We’ve Come A Long Way …

We’ve come a long way from the civilized country we once were.  Our forefathers are either looking down groaning and holding their heads or laughing uproariously at what the United States of America has become.

On Monday, a pipe bomb was found in the mailbox of philanthropist (and democrat) George Soros.  Today, bombs were sent to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and media outlet CNN.  Once upon a time, the United States was considered above such behaviour.  We were once considered “the leader of the free world”.  We were once a kinder, gentler nation, one that was looked up to, respected, and valued human rights, human life.  Today, we have sunken to the level of a third-world nation.

We refer to a number of nations, mostly in the Middle East, as ‘terrorist nations’, or ‘countries that harbour terrorists’.  The U.S. has now become just such a nation.  These bombs are acts of terrorism, and I would bet my life that they were not constructed and delivered by Middle Eastern terrorists, nor by Muslims nor Hispanics.  These were thought of, concocted and delivered by white males, unless I miss my guess.  White males who are angry for some reason that the majority of us cannot comprehend.

It would be easy to lay all this at the door of Mr. Trump, for he has been highly vocal in his rabid, vitriolic rhetoric condemning democrats and the press, Obama and Clinton.  And certainly, he must share some of the blame.  But the bulk of the blame is on We The People.  I have spoken enough times on this blog about the loss of civil discourse that I will not do so again today.

Today there are migrants from violent nations heading to the United States to seek asylum from the violence in their own countries.  Soon, I think, there may be caravans of U.S. citizens making their way to the Canadian border to seek asylum from the violence in our own nation. liberty-cries

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

These words, written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, once meant something.  They were words we were once proud of.  We have sullied the words, just as we have sullied the notion of democracy in the U.S. We no longer deserve to be known as a the ‘land of the free’, for we are not.

To Mr. Trump and to every person who has supported his hate-filled rhetoric, who applauds when he screams and incites violence, I hope you are pleased with yourselves today.  Understand that the majority in this nation do not feel as you do and that we have had just about enough.  We will fight back.  To whomever decided to make those bombs and attempt to murder good people like President Obama and Secretary Clinton, Mr. Soros, and the employees at CNN, I hope you are captured and spend the rest of your life in prison being beaten and abused in the worst possible way.

I am expecting a package to be delivered this week.  I wonder if I will hesitate before opening it?  Probably.  Isn’t this a sad state of affairs?

‘We Have Met The Enemy’ Redux

I was disgusted this week as the media strove to turn 23-year-old Mark Conditt, who was responsible for killing two and injuring several others in Austin, Texas over the span of three weeks, into something softer, gentler, and kinder than the evil persona he was.  He was a murderer, a terrorist, and yet if you read the various accounts of him, you might catch yourself thinking of him as a Linus Van Pelt twin.  “Quiet,” “shy,” and “kind” are not words typically associated with a terrorist, and I am offended by the attempts to portray this man as “disturbed”, “conflicted” … almost as if he were the victim.  Oddly, this morning I was reminded by Facebook of a post I wrote exactly a year ago that addresses this as well as I could do so today.  And so, while I rarely repeat my posts, I thought this one as apropos today as it was a year ago.


We Have Met The Enemy And …

Much has been said in the last fifteen years, since 11 September 2001, about terrorism and terrorists.  President George W. Bush used it as justification for the Iraq War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and torture abuses. Trump has instilled faux fears of terrorism into U.S. voters as a part of his campaign effort.  Now he continues to use those fears to justify his ban on Muslim people entering the U.S. in search of a safe haven.  But who, really are these ‘terrorists’ everybody is so afraid of?

They are not the refugees that come here trying to find a better life, a place where they and their children will be safe from the daily bombings that are a part of life in their home countries. They are not the women you see in the market wearing their hijabs.  They are not the people gathering in the local mosque.  So who, then, are these ‘terrorists’?  I think you will be surprised by my answer:

pogo

That’s right … the terrorists in the U.S. are, for the most part, walking among us unnoticed, while we are busy fearing the woman in the hijab or the man with the long beard and olive complexion.  Let us look at a few of these real terrorists, shall we:

  • 51-year-old Adam W. Purinton who shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an immigrant from India, for no reason other than he didn’t want immigrants in “his” country.
  • American-born Omar Mateen who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in June 2016 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in an apparent hate crime against LGBT people.
  • 21-year-old Dylann Roof who killed nine people, all African Americans, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. His reason?  “We already are the second-class citizens. That’s the problem. Y’all raping our women, and y’all are taking over the world.”
  • Jeffrey Allen Burgess, age 54, attacked an Indian man seated next to him at a bar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last November for the crime of … again … simply being of Indian descent.
  • Richard Leslie Lloyd, age 64, set fire to a convenience store owned by a U.S. citizen of Indian descent. His reason?  When he was in the store a few days earlier, he couldn’t find orange-pineapple juice, and it was then he noticed the skin colour of the owner, and assumed (incorrectly) that he was a Muslim.
  • Edgar Maddison Welch shot up a pizza parlor last December in Washington D.C., because he believed a fake news story that a kidnapping ring was operating from within the restaurant.

