Easy Answers

Yesterday during my commute, I kept pushing down an insidious thought. This train would be a perfect target for a terror attack. Hundreds packed in a small space. Strangers sharing elbows and hips, playing personal space tetris while *always* staring at their phones. Most en route to a tech job.

An attack would be highly visible, fear inducing, and damaging to the transportation infrastructure for millions. It’d be perfect.

These are our thoughts now. More bombs, knifings and shootings from “lone wolfs” or “cells” or “radicals.” Every week. Around the world and close to home. There’s a pervading numbness with a creeping fear that follows. It’s a fear that can seek easy answers to incredibly complex problems.

Easy answers quickly become xenophobic with 140 characters of inciting speech. Case in point: this week’s Skittles comment from Trump Jr. Skittles strangely taking center stage on many national topics. Jr.’s easy answer? Stop immigration, especially from predominantly Muslim countries. The few extremists muddy the many and as such, all are bad.

A more difficult exploration of the most recent terror attacks: 80% of these terrorists are American citizens or legal permanent residents. Many are born here, which is counterintuitive to current Trumpsplaining.

Their profiles are seemingly on repeat, after every attack. Homegrown terrorists are typically friendly, quiet, young men, whom you’d never expect to engage in violence. Neighbors are always aghast at their involvement. They are recently radicalized and new to religion in general. This fact is often lost on mainstream media. They’re usually isolated or marginalized in some way and may be experiencing mental health issues.

We then see anti-Muslim sentiment emerge across the Nation. This of course, perpetuates an ecosystem of isolation to radicalization. More fear. More xenophobia. More isolation. More radicalization. More terror. Rinse repeat.

There is no watch list for the depressed and disenfranchised.

Our politicians are not talking about this; it’s not a pithy bulletin point to rally around. A wall is though. It’s not amorphous like mental health, radicalization, or disconnectedness. A wall is concrete. A barrier to entry. Immigration: just say no.

The irony of course is that a wall would increase the profits and thus reach, of a bigger problem that we’re not talking about: the cartels and heroin epidemic gripping the Nation. Cartels like the CJNG, aka the ISIS of Mexico, so named for their violent tactics at getting what they want. And they want America with our $100B+ national addiction to illegal drugs.

Prescribed opioid abuse is endemic right now and it’s a pathway to heroin, with deadly mixtures of fentanyl and carfentanil in the mix. 50,000+ Americans are dying per year from overdoses; I don’t know any other terrorist cell claiming that type of national carnage.

Yet, we don’t talk about these things on the national stage. Addiction, disease, vulnerability, shame.

Campaigns talk about “Battleground Ohio” and yet those that live there understand it’s a horrific battle they’re fighting. One that they’re losing. ​Ohio is the epicenter of this drug crisis, driven by cartels and it’s decimating entire communities.

We want farm to table, locally sourced (Can I meet the chicken?) lives but we don’t question where these drugs come from and who we are supporting. These cartels also traffic young women and kill students and basically anyone that gets in their way.

Somehow, we assign criminality to Mexico without accountability. “We need a wall!” Our people support these cartels to the tune of billions of dollars, putting our budgets where our values are not.

Mexico and America are partners in this problem, as well as history. No wall can change that. History is the context of every issue we’re facing today, like Kaepernick and his offensive knee. So many are outraged at his gesture, usually on behalf of patriotism. American patriotism prides itself on fighting against injustice.

Black America has an undeniable legacy of experiencing injustice. That’s not opinion. We literally have 200 years of public policy and laws pointed towards harming black society. This is our history and as such, stigmatizing racism is systemic today.

It shows up in many different ways with the most basic of human rights at the forefront: life. Black America is scared that their lives do not matter and the data supports this fear. They’re eight times more likely than white Americans and 12 times more likely than the average person in a developed country to be murdered. Inalienable rights are not to be haphazardly applied.

We all should “take a knee” to explore what is actually happening around our country. At the very least, we can be curious and open to grappling with the difficulty of this issue. Yes-all lives matter. That’s easy. We’re focusing on the ones that are most vulnerable, right now. The patterns of injustice that habitually show up.

I hope at the debate, our candidates deep dive into the complexity of the issues and our collective attention spans allow for it. None of this is easy.

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