ThIS IS a plan
“It’s better to be strong and wrong, than right and weak.”
Do you agree? It seems to be the primary message of extremists all around the world, Trump among them.
If you listen to talk radio in this country, you are likely hear vociferous support for the new brand of fascism that Donald Trump is promoting (“…have you no sense of decency, sir?”). Now, don’t get me wrong. No one openly admits to themselves that they are fascists. Fascism is not just an idea or an epithet. It a structured movement that has been in place for centuries. It is on the rise again because of the kinds of terrorist attacks that we saw in Paris, Britain and the US just in the past few weeks. And there have been numerous others.
Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham (DAESH) holds territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya. From that territory they have sought to lend credence to their specious claim that they have established a caliphate and will spread it all over the world. Naturally, given their barbarous tactics and violent rhetoric, this combination strikes fear in the hearts of ordinary, law abiding people.
Some of us are guided by our fears and misgivings. Whether that comes from congenital disorders, perinatal trauma or adverse events in our early lives and upbringing, that makes us vulnerable to the brand of demagoguery that is sweeping the globe. Trump does not believe a word of this hate speech he is pedaling. He is using it to win support of people whose profile he has studied carefully: white, male, senior, blue-collar, non-college educated and self-identifying surprisingly as moderate. That is only 12% of Americans, however vocal they are.
Along the lines of Dr. Bailey (see earlier posts) and Conscious Discipline, we need to teach ourselves to navigate the world through our personal power, not weaknesses. To develop our strengths and aspirations and acknowledge, then dismiss our fears, giving them no further attention and thus oxygen to proliferate. We should guard our hearts and minds against those who appeal to our lowest demons instead of our highest angels.
Let me take a minute to also say, let us not govern or view the world through the prism of any religion. Spirituality is meant to be personal and in my opinion, private. I would suggest that the best word to replace religious beliefs and dogma is cosmology. I have a cosmology, i.e., an understanding of the order of the universe in which I live. It has been a lifelong study and concern of mine to understand where we came from, why we are here and what we are supposed to do in our lifetimes. We can tread water, hand our minds over to those more aggressive than we in the area of reasoning and analysis, and just wait to reach 85 and die. We can convince ourselves that a better life awaits thereafter. Maybe so, maybe not. But I choose to live my life as if only this moment and no other exists and I am supposed to figure out what to do with it. I wake up every day thankful to be here. There are no guarantees.
The issue facing Americans this week, specifically, is how to protect ourselves from murderers who plot to kill us for no good reason. When Rachel Maddow interviewed Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night, she asked him how he would respond to San Bernardino, the killers’ actions and Trump’s response. Sanders started talking again about how Americans are hurting economically and fearful that they won’t be able to make ends meet. This was inexplicable to me until I remembered, a few minutes into his harangue, that Sanders is a gun rights advocate. Two Americas is the key to addressing public massacres? Good grief. It shows Sanders is just another disingenuous, ambitious, self-serving politician. Obama, in his address Sunday was calm, as always and rational. Maybe a bit more warmth and emotion would be in order, to let people know he understands the issue at a gut level.
I have already stated unequivocally, here and elsewhere, that I do not want to be armed. I dislike guns and everything they represent (hurting, maiming, killing), first and foremost, powerlessness. People who need a gun to feel safe, feel weak in my opinion. I have come to that conclusion after years of analysis and study of the subject. Nothing will convince me otherwise. Since I also reject war, I am not wild about weaponry, but that is where long guns belong, in the hands of trained military during armed conflict. Not in the public square, not in the wild where innocent sentient beings are mowed down for a twisted pleasure wrongly named a sport, not in the home in reach of children. Places where guns are numerous and easily procured are violent, deadly places, chief among them, the USA and Yemen. The rest of the world doesn’t even come close. Some shining city on a hill, our country.
To my ‘freedom-loving’ liberty advocates. Stop deluding yourselves. You have no freedom at all. Our modern lives, whether for good or bad, are governed by thousands of constraints, both personal, public, discretionary and non. This notion that we must be free is from the 17th century, it had a good run, it cannot work in the real and crowded world of unconscious humans jostling for a small space to live their lives. If we keep running after it, we will be miserable.
True freedom comes from within. We had better work on ourselves and our internal dialogue and unconsciousness if we hope to have safe and secure lives among one another. We barely like our spouses and kids all the time, much less our neighbors or worse, strangers — however we define these terms. To be truly free, we must wake up and stop being ruled by fears and weaknesses. And you cannot grab your power back by arming yourself to the teeth.
But, of course, this country as a structured polity with a Constitution (which is always being updated by the way, please don’t invoke the one from two hundred-plus years ago) and obligations to its constituents, must put in place measures to enhance the ability of the people to live productive lives in relative safety, with the assurance that everything possible is being done to protect them, short of a total police-state autocracy.