Not a single one of the above were immigrants, none were Muslim. The list goes on … and on … and on.  And there are rallies to promote this brand  of terrorism, venues where they are starting out young:  Earlier this month at a Trump rally in Maricopa County, Arizona, the following comments were said against protestors:

  • “If she’s Jewish, she should go back to her country,” a 13-year-old said of a protester.
  • “This is America; we don’t want Sharia law. Christian country.”
  • “I just want to let them know that I can’t wait for the liberal genocide to begin.”

The people committing these acts and calling for violence are terrorists just as surely as were Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the 9/11 highjackers.  Donald Trump claims it is important to refer to terrorists as “radical Islamic terrorists”, but the reality is that in this country, terrorists are far more likely to be “radical white Christian terrorists”.

These, folks, are the faces of terrorism in the United States.  Take a close look — see any similarities? These people, and others like them, will NOT be kept out of the country by Trump’s travel ban. The people who will be kept out by the travel ban are innocent people seeking refuge, while the real terrorists are already here.

The reality is that most terrorism by Middle-Easterners is committed against those in the Middle East, not the west.  The U.S. has not, with the exception of 9/11, seen large-scale terrorist attacks and we are not a primary target of Daesh, no matter what Mr. Trump tells us.  But his rhetoric played well with the masses who, apparently, wanted to believe in an identifiable threat that was not themselves.  But when we are looking for that threat, when we seek to identify the real terrorists in this nation, we need to look inward rather than outward, for in the words of Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Año Nuevo …

As the clock of the year that was 2017 winds down, I asked myself whether to focus on bidding adieu to 2017 or greeting 2018, or some combination of the two.  Someone very close to me advised me to drop my usual cynicism and try to embrace hope for the coming year.  That person was one of my two alter-egos and she has now taken up residence elsewhere.  I wondered what I had written last year at this time, and went back to see, for I cannot remember yesterday, let alone a year ago.  What I found was that I had re-posted my 2015 year-end post, and on reading it, I concluded that what I wrote two years ago says it all as well as anything else I could write, especially given my current outlook on the state of the world.

And so, back, with a few minor changes, for the third year in a row …

Hello 20162017!   2018!!!

I do not quite understand why it is, but most of us welcome in the new year with great hope for the next 365 days, almost as if we believe that the slate we were using for the past 365 days was wiped clean at the exact moment the ball hit bottom in Times Square, and we are now starting afresh with new hopes, new dreams, a clean slate on which to write a new story, a better one.  Okay, okay … I am not going to be the one to dash those dreams, those ethereal images that you are seeing with such joy.  Life will see to that soon enough, probably when you awaken in the morning and turn on the news, pick up the morning newspaper, or boot up the computer.

Do you make resolutions at New Year’s?  I do not, so I am always curious about people who do.  Oh sure, I hope that I can do better at certain things than I have in the past, but that is pretty much a daily hope of mine.  Do people who do make resolutions start thinking about their resolutions a week in advance?  A month?  I once had a friend who made his resolution on the morning of January 1st … same resolution every year … when he awakened with a massive hangover and resolved then and there to quit drinking, effective immediately.  His resolution usually lasted for about 12 hours.  Have you ever made a resolution and actually kept it throughout the year?  I don’t think I personally know anybody whose resolution was anything other than a dim memory by January 31st, so I am curious if some people who do make resolutions actually do manage to keep to them.

I do not make resolutions, but I think about, based on the past year, what the year 2016 might bring.  It would be lovely, and I am sure some say this is their hope for the new year, to think that within the next twelve months we will see peace and prosperity around the world, an end to wars in the Middle East, an end to racism and bigotry in our own nation, more love and tolerance, less hatred toward our fellow man, and an end to the highly annoying facebook memes that attempt to compress complex socio-political issues into a single sentence.  Who wouldn’t love to see an end to ISIS, Boko Haram, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations?  These are dreams we could all share, even if we are divided on who should be sitting in the Oval Office  But sadly,, when we look back a year from now, I am pretty sure those problems will still exist, others will have joined them, and people will still be … well, human.

Filosofa is not a cynic, contrary to what you may think.  I am actually known in my circle of friends as quite the optimist … annoyingly to some.  But I am a pragmatist and a realist.  One of the readers of this blog commented yesterday that we need to say to ourselves, “okay, the world is a mess … now how do we fix it?”  I like that attitude. So, while I do not make resolutions, I do have hopes.  Unlike hopes for world peace, an end to all war, etc., my hopes are that people will start asking themselves “what can I do to make the world a little bit better?”  And then start looking for answers.  The answers are all around you, if you just realize what the question is.  Many years ago, my answer to this question was, and still is, to treat everybody as human beings.  These days, I try to make a difference by writing, in hopes that I might be able to make just one person think about things that matter.  Most of us, realistically, are not in a position to bring about world peace.  We cannot all be Mother Teresa or Gandhi.  We cannot all be leaders of nations.  But we can make small differences within our own small spheres of influence, in our community, in our neighborhood.  We can volunteer one day a month at a homeless shelter or food pantry, we can help a neighbor who is struggling, we can donate unwanted clothing or food items to the poor.  We can find ways to fight violence without resorting to more violence.  We can talk a little bit nicer to people, say “good morning” and “thank you so much” to the young person who bags our groceries.  Think that doesn’t make a difference?  Think again.

