I think today’s hype and paranoia over terrorism has less to do with real dangers and more to do with an paranoid society that is fed by sensationalism in media.
The shooting in San Bernardino was horrible. Deplorable. Just flat horrific. I grieve with the families who lost loved ones. God help them in their grief.
But all this hype? Banning Muslims from entering the country? Give me a break. The chances of dying in a terrorist attack in the US by a Muslim are pretty much zero. I know, I know, ISIS is at war with us. They’re coming our way. It’s just a matter of time.
But, think with me for a minute. Consider what happened after 911.
Or, what didn’t happen after 911.
In 2003 I participated in a terrorism forum at UCLA. It was led by two experts. Paul Bremer, who would lead the war effort in Iraq under President George W. Bush and James Woolsey, former director of the CIA. Bremer was a leading counter terrorism expert. He had worked under Henry Kissinger, appointed Ambassador-at-Large for Counter-terrorism under President Reagan. All the news networks were there. The room was packed. Compelling information was presented to an anxious group of faculty, students, and the greater Los Angeles community.
We were warned. There was imminent threat. Islamic extremists. Al Qaeda. They had the sophistication. They had the technology. These Muslims were part of a vast global terrorist network. These Muslims were strategic, entrenched in cities across the country. These Muslims were going to attack our nuclear plants. Poison our water. Chemical weapons on our city streets.
The next attack would come at any time.
I sat in a packed auditorium with my arms crossed. That means I didn’t buy it. I didn’t buy it back then. And I don’t buy it now.
Because I don’t buy into paranoia. I’m more interested in facts. And reality. And the reality was that every single day—EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR YEARS—you would see these threat level alerts on TV. Remember? There was this little image at the bottom of the TV screen. It stayed there while you watched the news. Green meant low risk, but you never saw green. Yellow meant the risk was “elevated.” Then orange and red and I remember seeing that often.
The country was paranoid because they were being fed by certain politicians and the media.
(And I’d drop off my daughter at school and all these moms would say things like “Oh, it’s so scary…all those Muslims…all those terrorists…I’m afraid to bring my kids to school because I heard on the news that they might target schools…this world we live in so crazy…we’re not safe anymore…I’m not sleeping at night…” Some of my Christian friends would talk about how we’re living in the “end times.” And I’d talk to the dads and a lot of them would say things like “What a bunch of assholes…those fucking losers…we ought to bomb the whole goddamn middle east…we ought to deport all those fucking towel heads…”)
After 911, Osama bin Laden sent warnings. Islam was at war with America. The next attack would make 911 look small. Before Christmas in 2002 he released an announcement. Al Qaeda would be delivering a “Christmas present” on our own soil.
But even with all the hype and all the alerts, nothing happened. The sophisticated covert strategic entrenched terrorists—millions of Muslims who call the USA their home—didn’t even vandalize a building.
I get the microphone.
“Gentlemen, respectfully, tonight you’ve warned us, again, of the imminent threat of Islamic terrorists.”
“You speak of how remarkably sophisticated their network is.”
“You talk about how they are already living here in the US.”
“We’ve been warned by the Bush administration, on news channels, and tonight by you, for nearly two years.”
“BUT NOTHING HAS HAPPENED.”
“If the country is swarming with this sophisticated war machine of radical Islamist jihadists, they either are not as angry with us as you think, or they don’t possess the sophistication.”
“Can you tell us why nothing has happened, not even a random shooting?” (I remember saying the words “random shooting.”)
Secretary Bremer responded. “Well, ahem, they are remarkably disciplined and strategic. They time their attacks to have maximum impact so we need to be prepared.”
The “big one” never came. Not in 2003 or 2004 or 2005 or 2006 or 2007 or 2008 or 2009 or 2010 or 2011 or 2012 or 2013 or 2014 or 2015.
Of course, we give credit to public servants: the various national, state and local agencies. And our allies around the world.
This post is not to deny the real dangers of Islamic extremism.
This post is to show that since 911 all those countless “terrorists” living here haven’t done much. A few shootings here and there.
