Radicalism

As the week draws ever closer to the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is not difficult for me to sit and ponder.  The main problem is that there seems to be no answer to the questions I seek answers to.  In the aftermath of the attacks, we launched a war on terrorism and now find ourselves embroiled in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and several other places around the world.  This is all in the name of fighting terrorists.  And any time there is an attack of some kind here at home…. whether it be a shooting rampage or something even more severe, we immediately start asking if this was an act of terrorism.  I find it interesting how are mind jumps to the conclusion immediately and then settles back into other possible answers as more information usually becomes available.  Even in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ), the media was already wondering if the shooter was linked to al Qaida.  Now this isn’t to say that there haven’t been times when there has been a domestic terrorist attack in the US.  I’m sure most of us remember the Fort Hood shootings.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks (and it still takes place today), Muslims and Muslim Americans face discrimination based on nothing more than stereotypes.  As if they all had something to do with it or even condone it.  They seem to have had the stereotype fall upon them that we would put on the radical fundamentalists that carried out the attacks.  But I don’t believe in such stereotypes, and it still amazes me how many people can just toss out rational, logical thought and believe in such things.  That would be the same everyone thinking that all Christians are terrorists out to destroy those who don’t agree with them because of The Crusades.  And has anyone stop to think for a moment that the guy who blew up a federal building in Oslo, Norway and then went to an island full of kids and starting killing them unmercifully was an extremist Christian? Yeah… the extremes go both ways.  But you don’t manage to still hear the same rancor that came after the attacks on 9/11.  Maybe that’s because it was done in another country.  But what about the Oklahoma City bombing?  That was done by an American on American soil… and had no religious affiliation to it whatsoever.

Most people in the world hold their personal religious beliefs close to themselves.  And most people with even half a brain don’t follow every word to the last letter of their religion.  There is usually some discrepancies when it comes to each individual.  And most are willing to let others have their beliefs so long as it doesn’t inflict upon anyone else.  Sadly, though, it’s the radical fundamentalists on the extreme wings of the religions that have the loudest voices and have the ability to manipulate those parts of the population that are not educated or at least not wanting to think for themselves.  And as a result, all people that follow that religion are grouped into that stereotype even if they haven’t and never would do anything to the extreme and just want to live the simple lives with their neighbors as they have been doing.

Does that mean their aren’t religious fundamentalists out there that are willing to harm us?  Not at all.  We must always remain ever vigilant, but we must also remember that it’s usually not the average person that we must watch out for.  Rather, it’s those that can’t think for themselves and must be told what to think and when to think it… and how they should feel.  Yes, it is hard to identify such people from the average person, but that still does not give us the right to treat any group of people under an umbrella stereotype.  We all know that we wouldn’t like it if it was done to ourselves, and it’s always possible for us to be lumped into something simply because of an overreaching stereotype.

Hate can be a powerful tool… and even more so with the tools of religion.  Anything can be drastically warped to fit into the minds of those people who are looking for someone to blame their problems on.  The problem is that the population has to be willing to step up, ask questions, and not believe everything that they hear and read.  The radical fundamentalists that are trying to hijack people’s minds and use it then to terrorize the general population are betting on us not being able to do it.  When we lose the ability to think for ourselves… when we lose that ability to ask questions… when we succumb to grouping an entire group of people (based on religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, etc) into one generic, overreaching stereotype, then we have fallen into the abyss that the extremists have wanted us to fall into.  And it’s at the moment that the leaders of those movements can warp minds and bend any information to fit their overall goals.

So let me ask you this as we are now in our tenth year in our ‘war on terror’.  Is it actually possible to win this war or is it just to make the general population feel good that something is being done?  And how do we know that we’ve won or lost?  Is it possible to root out and defeat all terrorism in the world?  Is the previous question a sign that we are bringing terror to a part of the world?  And this leads to the ever-bigger question… What is terrorism and a terrorist?  How do we define these two broad words?