So my hope for the new year is that we all try very hard to find the small things that we can do to help people we come into contact with every day.  No, it will not end the conflict in Syria, it will not eradicate Iran’s enriched uranium supply, and it will not remove Donald Trump from the White House, but a lot of little deeds add up to making the world just a little bit better.  You can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution … your choice.

In closing, I wish each and every one of you a year of peace within your own family and circle of friends, good health and that you be able to meet all of your needs.  Happy New Year!

new year 4

11 September 2016 … Memories (a repost)

Those who have followed this blog for more than a year know that each year on this date I write a post pertaining to 9/11.  This year, for some reason, though I tried, I have been unable to write anything worthy of being read.  I looked back at my past posts and decided that the one I wrote last year was, perhaps, the best of I have done and … it is every bit as relevant today as it was one year ago.  So, this is a repeat … some of you have already read it, but many have only joined our community in the last year.  Thank you for reading, as this is near and dear to my heart.

Humanity

911-cover-4Fifteen years ago.  It seems so much longer … another lifetime.  And yet … and yet, it seems like such a short time ago. I remember the morning well.  A key staff member was on vacation and I had to cover, so I arrived at work well before daylight, but I stepped outside sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 for a smoke break.  The sky was the bluest I could recall ever seeing it and I thought it must be the most perfect day.  Within a half-hour, I would be left in tears, cursing the day, hoping to awaken from this nightmare.

I went back inside from my smoke-break, and an employee, Susie, came up to me and asked if I had heard about the plane that crashed into the World Trade Center.  If the building I worked in had not since been demolished, I could show you the exact tile I was standing on at that moment, just as I could tell you that when we received news of the assassination of JFK, I was at home plate with bat in hand, waiting for the pitch.  Just as my grandfather often told exactly where he was and what he was doing when the news of the attack on Pearl Harbour came over ‘the wireless’. You think it is a literary trick when an author says “time stood still”?  Well, I can tell you … for me, time did stand still, as I must have also.  I seemed to have lost all feeling, all senses shut down … I could not hear nor see.  After that, it all blurs into a series of news updates … a 2nd plane, then the Pentagon, then a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the name Usama bin Laden.  Prayers in the cafeteria, a television rolled into another room where we all gathered.  Financial statements, payroll, printing presses and the like forgotten for the moment.  Tearful phone calls home to family members.  Then day after day, glued to the television every waking moment.  In my household, we had a then-6-year-old and finally had to turn to Nickelodeon, but the images remained in our eyelids, in our hearts, in our souls. And the tears never stopped.

Today we mark the 15th memorial of that awful day.  We do so in many ways, but the saddest thing for me is that we did not learn the lessons we needed to learn from that tragedy.  Today, our nation is more divided than ever.  In the days and weeks that followed what would become known simply as 9/11, it seemed we were on the right path.  People from all over the nation traveled to Ground Zero to help with search and rescue, and eventually cleanup operations.  Shopkeepers gave out free food and water.  People helped neighbors, friends and strangers.  We all empathized with each other, treated each other a little kinder, gave a bit more freely of our hugs and kind words.

Compare and contrast to today, when we are a nation divided by hatred, divided by a lack of understanding for those who do not look, act or think like us.  And there are many who blame today’s vitriolic environment on 9/11, those who decided to hate all who share a religion with the plotters and perpetrators of the horrific acts of 9/11.  But it doesn’t stop there … our nation has renewed its call for racial discrimination, religious intolerance, and hatred of those who are perceived as ‘different’ in one way or another.  We have lost our way.


Commercialism

That which “we will never forget” has already been forgotten by some, it would seem.  A mattress company releases the following ad:

“Right now, you can get any sized mattress for a twin price!” says a grinning woman flanked by two employees in the 20-second spot. She flings her arms out and the men tumble backwards, knocking over two tall piles of mattresses. The woman screams “Oh my God!” in mock panic, then immediately recovers her composure and adds, with a half-smile: “We’ll never forget.”  It quickly attracted local, then national outrage. The ad was taken down, and Mike Bonanno, the owner of Miracle Mattress, issued the following statement:  “I say this unequivocally, with sincere regret: the video is tasteless and an affront to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11.”  How did he not realize how “tasteless” it was before it aired?

