My last post was at the end of October, despite my best intentions to write more. In the meantime I visited and photographed Smith Rock and Painted Hills in Oregon. Both places started being formed millions of years ago – Smith Rock 30,000,000 years ago.
Homo Sapiens have been around for only the last 250,000 years, and Modern Man only the last 35,000 years.
As I was thinking what to write about, my mind moved to the events of the last few months, and then other social issues of this year. So never mind my little world, this post will be about the wider world. You may not agree with me, but I ask you to consider what I write.
On November 13, there were the nightmarish attacks in Paris, France with 130 deaths. A day before, there were over 37 deaths in Beirut, also from an ISIL attack. Then less than a month later, on December 2, there was the shooting of 14 individuals by a husband and wife who had just had a child six months ago. Before that in my home state, Oregon, there was a 10-person death toll by a mentally unstable gunman.
Immediately after each of these horrific incidents, there is the – what has become sadly usual – outcry about the need for gun law control reforms pitted against those who defend the right to bear arms. The standoff is usually quite ugly, and some of the rants in the wake of these tragedies parallel in tone the viciousness of the original acts themselves.
The divisiveness and bitter dispute is also seen in the news stories about the all too many and disturbing video tapes of deaths of mostly black men at the hands of some law enforcement officers. The case I found especially haunting was the death of Tamir Rice, a twelve year old playing with a toy gun in a public park. There were even people defending the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. How would you like your son to be followed by a stranger in a car with a gun when they are walking home and talking on the phone? What ever was suspicious about his behavior?
Some see the fact that these deaths are being questioned as an attack against all law enforcement. While all of us know that our law protection officers put their lives at risk by the nature of their job and must respond in high-pressure situations, there still must be a standard of conduct that is upheld. Any one who has held a job, know that any employee’s performance will be reviewed.
What is a fact is that there will be fanatics and mentally unstable people so long as there are humans. So trying to find a way to insure that guns do not get into the hands of these people seems a sensible thing, especially when it is an assault rifle like the one used in Sandyhook with 30 rounds capacity.
Is the right of Andrew Lanza’s mother, Nancy, to purchase a Bushmaster AR-15, stronger than the right of six-year old Jesse Lewis’ mother, Scarlett to watch her child grow up? Do our current background checks look at the household members who might gain access to that weapon? How do we insure that every gun owner will responsibly manage/sell his or her gun and make sure it does not get into the hands of someone else is emotionally unstable or bent on using it to kill? Some make the argument that “guns don’t kill, people do” but guns are made for the purpose of killing. I doubt you will find any advertisement in a gun magazine that talks about the sporting benefits of a Bushmaster Assault Rifle in shooting cans.
What I find really offensive is the now circulating propaganda email and Facebook postings that Sandy Hook was a hoax. How low can you go? Yes there will be some who will be able to get their hand on a weapon, no matter what, but we should not make it easy. There are apparently some guns, including the AR-15, with legal add-ons that let a person fire 900 rounds per minute. Why is this legal?
But getting back to the original point of my post. Why has it become a rarity that we can’t have a discourse on any of these subjects and our differing opinions without that discourse succumbing to name-calling. Words such as “LIBERAL” or “They’re ANIMALS” or “RACISTS” don’t really do anything to further our understanding or breech the gap. These types of insults just result in “unfriending” be it online or in real life, or racing once again to find the nearest missile, be it insult or bullet.
Okay, so we might think the other person is ignorant or racist or whatever, but as supposedly evolved beings, should our response be one of anger and hate? Can’t we step back and try to see the person as more complicated and more multi-layered than that one aspect of their self, character or spirit?
I found the immediate calls from politicians and some Facebook posters to bomb those terrorists very sad. First, I doubt the terrorists are sitting in a nice little spot isolated from all others waiting for us to do that and the rationale for this type of action flies in face of reason when so many of the recent “terrorists” have been home grown.
Why must our initial reaction always be for revenge? How does a superpower country bombing some third world country solve anything? Wars and bombing will certainly result in more loss of innocent lives, more orphans, more scars, more hatred, more economic devastation, and more bitterness to carry to the next generation and the one after that? How can you win hearts and minds with bombs?
I am not suggesting that we not defend ourselves in an intelligent way from immediate dangers, as France did when it worked its intelligence and carried out numerous raids in Paris and Belgium, some which did result in the deaths of terrorists. But I do feel we need to stop seeing a terrorist simply and only as an enemy. They may be our enemy, but in not looking beyond that we put ourselves in jeopardy of becoming a zealot as well.
The questions we should also be asking are why does a fanatic become a fanatic? When and why did Osama Bin Laden decide it was okay to kill thousands? Or Abdelhamid Abaaoud? Or his cousin, who wasn’t even religious a month before she died? When and how did each of their thinking become so distorted that they used religion to justify murder? Refer to http://www.vocativ.com/news/251306/psychology-terrorist/ as the start of what we should be studying.
There may be a difference in seeing all Muslims and refugees as potential terrorists (reference to the numerous calls to register Muslims and stop accepting Syrian refugees) and a ISIS terrorist from seeing all Christians, or Westerners as infidels, but I would suggest it’s slighter than at first imagined. Consider one of responses from Trump, a presidential candidate, whose plan is to bomb the “**** out of them” (Source CNN), and then take the oil (from Syria, Iraq) – as if stealing has now become a good thing.
For those that believe in God, does it make sense that an omniscient, all powerful entity who created each of us would only love certain nations and not others, or certain races and not others, or for that matter, certain species and not others? And to all, I say, there is no better use and challenge to our intellect than to find a way to live peaceably with each other despite the differences in our belief.
35,000 years, and we rarely look beyond the last 2000, or even the last 200 years. Looking at 35,000 or 2,000 years from the span of just one lifetime, it’s a long time. A piece of furniture over 100 years is an antique. Physically we’ve changed. Intellectually we’ve progressed. But have we evolved spiritually? Have we come all this way only to find the same old excuses to continue to hate and fear each other, or just to create more efficient tools designed to kill each other and more quickly at that?
In many cases, anger’s source is based on some past hurt. In the 1980’s or early 90’s either after work or after SNL, I sometimes would catch a tv talk show host, Dr. David Viscott, a psychiatrist, and this is where I first heard and then thought about the source of anger. Think about your own anger, when it comes up. Think about not only the incident but also your reaction. Now, think about the people who violently strike out against society and others. What is their source of anger? These heinous acts are never justifiable, but I think knowing the source of the anger that becomes hardened into a mindset that allows a person to commit such an act would be an important thing for us to know as a society. Perhaps it might even provide us with the understanding we need to address issues and take a first step towards making things better. I am not putting forth a simplistic solution; I am suggesting we step beyond the usual knee jerk reaction and consider the source, analyze the problem and fix it, instead of repeating that same old patterns that have been repeated for centuries.
Yes the “Conservatives” can blame the “Liberals” and vice versa. “Whites can blame the “Blacks” and “Blacks” can blame the “Whites” and “Terrorists” can curse the “Infidels” and the “Patriots” can bomb the “Animals” and it can go on for as long as the world will last. In the end we are still humans, ALL of US, who have to share one planet, which we’ve managed very poorly. It turns out being human is a questionable accomplishment at best, at least so far. Can we change that?