Bigotry and Fear:
Just what are we so afraid of that the idea of banning an entire group of people based solely on their faith has any traction at all? This country was founded by the pursuit of religious tolerance and freedom. It is ingrained in our very DNA as a nation of freedom and of law. It is guaranteed by the same First Amendment that allows fear-mongers and bigots to spew out their vile, hate-filled rhetoric and allows me to respond without fear of retaliation, reprisal, or persecution. Can a handful of extremists who use terror to further their agenda, or a handful of extremists who use language to further theirs, be allowed to win and thereby curb the freedoms our nation has earned?
Who are the terrorists? How many of them are religious fanatics who, by their extremism, defile the very teachings they proclaim to defend? I keep reminding myself that thirty-one Americans are murdered at the hands of gun toting terrorists EVERY DAY on America's streets, another 59 Americans use guns to kill themselves, and 231 Americans are wounded by gun fire. That's EVERY DAY. The Sandyhook killer, the Aurora Movie Theater Killer, the Charleston Killer, the San Bernadino Planned Parenthood Killer were all home grown and non-Muslim. Not to mention Timothy McVee, or a host of mass killers. People who buy the rhetoric of reaction are being distracted by primal fears that come from deep seeded and naked bigotry. Remember that the KKK could teach ISIS a thing or two about sytemized terror, and those folks were upright Christians and “Patriotic Americans.”
Today, I heard a man say that it's not Christians blowing people up. He could have added, we use guns instead. Memories are short: the single worst terror attack on record, not including 9-11, remains home grown Timothy McVee's bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. But the fear is up right now, fed hungrily by those who profess to wish to lead our nation. Donald Trump is the loudest and most extreme voice out there right now, but the sentiments of many Americans seem to be closely aligned to his. It feels ominous to listen, day after day, to the reactionary atmosphere that once again proves, all too sadly, that we as a nation and humanity as a species have made at best a fractional halting step to progress.
This great country was founded upon and has expanded on the concept of freedom. It has been a struggle, and from time to time people come along who want to restrict the freedoms earned by the blood of those who came before. We cannot allow that to happen, and it is easy enough to prevent. But silence is not the answer. Repeating the same steps over and over again, while expecting a different outcome, is certainly not the answer. And voting against your own best interests, or worse, not bothering to vote at all, is definitely not the answer. Accepting without question the lies and hate-filled rhetoric of a sadly growing minority is the answer only if you wish to give up who you are and revert to being someone else's puppet. That rhetoric states that only Muslims are the problem (read enemy). In fact it is the idealogs and the religious zealots of any faith or persuasion who, once radicalized, choose to terrorize us with bombs and guns and vile words.
We want to fight terror. We are fully engaged in a war against an emotional response to horrific events. Yet we indulge and ignore the real, daily terror on our streets. It is said, and said, and said, every time a multiple homicide makes the national news, that something must be done, yet the war on terror still ignores the Home Front. Eighty people die every day in America from gun-related incidents. Almost three thousand people lost their lives on 9-11. But every single month since, handguns and those who use them have taken ten 9-11's worth of lives, one by one, two by two, and sometimes in larger numbers. Every month. The tragedy in Paris equals a day and a half in America's normal. An American is about as likely to be killed with a gun as die in a car crash. Yet gun sales are on the rise.
Congress readily passes legislation to deepen the restrictions on foreign entry into America. Some would like to see it stopped altogether. The House of Representatives, on the basis of trying to stop abortions from happening, voted to defund Planned Parenthood even though not one penny of that funding goes to abortions. Yet the same Congress cannot strengthen existing gun regulations or enact new ones. If abortion is the premature termination of an existing life, then every gun death is an abortion. How can anyone be pro life and do nothing about the slaughter on our streets? Do these people really have our best interests at heart, whether it is on the issue of foreign visitors and immigrants, women's healthcare, or truly fighting terror, or any other number of important issues that affect us day to day or impact our future and our children's future? If you think they don't. tell them so with your vote.
Hitler and Trump:
Today's political climate is desperately frightening, much more frightening than the possibility of any extremist act not devised by a fiction writer. The United States and its people seem to be taking a sharp right turn en masse and letting fear rule our minds – and our hearts. I too am afraid, but not because of what terrorists can do. I fear what we can become as we overreact to what terrorists can do. I have seen us erode our own rights. I have seen the rhetoric ramp up against specific groups to the point that many among us seem to agree that Muslims should be banned from entering America at all, and those who are here should be set up in concentration camps. The rhetoric is so horribly familiar. It is not supposed to fly here, but it does. Donald Trump seems to increase his poll numbers with every outrageous utterance, each more profane than the last. And with each utterance those we call enemies gain more traction, and more recruits.
I often hear that making comparisons to the Nazis and Adolph Hitler is the last resort of a desperate debater. This is no longer true. The American political scene is devastatingly prejudiced and hateful. Many agree with the hate filled rhetoric. Many more, it is supposed, do not agree. But they are silent, and we all know that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to say and do nothing. Meanwhile, the war on terror (which is waging war on a tactic, not an ideology or another political force) distracts us from other issues of equal merit and far greater long term implications to ourselves and our children and their children. Our planet is dying. Well, the planet will not die, but life as we know it can, and is – and we would rather blow up things across the globe than save ourselves. It makes me wonder whether the great oil companies are actually financing the terrorists, the way a magician distracts with sleight of hand to keep our eyes away from the real truth.
We need enemies. Enemies give us reasons to have soldiers to “protect us.” Enemies distract us from what Corporate America is doing, while the soldiers are positioned to protect Corporate's interests. We are being lied to: our hatreds, our fears, and our prejudices are being aroused, and I want to know why. More: I want to know why we are letting it happen. An astute observer of human nature once wrote, “The broad mass of a nation...will more easily fall victim to a big lie than a small one.” He added, “The art of leasdership...consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention.” I think Trump is taking a few lessons from Adolph Hitler's playbook.
I was born in Holland in 1950. My parents immigrated to the US when I was two. I have many close friends and family on both continents. My wife Diane and I have been happily married since 1974. I have four children and one grandchild (two more are on the way). I love writing and sharing what I wrote most of all..