Both Are Vital
On November 13 and for several days, we were all glued to our TVs watching and listening to reports from Paris. It was sad what happened and what will continue to occur in the future in France and other countries. This will be the new normal for all of us.
I was teaching two world religion classes and posted some thoughts that I had in the aftermath of the terrorist killings. I told them that when I was their age, America was living with the Cold War. I can recall being a sophomore away at college during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I wasn't sure what would happen to our country and the rest of the world during those last two weeks in October 1962. I was not certain that I would have Thanksgiving dinner with my family that year. Even worse, many Americans were concerned about having a family alive after a nuclear missile exchange with the USSR.
No longer are we in a Cold War with the USSR; now, we are facing ISIS, al-Qaeda, and similar groups. I outlined for my classes a couple of things that I wanted to discuss with them. At least from my perspective, there were two strange blessings that have emerged as a result of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
My first thought was that the rest of the world, including America, would respond. We will become more involved and invested in some form of military response. Therefore, while we would have preferred to deal with these militant jihadists differently, ISIS had crossed the Rubicon.
Interestingly, in the midst of the carnage, someone moved a piano onto the street in front of the Bataclan Theater and began playing John Lennon's Imagine.
My second thought that I wanted my classes to understand was that there are within our world individuals that we call the crazies. Every country has some crazies. We have them here in the States. We can't stop the crazies. However, we must address the reason for countries like France that have 30,000+ militant French Muslim nationals involved in groups like ISIS. They aren't all the crazies.
Further, we should be thinking about what caused normal Muslims, who are mostly young men, to join groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. We need to determine what happened in their lives to cause them to join the crazies within the Muslim world. If we don't, we will be doing what George Santayana warned us about when he said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
I have no problem with the West responding to the Muslim terrorists. I'll support what we and the rest of the West decide as a response. However, we must also address the causes for so many Muslims engaged in terrorism while they are creating their caliphate. This is more important than merely going to war and killing some terrorists.
There are reasons, many reasons, for the large number of disgruntled Muslims in France and in other countries. We need to think about why so many are willing to die for their cause. We need to address stopping the terrorist attacks, but we need to diagnosis and treat the underlying problem, what caused the terrorists in the first place.
If we don't, history will repeat itself again and again. Unfortunately, we, in the West, have created many of the reasons for Muslim extremism. After WWI, the West, meaning Britain and France, divided up the Middle East. The UK created Iraq. The creation of Israel and what is still happening to the Palestinians made things even worse. The Shah of Iran came to power via US and UK support, which continued until 1979 ushered in Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian Revolution.
We need to respond to the terrorism, but if that is all that we address, history will continue to repeat itself ad infinitum.
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