As we approach the tenth anniversary, we need to take a good long look at how the past ten-years have unfolded.  Are we a fair and just people?  Have we made the right decisions along the way (even if we have killed the al Qaida leader that orchestrated the attacks)?  Have we developed our communities and our society in a way that we are inclusive of those that aren’t just similar to us but to also those that are different?  Do we attempt to broaden our understanding of those things that are different from our own… whether it be other religions, other countries, or other cultures?

And though we must remain ever vigilant against those that would do us harm, I still feel that it is important to not lose our overall core values.  Each of us has the right to be judged on the person we are and not by the actions of others.  The radical fundamentalists want to group everyone into two categories… for or against.  There is no middle ground.  In regards to religious fundamentalists, this doesn’t just come from those that are Muslim.  It also comes from Christians and Jews.  Fundamentalism is never based with one group and not another.  All groups have their fundamentalists that are willing to go to the extremes to get what they want.  It’s up to those of us that can think for ourselves… those of us they consider moderates (or just the average person) to make sure that our voice gets louder so that their evil messages can’t gain any ground.

So let me leave you with one last question through all of this.  How can we protect ourselves from any and all radical fundamentalists, or is it even possible?  As I said at the beginning, there are no easy answers to the questions that I am asking.  But then again, maybe there aren’t supposed to be easy answers in this situation.  For there to be then there would be no overall conflict and no reason for this entire entry.  As we continue to move forward, we must always be willing to ask ourselves the tough questions, to not follow blindly, to shape our society in a way that we can be inclusive, and we must not hate.  For as it has been said by Buddha, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

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Bully Pulpit

The school year is now in full swing and kids are back in the daily grinds of school, and homework, and extra curricular activities.  But there is also a darker side to this.  While most kids just go about their days as normal, there are hundreds of kids out there that face a living hell each time they walk through the school doors as they are bullied and taunted endlessly by their peers.  In the month of September, at least 4-such incidences have been reported by the media  (there were probably even more than that) in which a kid (or a student) has committed suicide over the endless taunting and teasing over their sexual orientation… or perceived sexual orientation.

This is an ongoing problem that has no end.  Parents report problems to the schools and the schools don’t have a lot of options when it comes to it.  And other classmates usually don’t step in to help on the fear that they will be bullied next.  And the kids that are being bullied just haven’t developed a way to counter it.  They feel alone and isolated and in a hell they cannot escape from.

Even when I was in school, I, too, was bullied and teased.  The effects of such things still linger within me today.  But I learned how to cope with such things.  I kept to myself and quiet… and tried to always stay in the back.  The less I was noticed, the better it would be… though I couldn’t escape everything.  But I did survive such things, and I do know now that there would be better days ahead.  Elementary school, middle school, and high school can be some of the most turbulent times for today’s youth and it takes some tough skin to get through it.

Acceptance and tolerance are key things in this battle.  Though parts of these lessons can be learned at school, the main driving force behind these messages must come from the home.  It is up to the parents to instill these values within their children from a very early age.  Not everyone is going to be like you (act like you, look like you, etc), but that doesn’t give someone the right to pass judgment on that other person.  Think about it for a moment… the way you are judging someone else might be the way someone else is judging you.  You know that you wouldn’t like it, so then why do it?

Bullying is not a new problem and even with anti-bullying legislation making its way through various state legislatures, it’s probably not going to go away anytime soon.  But we can give the school the resources to help out… to make sure that the kids have a safe place to go and someone to talk to… and maybe get action to be taken.  The tough skin that these kids need will develop once they start realizing that they are not alone in the world and that someone out there does care.  And if someone out there is reading this… “I CARE!  And you are not alone.”

There is a vast community out here that can and will assist anyone.  And if you, or someone you know needs help, there is a really good place to turn… The Trevor Project.  They have people standing by 24-hours a day to take your calls and help these kids get through these dark times.  Suicide is not the answer for any child… and it’s time we start making sure these kids realize that they are not alone.  After all, I care.  Do you?

The Trevor Project

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/

866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)  24-hours a day

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