One Wal-Mart, in conjunction with Coca-Cola, erected a display to “commemorate” the 9/11 anniversary.  It was taken down after much criticism.  And other companies have also tried to use 9/11 for sales and profit.  It is not a commercial holiday. We do not celebrate with hot dogs and beer. It is a day of national mourning.  It is a day of solemnity.  Commercialism has no place on this day, no right to use it as a gimmick.  Can you imagine Pearl Harbor, or the assassination of President John F. Kennedy being commercialized?  There was one commercial ad that truly was a tribute to the day.  It aired only once, in 2002, but is available on YouTube and I still watch it from time to time … I still find it to be a beautiful tribute and it still brings tears.  Before airing the commercial, Anheuser-Busch sought and received approval from Congress, as well as then-mayor Rudy Giuliani. It features the iconic Clydesdales passing the Statue of Liberty, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally pausing and bowing in a park overlooking the New York City skyline, without the twin World Trade Center Towers. There is no company logo until the end, and since it aired only once, given the cost of producing the ad, the company made no profit from it, nor did they intend to. It truly feels like a tribute rather than a cheap shot. It was tasteful … respectful.


Positive, Encouraging, Hopeful Messages

In a rare display of partisanship, 200 members of Congress stood on the steps beneath the recently restored Capitol dome and prayed, observed a moment’s silence and, accompanied by a marine band, sang God Bless America to mark the imminent anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The remembrance ceremony, with Democrats and Republicans standing side by side, was heartening, though it would have been much more so had all 535 members of Congress participated.


I end where I began, by saying that we have lost our way, we have failed to learn from this, and to some extent we have failed to keep our promise to “never forget”.  The nation is more bitterly divided, more everything-phobic today than it was prior to 11 September 2001.  Rather than embracing our differences, we are using them as an excuse for hatred.  Rather than loving our fellow man, we are killing him.  Unless we learn to unite and work together for the sake of not only our nation, but of humanity, we are doomed to repeat the past. I would ask the readers of this blog to do this one thing:  be kind today, do not put anyone down, offer a smile to any you see, and hug your family just a little tighter today … just for today. Below are just a few pictures I would like to share, to remind us all of that day.

 

911-dust-lady

Marcy Borders, the ‘dust lady’, sadly died 25 August 2015 of cancer related to 9/11

911-cover-69-11

Grounded

Those of you who have followed Filosofa’s Word for more than a year may remember a series of posts that I re-blogged by justascottishgirl, a young woman from Scotland who, in late 2015 to mid-2016 took time from her own life to volunteer helping refugees on the Greek Isle of Kos. Her tales were often heartbreaking, but I was so impressed with what she and others were doing – giving of themselves for the cause of humanity – that I shared her story a few times in March 2016. She eventually returned to Scotland, but has now moved to the Greek Isle of Kos. She has started a new blog, titled From Greece With Love, and shares her very astute thoughts on not just the refugee crisis, but the terrible inhumane incidents taking place around the globe. I am sharing, with her permission, the first post on her new blog where she starts with a question: How does one stay grounded with all the terrible things happening around the world? She concludes with: “Stand together, show love where you find hate and don’t let fear win.” Just A Scottish Girl is an excellent writer, thinker, and humanitarian extraordinaire, and this post is well worth the read. Please take a few moments to read her words, for they reflect what most of us are thinking in these troubled times. Thank you, Scottish Girl, for all you do, for your beautiful heart, and for permission to share your thoughts and words.

From Greece With Love

All through life when times get tough, when things start to run away with us or when things start to get too much we often hear the advice “stay grounded.” We are told to “keep our feet on the ground” to balance us, to remind of something solid, something steady that can help bring us down from those dizzying heights that challenging times can take us to. But what happens when that safety net fails, when you can no longer trust the earth to keep you steady?

Recently I experienced a rather nasty earthquake which has left this question playing on my mind. When we live in a world of such uncertainty, how exactly do we stay grounded when we can’t even trust the ground we walk on?

But this idea of losing trust in your surroundings goes further than a shift in tectonic plates, for me personally anyway. Over…

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A Guest Post by My Friend Herb …

A little over a year ago, I asked my friend Herb to contribute to this blog on occasion.  At the time, although he considered it fleetingly, he had some things going on in his own life and ultimately declined.  Now he is giving it a second thought, and today I would like to share a piece he wrote back in September of 2014.  Herb is an anthropologist and far less political-minded than me, so he brings a different perspective, which I see as a plus.  He is less a politico, but a far better observer of human nature than I. And he injects humour into his writing far better than I.  Although he gave me permission to edit his words, I made no changes.  Please take a few minutes to read Herb’s work and help me talk him into joining the WordPress community!


More musings on the state of American Culture from the kitchen counter of an Armchair Anthropologistby Herb Brown – 13 September 2014armchair-2.jpg“WE NO POLK, WE NO POLK”, the Chinese dude hostilely barked. Not only did this Chinese restaurant not sell sweet and sour pork, pretty much a staple of Chinese restaurants everywhere, this guy wanted nothing to do with swine flesh of any sort. He resented the fact that I would dare ask for it and was letting me know. ‘Hmmm, Muslim thing?’, I wondered to myself, noticing a star and crescent flag standing near a kitchen counter back near the woks. I perused the menu some more noticing there was no pork of any kind on the menu. I finally ordered some Hunan Beef, extra spicy. Probably be cat, but I don’t care, long as they spice it up enough. The Chinese guy kinda let out a faint grin, nodded, and bellowed out something in Chinese, I assume, to his kitchen staff, “他媽的愚蠢的美國人毒死他”, but he could have been yelling at me with his back turned. Not sure if it was just my order, or something personal. I’ll never know.

