How We Should Respond to the New Terrorism

5:30p Wednesday night. That’s enough planning of the new class for school principals that begins in February. My night to make dinner. The Good Wife will be home in an hour. I can make an amazing salad in 30 minutes easy peasy.

How to burn the spare thirty? Obs, college basketball, but the games aren’t that compelling and you can only watch the Property Brothers so much. Surfing, surfing, how ’bout some pre-dinner self flagellation. Fox News.

And then it happens. . . today’s brilliant idea hits me with just 4+ hours to spare. There are two steps the U.S. and the West more generally should take in response to the new terrorism.

1st—Spend one night carefully watching Sean Hannity and other Fox “News” show segments that directly address recent events in Paris.

2nd—Do the exact opposite of what they advocate.

Railing about how the Obama administration and the US always coddles Muslims, the angry men on Sean Hannity’s panel were equal parts fearful and hateful. They demonstrated no knowledge of young French Muslims’ life experiences nor did they have any interest in the larger context of radicalism.

Consequently, they didn’t spend any time discussing prevention. Given the chance, they’d probably banish me to a Caribbean Island max security prison for even suggesting historical context matters. Because that’s probably a form of coddling. Now, as I write, Bill O’Reilly is lionizing the Moroccan-born mayor of Rotterdam who said Muslim immigrants who do not appreciate the way of life in Western civilisations can ‘f*** off’.

Instead of watching Fox News, we should listen to the French secondary school teachers in the suburbs of Paris. For a decade plus they have been trying to tell the French public that the alienated youth they teach are especially susceptible to radicalism. Despite being born in France, they don’t feel French. Many of their frustrations are born of institutional racism and religious persecution. The French government is so committed to secularism that it’s unwilling to accommodate hardly any of their religious practices.

Alienation is no justification for the horrific violence of last week. Worth repeating. Alienation is no justification for the horrific violence of last week, but a Rotterdam Mayor/Fox News mix of fear and hate will only make matters worse. To mitigate the problem governments have to think and act counterintuitively. Instead of succumbing to paralyzing fear and hate and the revenge it breeds, we have to be way smarter than anyone on Fox News about the underlying causes of radicalism. The more we think of this as a century long battle for the hearts and minds of young Muslims worldwide, than a ten or twenty year contest of military might, the better.

We need courage to reject the simple, fearful, hateful diatribes of the Rotterdam Mayor and Fox News. “An eye for an eye,” Ghandi said, “makes the whole world blind.”

Cry Freedom

I was running with a friend one early morning recently when he started complaining about the gradual, seemingly inevitable, decline of freedom in the U.S. It takes a whole village, government intrusion, I’ve heard it all before, but this time I snapped.

“FOR EXAMPLE?” “Well, making fast food restaurants list the calorie count for every item on their menus.” “Wow, that is egregious, giving consumers more information to make better decisions. Maybe we should go into grocery stores and remove the same nutritional information from all the canned goods and other items. What else?” “Forcing people to wear helmets.”

I guess he’s correct, if by freedom we mean more specifically the right to eat crap without knowing it and the right to crack our heads open when we fall off our bicycles and motorcycles.

Then over breakfast, I kicked on National Public Radio and listened to Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera’s story. Nabagesera has just been awarded an international human rights award for fighting for LGBT rights in Uganda where homosexuality is illegal. Earlier this year, her closest colleague, David Kato, was killed, most people believe, for being openly gay.

And then we have the stirring examples of Tunisian, Egyptian, Yemenis, and Syrian democracy protestors willing to die so that their fellow citizens might have the right to assemble, vote, and speak freely.

The U.S. is imperfect, but thanks to our constitution, we can assemble, vote, and speak freely about our right to eat crappy food and crack our heads open. And we can choose where and how to live, work, worship, and raise our children.  We can criticize our elected officials without fear of reprisal and we can tweet and blog until our heart’s content.

Maybe Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly should lead an Arab Awakening tour abroad so that my right wing nutter friend and his friends can better appreciate the freedom they seemingly take for granted.