In fact, since 911 around 50 Americans have been murdered in the US by Islamic extremists.
Since 911 over 150,000 Americans have been murdered in the US by citizens without any ties to Islam. Many of these murderer called themselves Christians. Most used guns.
The truth about Muslims in the US is this. They’ve lived here for decades. Millions of them. Immigrants. Egyptians. Iranians. Syrians. Saudis. Iraqis. Etcetera. In every city. Attending Mosque. College students. Business owners. Working for city governments. Strong families. Raising their children. The children play soccer and do ballet and go to university. They go to school with your kids. They all play on the playground together. They are doctors and restaurant owners and accountants. They are lawyers and own gas stations. They pay taxes.
Thousands fight in our military—fight against other self-proclaimed Muslims who have tried to hijack their religion.
Many American Muslims have died defending our country. Muslims have fought in all major US wars including the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Vietnam war, and the Gulf War. More than 3,500 Muslims fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. High ranked members of the U.S. military have commented that Muslims are a crucial part of the US armed forces because of their cultural understanding and linguistic skills and cultural understanding.
We need to think about the facts, people.
Because paranoia is easy.
And so is blame.
A couple sitting in front of me. At the coffee shop. At a small table. She’s around 25. Long light brown hair. Her boyfriend’s wearing a “Mustangs” baseball cap. I don’t know who The Mustangs are. I’m looking at his back. She’s facing me. They aren’t drinking coffee. Water, and two plain croissants. Why aren’t they drinking coffee?
The young lady. Beautiful. Is it okay to write that I think she’s beautiful? She’s so much younger than me. Do I sound like a pervert?
It’s okay. Because her kind of beauty is objective. It’s a fact that she is beautiful. Just like Brad Pitt is handsome. I’m not gay, either. He just is.
They are reading a Bible. Together. A leather bound one. He reads to her for a minute or so. Then he hands it to her; then she reads. I can’t hear what they’re reading because it’s loud in here. I have this thought. Oh, please. Do you have to bring your Bible with you and read it out loud to each other in public? Then I wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Because I once thought reading The Bible in public was a virtue.
Why do I judge them?
I think it’s because of the religious kooks. I don’t know what else to call them. Religious zealots? Religious fanatics? That sounds better. The religious fanatics that will often hijack public space to force their narrow view of Christianity down people’s throats. Most of the religious fanatics I’ve run into over the decades bring their Bibles to public places. As some kind of shield of protection. As some kind of magical force or something. All that stuff about The Word of God being sharper than any two-edged sword. I think some people bring that Bible-sword into public places, just in case they get attached. No, they often attack.
So it’s guilt by association. Religious fanatics bring their Bibles to public places. They brought their Bible to a public place. Therefore, they are religious fanatics. Then I realize that this line of reasoning is a logical fallacy. Specifically, it’s called affirming the consequent. Google it it you want. People do it all the time.
I just did.
Anyway, she just noticed me looking at her. Crap! I was looking at her Bible. Not her.
Okay, I was looking at her a little.
Is there something wrong with me? It’s a free county. They can do what they want. Why does this bother me?
Then I get it. I don’t want to be a part of the religious fanatic part of Christianity. This lovely couple is fine. You can see it. They’re normal.
They get up to leave. They’re adorable together. He’s wearing HE>i socks. Navy blue ones. I saw that brand for two years before I could figure out what it meant.
The Mustang hat says Cal Poly on it. Now I’m not sure whether it’s Pomona or San Louis Obisbo.
These days, I wonder more and more about the virtue of a private faith.
Is it okay to have a private faith?
What’s going on? All these religious bigots. Even Christian ones. Real, living, breathing, convinced, head-in-the-sand, zealots. Right here in the United States of America. A nation founded on the idea of freedom of religion. A nation founded on the ideal of religious tolerance. A nation where countless willfully died to create a nation where men and women could worship, or not worship, feely.
“Paul,” you ask, “what happened?”
Well, it’s been happening for years.