 

Now, I really don’t give a rat’s ass if people worship Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha or a freaking golden calf statue. As long as they’re nice. And I certainly don’t give a damn what people will or will not eat because of their religious beliefs. So sorghum based food is the work of Satan? Fine! I’m okay with that! Really! I can certainly understand your not wanting to be turned into a pillar of salt or whatever. But if you own a restaurant…..just sayin’….

But we’ve got a real problem on our hands these days, my dear listeners, all three of you. The world has of late taken a left turn straight to hell in a major way, and the United States seems to be directing traffic…right toward us!

Which brings me to ISIS. Where the F did these guys come from? A couple of months ago nobody’s ever heard of them, and all of a sudden they’re trying to take over the world, beheading innocents left and right and promising to rid the world of infidels (that would be us, my humble pupils). I just don’t get it.

President “I bet they’re really scared now” Obama gave a speech the other night stating, “we will degrade, and ultimately destroy ISIS through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy” (whatever the F that is) and “This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” (except maybe in certain Chinese restaurants that don’t have sweet and sour pork…pssst, they’re there Mr. President)

So I guess we are now in the 10th Crusade. Yes, there have been at least nine so far, depending on who’s counting. These Christian versus Muslim wars have been erupting every so often since the middle ages, the first in the year 1095, folks, and apparently we ain’t done yet…cause the first nine just didn’t take.

And we no longer have chivalrous knights with cool names like Godfrey of Bouillon, Joan of Arc, Richard the Lionheart, or John the Fearless to lead this latest phase of the ongoing struggle between good (us) and evil (everyone else). They used to make saints out of such folk back in good old medieval times. They’re all gone now.

We have a fine military, granted, with many brave men and women who will happily smite the scimitar-swinging dark forces if given the go-ahead…without political protocol and “good manners” style warfare rules getting in the way. Just let’em go in and kick ass is what I say.

I’m just not sure we have the right kind of ruthless leaders we need in charge of our gallant crusaders. We could really use a Ghengis Khan or a Vlad the Impaler or even a Sauron type as Generalissimo in these troubled times. Screw the “oh let’s talk about this” diplomacy crap. We’re past that. These are barbaric heathens that smoke opium and cut off people’s heads…for fun! They’re not gonna join hands and sing “Kumbaya”!

We really need to take off the kid gloves. If they cut off one head of ours, we cut off a thousand of theirs. 1000 to 1 ratio. Simple math. Game over.

Gonna eat my Hunan Cat now, extra spicy…

Tears of Sorrow …

Yesterday afternoon at approximately 2:40 p.m. London time, a man driving a sport utility vehicle crushed panicked pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed and killed a police officer outside Parliament. These are the facts that are verified as of this writing: At least five people were killed, including the attacker and a police officer, and 40 were wounded, according to the head of London’s Metropolitan Police counterterrorism unit. After the crash, the driver left the vehicle and approached Parliament, where he fatally stabbed a police officer. The police then fatally shot him. Parliament was locked down and a search was conducted for any other assailants in the area. The police said they believed there was only one attacker. Three people who were run over on the bridge died, and the Port of London Authority said another woman was pulled from the River Thames with severe injuries. The police officer who was killled, Keith Palmer, 48, had 15 years of service and was a member of the parliamentary and diplomatic protection division of the Metropolitan Police. Others injured on the bridge included three police officers and several French high school students.

Although the police are operating under the assumption that the incident was motivated by international terrorism, the motives are not yet known, and the identity of the attacker, as of this writing, has not been released. I hesitated to even write about this event at this time, because I have learned over the years that whatever ‘news’ is reported in the first 18-24 hours after a major event is usually not accurate.  However, given that a number of regular readers of this blog live in some part of the UK, I felt I needed to at least let them know that I am thinking of them and that my heart goes out to all.  These are scary times, and this is heart-breaking.  Hugs to Jack, Mary, and Bushka in England, Roger and David in Wales, and all who live in the UK.  I am thinking of you tonight.

I am not alone in sending my condolences.  Most world leaders have weighed in with thoughts, prayers and compassion:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her thoughts were “with our British friends and all of the people of London. I want to say for Germany and its citizens: we stand firmly and resolutely by Great Britain’s side in the fight against all forms of terrorism.”

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Today marks one year since the people of Brussels and Belgium suffered a similar pain and felt the support of your sympathy and solidarity.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement that it was an “attack on democracies around the world” and Canadians stood “united with the British people in the fight against terrorism”.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said it was an “attack on parliaments, freedom and democracy everywhere” and offered his support and solidarity to the British government.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: “Horrible images from London. The very heart of the city has been struck. Our thoughts are with the British people.”

