What’s Our Greatest Threat? Global Warming? Terrorists? Red Cups?

2015 has been a socio-political maelstrom, with terrorism events scattered between occurrences of corruption, police brutality, a relaxed Cuban embargo. nuclear deals, assassinations, same-sex marriage, pot legalization, gun control, state-sponsored hacking and surveillance, state bankruptcy, relaxation of China’s one child policy and a massive refugee exodus from Syria and its surrounds.

Oh… mustn’t forget Starbucks’ alleged war on Christmas, as heralded by their new plain red cup. <insert facepalm here>

That’s certainly not an exhaustive list of the issues that have had social media channels smoking over the last year — there are plenty of other issues that surfaced. Many were driven by the upcoming U.S. Presidential campaign, with a few even driven by Canada’s recent selection of a new Prime Minister. Mass shootings fired the gun control debate, and fostered plenty of conspiracy theories and alarmist postings of the upcoming “police state”. The climate change debate continues, as does our continual pollution of our environment, and all the above are addressed with a great deal of emotion. Often, more emotion than reason.

Who’s the Enemy?

All in all, not an auspicious year, folks. It brings to mind one of Walt Kelly’s most memorable Pogo lines: “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

Truer words were never spoken, in many regards.

On that note, let me talk a little about knowing who the real enemy is. While I certainly hold the opinion that we are often our own worst enemy, let’s look beyond that, to our recognized enemy (after all, few of us are likely to acknowledge our own idiosyncrasies) . A couple of misguided politicians’ statements notwithstanding, I would say our greatest enemy, at present, is terrorism and those that practice it. There are plenty of others, and some of them may even exacerbate the terrorism, but it is the burgeoning direct threat.

Threats beget fear, and fear tends to beget prejudice… whether based upon race, gender, sexuality, national origin or the color of one’s eyes. With a number of highly visible terrorist events each month, particularly recently, it’s understandable that we’re concerned. As of November 27th, there were already 409 official deaths in November alone, attributed to terrorists or mass murderers (plus several perpetrators) in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Western Europe.

Consequently, people are frightened, enraged or both. Emotions run high, and many are taking a dogmatic stance for or against accepting the millions of Syrian refugees that have fled Syria in the wake of genocidal attacks. Comments online range from “WWJD?” to “Nuke ’em all!”

So I think the fact that we’re concerned is natural…. what’s important is whether we’re concerned about the right things. Are we concerned about whether we’re reaping what we sowed? We created these terrorist groups. Are we concerned about how many new terrorist recruits we’ve created by bombing cities more or less indiscriminately? Has it not occurred to anyone that every bomb dropped engenders more hate and rage, driving more “moderates” into the Daesh ranks?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m neither a pacifist nor an apologist… if all the terrorists were gathered in one spot, with no innocents among them, I’d be the first to cheer for a napalm run. But they aren’t all in one spot. And they’re certainly not alone. So that option should be off the table. We’re likely to find “winning their hearts and minds” pretty difficult at this point, too, if it was even ever possible. I’m not sure what the right answer is, or even if there is a right answer anymore. But it’s pretty clear to me that what we’re doing now isn’t working.

The hole’s deep enough… it’s time to stop digging!

My Outlook

It’s a study in human behavior… some encouraging, some decidedly discouraging. Never having been a fan of -isms, I have found myself wondering “Why was I following this person?” or “Is this someone I really want to consider a friend?”

At the same time, I’ve been pleased to see some people stepping up, speaking in a voice of reason. Those are the folks I want to follow and build relationships with… folks that think for themselves, rather than following the crowd… folks that realize that courage isn’t not being afraid, it’s doing the right thing, even when you are afraid… folks that look at others for what they do, not what someone else did, that happens to share the same religion, skin color or nationality. It matters less to me that we agree with each other than that they’re doing their own thinking.

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