When Did the American Eagle become the Cowardly Lion?

When did we become so afraid? A country born in revolution, tested by a civil war, and bloodied on the battlefields of the Ardennes, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Chosin Reservoir, Hue, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

When did this country, blended of people from all over the world, the sum of the parts being greater than the whole, lose its heart?

When did this country, once willing to risk everything in its pursuit of democracy, once challenging itself to put a man on the moon, once serving as a beacon to the world, willing to bear the brunt of supporting the rights of all to be free, become afraid?

Are we so fearful of our inability to sustain and protect ourselves that we would turn our back on the downtrodden and oppressed?

Those who have been born here often forget the words that greet those who came here through the gateway of Ellis Island…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Are these words that have inspired millions to risk it all for the opportunities of freedom meaningless?

Are they just words?

The opportunities of freedom so cherished by this country bear an obligation. Those that embrace freedom for themselves must be willing to bear the burden of supporting those that seek freedom.

I was raised to believe in an America that stood for something. An America that was willing to put actions to words and fight for all those that seek freedom and against those that would oppress us.

The Syrian refugees are the latest in a long line of oppressed seeking help. The idea that the United States of America is incapable of extending our protections to them as well as protecting ourselves from those forces of oppression is disheartening.

Xenophobia is a fever which has plagued mankind since the dawn of time. We are better than that. We are smarter than a bunch of illiterate zealots masking their craving of power with a distorted view of Islam. The very idea that we need to deny freedom from oppression to thousands of refugees because it involves risk is pathetic.

Where is our American pride? Where is our courage to do what is right, not because it is easy, but because it is hard?

Where has the America I grew to love, respect, and believe in gone?

I am not a religious person. I often poke fun at religion, but it is only because of the certainty which some of the faithful promote the particular faith. No one has a lock on the truth, but everyone is entitled to choose their belief, without compelling others to adopt this.

The Islamic terrorists misuse religion in their quest for power. We are smarter, stronger, tougher, and better than that.

There’s a line from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye- “If Christ could see Christmas, he’d puke….”

I dare say if Mohammed could see what’s being done in his name, and our fear to do something about that, he’d have the same reaction.

A thousand years from now, if mankind can survive, those studying our history will remember more what we failed to do, than what we chose to do.

The America I love is better than that.

 

Roots of Evil

The recent attacks in Paris have triggered the usual expressions of sympathy which inevitably give way to calls for visiting great harm upon those who perpetrate these acts.

The sympathetic responses are, for the most part, sincere yet tempered by the calls for vengeance. In any case, they miss the point.

In the west, with its predominantly Judeo-Christian population, the inevitable attributing of the blame on Islam ensues. There are voices within these faiths that call for peace, but a significant number of the Christian faithful would gladly pull the trigger on a Muslim target, given the opportunity, simply because it is a Muslim target. Yet are shocked and quick to condemn similar behavior on the part of some Muslims.

These attacks, if they are promulgated on an interpretation of the Quran which mandates the elimination of the “Kafir”, or unbelievers, underscore the inherent dangers of religion.

Christianity is not wholly innocent in these matters. They had their Crusades. The difference being at some point the enlightenment took place. Relegating religion to a personal matter; slowly eliminating any dominant religious influence so as to have no place in government.

It took centuries for that to happen, yet I fear we still are plagued with the last vestiges of such influences.

I do not understand the rationale of those that insist on a Judeo-Christian based government here, yet fear a similar religious, albeit Islamic, based government somewhere else. The idea of government, with its inherent ability to impose restrictions on behavior, being based on any religious tenets is frightening.

What would our reaction be to a nuclear armed Islamic state? Abject terror, I have no doubt. Why? Because we fear they would use such power to further their cause.

Isn’t that what some “Christians” among us have urged our government to do?

Either way, it is not good for the world.

Those who call for visiting violence on others by virtue of their beliefs miss the contradiction in such an attitude.

Religion is not the problem or the cause of the problem. It is a tool. Used by some to maintain control. If all religion was taken out of the picture, these things would still happen; with some other motivation to spark them. The conditions are the same, the terms would be different.

Those that deny free and open discourse for all people do so to promote the power of one religion to control their people.  A religion they choose.

The west, through the availability of education (although less and less valued it would seem), has learned to mitigate the influence of religion to control the masses through the power of government.

It is an indisputable fact that the higher the educational level, the less religiosity.

I am not advocating the abolition of religion. I know many sincere believers who temper their faith with reason when it comes to interpretation of writings such as the Bible, the Talmud, and the Quran. I am advocating the application of reason to our response to violence in the name of religion.

Imposing the superiority of one religion over another does not solve the problem, it prolongs it.

If we are unwilling to address the underlying causes of the problem, i.e. poverty, unemployment, lack of education, treatment of women as property, we will forever be combatting the symptoms.

Our acquiescence to the conduct of our allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel (heresy I know, however because they are more aligned with the Judeo part does not make them blameless in their denial of civil rights), is a big part of the problem.

The issues here are not as simple as some politicians would have you believe. We do not own the morally superior ground here. These are complex issues, requiring complex solutions which will never happen if we ignore the reality.

It is not the correctness of any one religion that offers a solution, it is the willingness to accept all faiths as entitled to equal treatment.

Faith is not fact. Hold your faith as you see fit, do not deny others the same. If there is such a thing as one true faith, but you were led down the wrong path by parents or guardians or accident of birth, I think an all-powerful god can figure out the quality of your character without resorting to totaling up how many non-believers you tried to kill.

Those who committed these attacks, those who committed the attacks on 9/11, those who insist on imposing their way of life on others are the problem.

I am not naive. These attacks need to be met with sufficient force to stop them. However, the threat or application of force is not the solution to preventing them.

Open access to freedom of expression, freedom of religion, and freedom from religion is the only solution.

Changing someone’s faith, or eradicating such beliefs, cannot be accomplished  with bombs and missiles.

It can only be solved by tolerance, understanding, a willingness to listen