Even Donald Trump reportedly behaved himself, calling Prime Minister Theresa May to offer his condolences and to praise the effective response of UK security services. He pledged the “full co-operation and support” of the US government in bringing those responsible for the attack to justice.

There was one, however, who could not hold his tongue.  Donald Trump Junior apparently inherited his father’s unbridled tongue and he chose this time to criticize London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a tweet:

“You have to be kidding me?!: Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”  Junior was referencing, out of context, comments from a September article in The Independent, but again, he lacked context and an understanding of the entire article, and his tweet was offensive and inappropriate, to say the least.

I apologize to my friends across the pond for the idiocy of the horse’s patoot.  Again, heartfelt thoughts and hugs to my friends.

sad

We Have Met The Enemy And …

Much has been said in the last fifteen years, since 11 September 2001, about terrorism and terrorists.  President George W. Bush used it as justification for the Iraq War, the invasion of Afghanistan, and torture abuses. Trump has instilled faux fears of terrorism into U.S. voters as a part of his campaign effort.  Now he continues to use those fears to justify his ban on Muslim people entering the U.S. in search of a safe haven.  But who, really are these ‘terrorists’ everybody is so afraid of?

They are not the refugees that come here trying to find a better life, a place where they and their children will be safe from the daily bombings that are a part of life in their home countries. They are not the women you see in the market wearing their hijabs.  They are not the people gathering in the local mosque.  So who, then, are these ‘terrorists’?  I think you will be surprised by my answer:

pogo

That’s right … the terrorists in the U.S. are, for the most part, walking among us unnoticed, while we are busy fearing the woman in the hijab or the man with the long beard and olive complexion.  Let us look at a few of these real terrorists, shall we:

  • 51-year-old Adam W. Purinton who shot and killed Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an immigrant from India, for no reason other than he didn’t want immigrants in “his” country.
  • American-born Omar Mateen who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others in June 2016 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in an apparent hate crime against LGBT people.
  • 21-year-old Dylann Roof who killed nine people, all African Americans, at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015. His reason?  “We already are the second-class citizens. That’s the problem. Y’all raping our women, and y’all are taking over the world.”
  • Jeffrey Allen Burgess, age 54, attacked an Indian man seated next to him at a bar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last November for the crime of … again … simply being of Indian descent.
  • Richard Leslie Lloyd, age 64, set fire to a convenience store owned by a U.S. citizen of Indian descent. His reason?  When he was in the store a few days earlier, he couldn’t find orange-pineapple juice, and it was then he noticed the skin colour of the owner, and assumed (incorrectly) that he was a Muslim.
  • Edgar Maddison Welch shot up a pizza parlor last December in Washington D.C., because he believed a fake news story that a kidnapping ring was operating from within the restaurant.

Not a single one of the above were immigrants, none were Muslim. The list goes on … and on … and on.  And there are rallies to promote this brand  of terrorism, venues where they are starting out young:  Earlier this month at a Trump rally in Maricopa County, Arizona, the following comments were said against protestors:

  • “If she’s Jewish, she should go back to her country,” a 13-year-old said of a protester.
  • “This is America; we don’t want Sharia law. Christian country.”
  • “I just want to let them know that I can’t wait for the liberal genocide to begin.”

The people committing these acts and calling for violence are terrorists just as surely as were Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the 9/11 highjackers.  Donald Trump claims it is important to refer to terrorists as “radical Islamic terrorists”, but the reality is that in this country, terrorists are far more likely to be “radical white Christian terrorists”.

These, folks, are the faces of terrorism in the United States.  Take a close look — see any similarities? These people, and others like them, will NOT be kept out of the country by Trump’s travel ban. The people who will be kept out by the travel ban are innocent people seeking refuge, while the real terrorists are already here.

The reality is that most terrorism by Middle-Easterners is committed against those in the Middle East, not the west.  The U.S. has not, with the exception of 9/11, seen large-scale terrorist attacks and we are not a primary target of Daesh, no matter what Mr. Trump tells us.  But his rhetoric played well with the masses who, apparently, wanted to believe in an identifiable threat that was not themselves.  But when we are looking for that threat, when we seek to identify the real terrorists in this nation, we need to look inward rather than outward, for in the words of Pogo, we have met the enemy and he is us.

Trump’s Travel Ban … Still A Bad Idea

Yesterday, Trump signed yet another of his now-infamous ‘executive orders’ calling for a travel ban from, this time only six of the original seven Middle-Eastern nations.  The ban has been cleaned up in hopes of passing the legal smell-test, but is otherwise not much different.  The main difference is that it will not take effect until March 16th, giving time for training of CBP agents and clarification where needed.  But is there any value in such a ban?  I would argue a few factual reasons to say there is not.

Through the years, there have been numerous attempts to define “terrorism”.  One terrorism class I took 2 years ago spent nearly an entire week on the definition alone! I won’t bore you with the history, but eventually the global community settled on a definition by Alex P. Schmid, a Research Fellow at the International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) in the Hague, and Director of the Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI).  Mr. Schmid’s definition is lengthy, but can be found here if you are interested.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Although not quite as comprehensive as Dr. Schmid’s definition, for the purposes of this post, it will do.