I don’t think we need to re-litigate our Levant strategies. Fewer American boots, more regional boots from the wealthier stakeholders with large armies are in order. We do need to assist the good actors in the region divest DAESH of their land so the claim of caliphate and its false promise is eviscerated. So, Iraq, Syria and Libya must be cleared and given back to the local, semi-legitimate governments. That is in progress, it is messy, it is a long game — don’t expect it to occur overnight. The fact is, there is a 1500 year old mentality in that region that has to be brought, kicking and screaming perhaps, into the post-modern era. I don’t see that as our job, primarily. We can furnish funds, advice, expertise and materiel, but I see no reason for young, poor Americans to be sent there to die. I do think Mr. Obama should personally meet with the individual leaders of Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Greece and the UAE to strike a deal that involves them in fighting DAESH in return for the support listed above.
At home, we have much we can do to strengthen our safety programs. Amp up the funding for the CIA and the FBI and strengthen the terror watch list and interviewing process (the San Bernardino female murderer underwent an immigration interview and passed it because we have a flawed screening process); pass California Senator Diane Feinstein’s social media bill requiring tech companies to monitor and report online terrorist activity to the authorities; use and broaden the extensive camera system that is already capturing motor vehicle violations all over the nation, to monitor public spaces — with signage clearly advertising their presence, which may be a deterrent to opportunists and spontaneous criminals; require imams at every mosque in this country to be on board with an internal counseling and counter-terrorist narrative so their communities are self-policing. These mosques are in America, not the Middle East, and thus they are morally obliged to help defend the country that protects them and provides them with the chance for prosperity; conduct more extensive raids along the lines of those deployed in France and Belgium after the Bataclan attacks; use the same program the FBI just announced it will initiate to track police shootings, to oversee suspicious activity among the public at large. We must increase funding for the NSA, restore some of its abbreviated powers, and Homeland Security. The Visa Waiver programs need to be revised to meet the current situation. We also urgently need a counter-propaganda campaign that floods the internet with democratic values and the benefits of living in a civilized society to out-shout the ones the terrorists are broadcasting. Americans may also have to be uncomfortable.
Furthermore, stop Congress from gutting mental health programs as it is doing right now. For Republicans to scream mental health is to blame for all these gun deaths — 80 every single day in America — and then block or de-fund health treatment programs is duplicitous, reckless and hypocritical; every residential and business community can set up an online website where members can report on activities of concern so others may be aware and alert against impending threats; ban the sale of guns to people at gun shows and require purchasers to pick up their guns at licensed gun dealers whose job it will be to screen buys, and put every person on the no-fly list on a gun-sales ban list as well. Less political correctness, more courage and common sense is in order. I personally don’t care if a few people get on the list in error, it is the lesser of two evils; stop allowing people to make straw purchases, buying guns for other people — why does one adult need to buy another one a gun? If you have to give your kids a gift give them a science kit or a coding course like Ruby on Rails at the local university instead. Teach them to be smart and good, not violent and fearful. The only weapons we need are sharp minds and good hearts.
Finally, hire 50 Israeli security experts and put one in each state to move from city to city teaching local law enforcement and city managers how to screen and protect highways, airports, train stations and other transportation hubs that present potential for use by bad actors who wish to mount attacks. The Israelis know how to do this. Time to learn from them, folks.
As for me, I have my own personal plan for being safe and simply do not let fear dictate my world. Because we live in proximity to a massive urban center, our entire house is wired, miked, and cameraed, inside and out. It is surrounded by a high wall and spiked gates. We have a loud dog and we keep baseball bats handy, and both of us know how to use them — both having been good ball players growing up. It is like any other insurance. But I am confident that I can handle myself in a moment of uncertainty, with strategies I have already worked out. I keep in shape in various ways. We have emergency plans for multiple scenarios and we know that we will execute them, if need be. I am always situationally aware in public and when I go to places where there are people who are different from me, I present myself in such a manner as to blend in, whether domestically or abroad. Even so, no one is safe from every disaster all the time. Blue ice might fall out of the sky and do one of us in. No guarantees.
These are common sense measures. But my biggest assets are my brain, faith in myself and positive view of humanity. I don’t need a talking head to tell me what to think. I do my own research and come up with my own analyses. I am a strong person and want strong but good, kind people representing me in governing this country. I know that Trump will not be President. We have had enough of Fascism. That is now DAESH’s domain, it is irreligious just as all fascist movements have been throughout history, and I want no part of that primitive philosophy.
And let me say one last thing. The Colorado Springs shooting — was that carried about by a Muslim? How about Aurora? Newtown? Virginia Tech? Santa Barbara? South Carolina? Remember Columbine and Oklahoma City? How will banning or targeting Muslims stop radicalized white Christian males from shooting up movie theaters, schools, malls, and churches?
Just this week we are celebrating Hanukkah, and we marked the 150th anniversary of the end of slavery with the 13th amendment. We cannot retreat to bigotry and discrimination, McCarthyism, anti-semitism — all of which are subtexts of fascism. Nor can we allow anyone to frighten us into anti-Islamic thoughts and practices. Let’s stop letting these people, this small but vocal minority appear as if they speak for all of us. That is strength: our speaking truth to their powerlessness.
Images: Chez BeBe assets: Ojai, California; click to enlarge