using 9/11 as an excuse for their hatred toward fellow human beings. I have heard too many say that we should reject immigrants from Muslim countries because 9/11 was perpetrated by radical Islamists. Nobody in this nation has EVER known, or is ever likely to know, the horrors that millions have lived through in places like Syria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the past decade. These are innocent people who want only the same things we all want, to be able to take care of our families and live in relative safety. Millions of innocent people are fleeing for their lives with only the clothes on their backs, and in our almighty arrogance we reject them? We fear the organization daesh, commonly referred to as ISIS, yet the vast majority of their violence is perpetrated against innocent people in countries in the Middle East, not the West. Does anybody remember the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

I could go on and on in this vein, but I really have neither the heart nor the stomach for it tonight. I conclude only by urging my fellow mankind to “Never Forget and Always Remember” not only the horrors of the events of September 11, 2001, but the lessons that we should have learned about compassion, humanity, tolerance and yes, love. Here’s hoping for a better world, a kinder world … someday.