Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Think for yourself...

Before I go off on a rant about current events, I would like to say Thanks to our troops for keeping us safe globally and Thanks to our first responders (all levels of law enforcement, fire and EMS) for keeping us safe locally.

Also, I would like to thank the elite troops who did 'what needed to be done' in Pakistan.

Personally, I would have liked to have seen them capture bin Laden rather than kill him, but I also understand that in this type of operation, that is not always possible. The down-side is that now radicals will proclaim him a martyr and fight in his name.

I know that capturing him would not likely net any real 'intelligence' on how to find other radicals. I wouldn't expect bin Laden to 'give anyone up'. But the real intel that could have been acquired is a better understanding of what goes on in the mind of the radicals and why they think what they think.

Obviously they have a misunderstanding of us. (As we likely misunderstand them.) They find our capitalist ways unacceptable. For over two hundred years other cultures have seen our system and those who understand have incorporated it into their own. But those poor radicals have been brainwashed into believing some warped concept of our culture. So warped, that they want to destroy our way of life.

If we could help them to better understand our lifestyle, then even if they are not interested in incorporating it into their own lives... at least they will know we are not evil, and hopefully not feel the need to destroy us.

Understanding differences is the best way to define the problem. And a problem well defined is half solved.

The knee-jerk reaction to the news of Osama bin Laden's death is reminiscent of 'W' Bush's proclamation on September 12, 2001 that "We are at war!" I find it irresponsible and inflammatory.

And even though I don't always agree with President Obama's policies, I appreciate his 'It had to be done and so we did it' approach. He was careful not to gloat and not to indiscriminately blame Muslims or Pakistanis or Afghanis, etc. Just radical extremists. Thank you for that.

But the crowds in the streets making such a 'Big Deal' about it, gives the radicals the satisfaction of thinking that they are making progress in their cause because it is affecting us.

Don't get me wrong. Finding bin Laden is a 'Big Deal'... but dancing in the streets is probably not the best or most effective action for us to take.

I mostly blame the news media for their lame 'sound bite' philosophy. It creates a bit of a 'mob mentality'. People really do feel safety in numbers. People tend to get caught up in the excitement of the mob and do or say things they never would on their own (looting, street fights, etc.). Even in this situation, people say things like, "Kill the bastard" or "Off with his head". Safe things to say in a mob of people.

The reality of it is... most people, gun in hand, would not choose to take the life of another human being. Most people, machete in hand, would find it difficult to hack off the head of another human being.

But imagine that same person surrounded by an angry or enthusiastic crowd yelling, "Do it! Do it!" That might be all the empowerment needed to perform an unspeakable act. There are many examples of mob mentality in our history. This Easter season reminds us of just such a mob two thousand years ago. "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"

Earlier in the day on Sunday, before the news of bin Laden's death, I met a man at my local sandwich shop. I saw him get out of his car and complimented him on his bumper sticker.

It read, "Bless the whole world".

He returned to his car, grabbed another bumper sticker and gave it to me. He told me that he bought 1000 of them about a year ago, and was giving them out to anyone who commented on it. When I asked how many he had left he said, "Almost the whole box."

I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

As our sandwiches were being made we had a great discussion about how people with "God bless America" bumper stickers surely mean well, but are unintentionally part of the problem.

One of these days I may write a post on how the words we use can inspire, inflame, degrade. How our words create emotion and how that emotion translates into action. Most people are not aware of the power of their words.

I met another interesting person today. As I was walking down the street I heard a small voice yell, "Hi!" I looked toward the voice and smiled. I waved and said, "Hi!" back.

"What's your name?" asked the small voice.

"Nick" I answered, "What's yours?"


"That's a beautiful name."

"Thank you." (Big smile.)

"It was nice to meet you, Eva" I said as I went on my way.

"It was nice to meet you, too."

It was refreshing to come face to face with five year old innocence (maybe four years old).

Last night's news extravaganza had no affect on young Eva's day to day life activities. Granted, it could be argued that the event made her future world a safer place, but the point I'm making is this:

Young Eva genuinely cared about making that human connection. I think she wanted to be my friend. She didn't care that I was different from her. She didn't see me as a scary old guy with long hair and a beard.

I'm not sure what was going through the mind of Eva's mom. She was parked on the side of the road and Eva was carrying on her side of our conversation from her car seat in the back.

I imagine that Eva's mom felt a mixture of embarrassment that Eva was yelling out the back window at a stranger; and pride that her daughter is so polite and well-spoken; and fear... that Eva is so fearless. (Note: I really am sporting long hair and a beard right now, so I am potentially a little scarier looking than usual.)

At what point do we make that switch from our natural desire to befriend everyone to becoming so fearful of others that we need to 'destroy Them, before They destroy Us'?

For that matter, at what point do we become 'Them' and 'Us'?

I hate to sound like Rodney King, but, "Can't we all just get along?"

I am a firm believer in standing up for my beliefs. But I make it a point to take the intellectual 'high road'. I choose to use words to debate the pro's and con's rather than use a fist or a gun to make 'Them' submit to my way of thinking.

The most important piece of information I want people to take from this post is this:

Think for yourself!

I have said it before and I will very likely say it again. Don't get wrapped up in 'sound bite' news or mob mentality. Really think for yourself.

If you think about the big picture of this situation and the consequences of it, and you still think that dancing in the streets is appropriate and the right thing to do... then dance away. You have my blessing. As long as you yourself have decided that it is right.

And one final thought. This quote was made by a man who stood up for what he believed and knew the fine art of thinking for himself. His quote is still relevant today:

"Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Think well.

Peace and Love,