Note that in the FBI definition, it does not mention that in order to qualify as terrorism, the act must be perpetrated by a Muslim, nor by a member of Daesh, nor by a person of Middle-Eastern descent.  It is a fairly broad definition, and covers nearly any violent crime … or could be said to.

Donald Trump continues to claim that in order to “keep America safe”, in order to combat terrorism within the borders of the U.S., we must ban most, if not all, immigrants from Middle-Eastern, predominantly Muslim nations.  But if that is true, why are most violent crimes that would fit well into the FBI definition not labeled terrorism?  And … is terrorism from the Middle-East really a threat to the U.S.?  Let us look at a few factual examples.

While I have quoted these figures from 2015 before, they bear repeating at this juncture. The number of Americans killed in acts of terrorism – both on U.S. soil and abroad — between 2001 and 2014 is 3,412 (including the victims of the 9/11 attacks). During the same period, 440,095 people died by firearms on U.S. soil (homicides, accidents, and suicides). In 2014, for every one American killed by an act of terrorism in the United States or abroad, 1,049 Americans died in the United States because of guns.

The daily average for drunk-driving fatalities is 30 per day, and on average 3 women per day are murdered by their spouse or boyfriend.

Not a single terrorist fatality has been carried out by any refugee or immigrant from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen, the six nations included in Trump’s most recent version of his travel ban, since 11 September 2001. However, as of 2015, at least 22 fatal terror attacks had been carried out in the United States since 2001 by white male United States citizens motivated by white supremacist or other extremist beliefs. 

There have been 65 episodes of white supremacists attempting to recruit on college campuses just since Trump took the oath of office.  These include a visit by white supremacist Richard Spencer at Texas A&M University.  Also, you will recall the scheduled visit to UC Berkeley by Milo Yiannopoulos that was cancelled amid student protests.  At the cancellation, Trump railed, “If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view – NO FEDERAL FUNDS?”

There have also been some four mosque burnings already in 2017.

Are not all these incidents, by the FBI definition, terrorism?  And not by Middle-Easterners, not by Muslims, or Hispanics.  By mostly white U.S. citizens.  So would somebody please explain to me how banning the very people who are NOT committing acts of terrorism in this country, and who are, in fact, often the victims of violence, is going to make us safer?

Trump’s latest National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council last month, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic,” according to people who were in the meeting. And he is right.  I have a number of Muslim friends, and I have read some parts of the Quran, and Islam is indeed a religion of peace and tolerance. In his language, General McMaster is closer to the positions of former Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Both took pains to separate acts of terrorism from Islamic teaching, in part because they argued that the United States needed the help of Muslim allies to hunt down terrorists.

While I do not deny that Daesh and other terrorist groups made up mainly of people of Middle-Eastern origin exist, the reality is the U.S. is not their primary target.  However, the travel ban is likely to make the U.S. more prone to terrorism from without.  More than 800 career diplomats signed a dissent cable addressed to Rex Tillerson, secretary of state. The cable said Mr. Trump’s order will have “little practical effect in improving public safety” because a “vanishingly small number” of immigrants to the U.S. have committed acts of terrorism. “The net result… will not be a drop in terror attacks in the United States,” it said, “rather it will be a drop in international good will toward Americans.”  There are a number of ways in which the ban may make us less safe:

  • It supports terrorists’ claims that the U.S. is at war with Islam
  • It harms critically important U.S. relations with our partners in the Middle East.
  • It will increase anti-American sentiment
  • It directly undermines our key allies in the Middle East.
  • It discourages all Muslims — at home and abroad — from assisting U.S. anti-terrorism efforts.
  • It puts U.S. troops in grave danger.
  • It could lead to retaliation from other countries.

To those who cheer and applaud this ban, let me just say that you are safer among a crowd of Middle-Eastern immigrants than you are among the same size crowd of white Americans.  The Middle-Easterners are almost certainly not carrying loaded guns under their belts.  Think about it.

muslim-meme

Nothing to Fear But … White Males???

Yesterday morning, I, along with most of the nation, awakened to the terrible news of the worst shooting spree ever to happen in our nation, with 50 people killed and 53 others injured.  I knew immediately what the reactions of the vociferous few would be, and I was not to be disappointed.  I intentionally did not post about this last night or this morning, as I needed some time and distance before I could do so. However, my tongue cannot stand being bitten any longer, so this is the first of two posts addressing various aspects of this horrific event.

First, it was inevitable that those who support nearly unlimited rights to gun ownership and use would immediately use this tragedy as propaganda to make their case for less restrictive gun laws and the myth that ‘everyone would be safer if more people carried concealed weapons’.  Second, also inevitable, those who already mistrust and hate Muslims renewed their insistence that Islam is the problem, Muslims should be banned, blah, blah, blah. I suppose those who prefer an easy, immediate answer to the question “WHY?” must seek to blame, must look at the nearest target at which to point their finger.  But in reality, there are no easy or immediate answers.