But, today, I got this zinger on my old Facebook page.
President Barak Obama is a “good Muslim” jihadist?
YOU’VE GOTTA BE F***ING KIDDING ME.
I called it sick before I could think. And it is sick. Sickness is a word used to describe illness — when something is wrong. When health is compromised. In this case, mental health. Reasoning. Rationality.
To those right-wing nut jobs — not fellow Republicans, but the loonies out there — who hate President Obama’s positions, do me a favor. Disagree with his political ideology. Chastise him because he’s a democrat (since everything democrats do is wrong). Express your views on why you disagree with his policies.
BUT DON’T CALL HIM AN ISLAMIC JIHADIST.
Islamic jihadists don’t order the killing of the leader of the most pernicious terrorist group in the world, Osama bin Laden.
Islamic jihadists don’t send our troops into wars against against the Taliban, as this president has in Afghanistan.
Islamic jihadists don’t bomb the hell out of ISIS fighters with drones, as President Obama has been doing for years.
Islamic jihadists don’t get married in Christian churches. Confess Jesus Christ as their savior. They don’t have their daughters baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and raise them in Christian church.
The guy who posted the photo forgot a few other things.
He forgot what our nation’s leaders have said about Islam including neoconservative hero, George W. Bush:
“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.” (George W. Bush)
“The United States of America…has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Muslims.” (John Adams)
“Here in the United States our Muslim citizens are making many contributions in business, science and law, medicine and education, and in other fields…[they are]upholding our nation’s ideals of liberty and justice in a world at peace.” [Islam] inspires countless individuals to lead lives of honesty, integrity, and morality.” (George W. Bush)
“Some of the comments that have been uttered about Islam do not reflect the sentiments of my government or the sentiments of most Americans. Islam, as practiced by the vast majority of people, is a peaceful religion, a religion that respects others. Ours is a country based upon tolerance and we welcome people of all faiths in America.” (George W. Bush)
He forgot what President Obama said about his Christian faith:
“More than 2,000 years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among the cattle and the sheep. But this was not just any child. Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us.”
“I wanted to host this breakfast for a simple reason — because as busy as we are, as many tasks as pile up, during this season, we are reminded that there’s something about the resurrection — something about the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ, that puts everything else in perspective.”
And he forgot what President Obama has said about military force in the speech after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize — a speech praised by neoconservative Republicans:
“I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.”
“So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace.”
“I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.”
“The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.”
I hate the hate coming from religious bigots.
I guess that might make me a hater, too.
So be it.
It thought about why it couldn’t sleep.
It took out Paul’s iPhone so it could write Paul’s thoughts.
It remembered the almost fluorescent red color of Elliot’s tonsils when the doctor saw him on Friday.
It wondered how long it would take the antibiotics to make him feel better.
It wondered why Paul didn’t take Elliot to the doctor on Monday.
It accused Paul of being a bad dad.
It thought about Mom.
It though about Paul’s visit on Saturday. About Paul, Mom, and Vince. About how Vince tried to get her to speak Italian. About how he said to her, “Luigia, say ‘Paul is my son.'” It thought how funny Mom’s reply was. About when she shook her head. “No he’s not, he’s my son.”
It felt relieved that Edison and friends were safe in Bree’s apartment at UCLA after a day at Camp Flog Gnaw.
It wondered if Paul was a bad dad for letting Edison go to a thing called Camp Flog Gnaw.
It thought about how raising teenagers is hard.
It thought about what President Obama said about ISIS the day before the massacre in Paris. “ISIS is contained.”
It knew President Obama was regretting those words.
It thought about how Paul wasn’t a big fan of George W. Bush, but how “W” would be kicking the shit out of ISIS by now.
It wondered why darkness is scarier than daytime, and how the scariness proves we all want to see what’s coming in life.
It thought about how we never really know what’s coming in life.
It thought about The House On Mango Street.
It wondered if the gluten free diet will soon be replaced with another diet.
It thought about why it still wouldn’t sleep.