The whole issue of guns, 2nd Amendment rights, gun regulation/control, is my second least-favourite topic about which to write (religion is my least favourite).  It generally sets in motion more negativity than I need.  That said, I am also rarely, if ever, one to shy away from controversy.

Donald Trump, on hearing of the horrific tragedy in Orlando this weekend (which I will cover in a later post, but today it is still too soon), saw yet another opportunity to propagandize a tragedy in order to promote his Islamophobia and renew his call to ban Muslims from entering the country.  He also insists that if he becomes president he will establish a database of all Muslims in order to closely monitor them.  I cry FOUL!  Apart from the whole ‘freedom of religion’ issue, let us look at some facts. I dug into the statistics, and based on what I found, the group that we really need to ban from this country, if in fact that is the answer, is white males!  Fully 61% of all mass shootings in the U.S. between 1982 – 2015 were committed by white people, mostly males. Only two mass shooters during that time frame were women, one Hispanic and one white.

In the chart below, the statistics show the number of mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2015, by race and ethnicity of the shooter(s). Between 1982 and 2015, 44 out of 72 mass shootings were initiated by white shooters.

Mass shootings in U.S. between 1982-2015 by shooters race & ethnicity*:

Race # of perpetrators Pct (%)
White 44 61%
Black 11 15%
Asian 6 8%
Hispanic 4 6%
Native American 3 4%
Other 4 6%

Now seriously, who, if anybody, should be banned or ‘monitored’ via database?  Who are you most likely to trust?  I live in a neighborhood that is about 40% African-American, 25% Middle-Eastern (Muslim), 15% Hispanic, and 20% Caucasian (white).  In the nearly 20 years I have lived here, the only people I have ever had problems with were white, Caucasians.  They are the reason I keep my doors locked.  Think about that for a minute!

While I am on the topic, let us look at the number of people killed each year by terrorism as opposed to those killed by senseless gun violence other than terrorism (see chart below).  So would somebody please explain how the politicians are able to stir such a fear of terrorism in the nation whose citizens have only lost 311 people to terrorism (excluding 9/11), as opposed to 130,347 lives lost due to senseless gun violence?  I am more afraid of the bimbo in the grocery store with a gun in her purse, or the ‘macho-man’ swaggering through a parking lot with a gun barely concealed under his jacket than I am any person of Middle-Eastern heritage!

U.S. Deaths from gun violence and terrorism compared*:

Year Gun deaths Deaths from terrorism
2001 ** 11,348 2,689
2002 11,829 25
2003 11,920 35
2004 11,624 74
2005 12,352 56
2006 12,791 28
2007 12,632 19
2008 12,179 33
2009 11,493 9
2010 11,078 15
2011 11,101 17

Now there is just one more thing I want to address here, and that is the tired old saying that right-wingers and gun advocates throw out when other words fail them: “well, the criminals will get guns anyway, so why bother with stricter gun regulations?”  Let us think about this one for a few moments.  Yes, there is some truth to the fact that a determined criminal who has his mind set on shooting someone will likely find a way to obtain a gun.  Omar Mateen, the Orlando shooter, certainly would have had no trouble obtaining his weapons. HOWEVER, … why should that stop us from making rational and enforceable laws?  A person who drives drunk will do so if he feels so inclined, so does that mean we should not have laws against DUI?  A speeder will likely do 85 mph down the highway, but does that mean we should just throw our hands up and say, “oh well, no point in making laws against it, as they will only do it anyway.”  Sorry folks, but that is about the absolute stupidest argument I have ever heard.  And for you gun lovers out there … I am not talking about laws to strip you of your guns, but I am talking about stricter regulations to ensure that people are fully vetted and pass a test to prove that they can safely handle a gun, perhaps even a class to teach them about keeping guns out of the hands of children.  Those are not a threat to your ‘rights’, those are common sense!  Get over yourselves and remember that you are not the only person who counts in this world.

Check out this post by Erik Hare of Barataria for a thoughtful, insightful perspective that I think you will enjoy.   Constant Outrage

Okay, enough ranting from me for today.  My fingertips are sore from pounding the keys!  My main point in this whole rant is that we simply must stop blaming all Muslims every time one of them performs an act of terrorism.  There is no more justification for that line of thinking than there is of blaming the entire Caucasian race every time a white person such as Dylan Roof goes on a spree.  Blame the perpetrator of the crime, not his whole race, not his entire religion.  Don’t let the politicians like Trump scare you with ‘monsters in the closet’.  The U.S. has been fortunate that other than 9/11, we really have not been victims of wide-scale terrorist attacks.  Those we have seen have been mostly domestic, lone-wolf terrorism, episodes by self-radicalized individuals.  Stop and put things in perspective.  Think before opening your mouth.  Look at facts, not meaningless rhetoric.  We do not need a wall; we do not need to ban people based on their religion.  We need to monitor ourselves and use a bit of common sense. Think about it.

*  All data obtained from Statista  http://www.statista.com/aboutus/

** Includes deaths on 11 September 2001 in New York, Washington D.C. and Shanksville, Pa.