Sunday, December 1, 2013

"Displaced Aggression:" Terrorism, Culture, and Assumptions

This isn't, as I've said before, a "political" blog.

I don't claim that a particular party or person is always right, or wrong; or believe that major problems are always the result of commie plots, capitalistic greed, or what the 'other' party is doing.

That doesn't make me "moderate." I have a well-defined point of view, and definite opinions. I try to limit my opinions to matters where I have at least some data to work with.

Looking for Reasons

I've run into folks who don't seem to have any doubts about why terrorism is a problem. Depending on who you ask, it's the fault of Muslims, American imperialism, news media, religion in general, or not having the 'right' party in Congress. That's overly-simplified, of course, and doesn't include all possibilities.

I don't think it's quite that simple. Anything having to do with human beings isn't, generally.

I do think that some Muslims are terrorists. So are some Christians, and folks with no particularly strong religious views. That doesn't mean that religion makes people want to kill other people: or that having religious beliefs keeps folks from acting badly.

Sadly, angry people seem to want reasons for being angry: other than what's actually frustrating them. Religion, national identity, economic status, and ancestry can be convenient canvases for folks desperately in need of a 'big picture' for their feelings. My opinion.

Folks who still yearn for a worker's paradise, or who sincerely believe that American corporations are responsible for the world's woes are a familiar part of America's cultural landscape. I don't think they are potential terrorists - - - but I'm getting ahead of myself.

This excerpt from a CNN talk show got me started on today's post:
FEINSTEIN

"I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community. And that is that the west is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and that the only thing that's going to solve this is Islamic Sharia law and the concept of the caliphate.

"And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it's not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well."
("Feinstein: 'Terror is up worldwide'," CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley transcript, CNN (December 1, 2013))

"Fundamentalists:" Accurate, But - - -

I don't like Feinstein's use of "fundamentalists" in this context. I think she's right, in the strictly dictionary meaning of the word fundamentalist: but in American culture that term can also refer to any Christian group or individual.

There are Christian fundamentalists, but not all Christians in America are fundamentalists. I'm Catholic, which by some Christian fundamentalist standards means that I'm not any sort of Christian, and that's not quite another topic. I've put links to posts in this and another blog near the end of this one, which may or may not be of interest.

Wrenching myself back to Feinstein, fundamentalists, and folks who kill other folks for 'religious' reasons -

Sincere, Maybe: Justified, No

I think many, but not all, of today's terrorists are folks who really believe that God wants them to kill 'unbelievers.' Many of these terrorists insist that they're the only true Muslims around: and are more likely to kill their neighbors for being insufficiently Islamic, than go to the trouble of killing Westerners.

Folks in Europe and on this side of the Atlantic aren't safe, as deaths before, during, and after 9/11 showed. That's partly because we live in a world where travel is fairly easy: and because an increasing number of folks in America are not WASPs and WASP wannabes.

This most certainly does not mean that I think America should repeat the grotesque mistake of rounding folks up for having the 'wrong' ancestors. I think I understand why FDR signed Public Law 100-383. I also think it was a mistake that took much too long to sort out.

Making 'looking like an Arab' an acceptable excuse for detaining someone makes as much sense as rounding up all the pale people in Oklahoma City, after the bombing. The folks who blew up the Alfred Murrah building apparently had ethnic and nationalistic motives: which doesn't make having European ancestors and living in America grounds for suspicion of terrorist tendencies.

Dealing With Difference

The Ku Klux Klan isn't the social and political force it once was in America, but a burning cross still occasionally shows up on the news. I think some iterations of the KKK are a useful example of how folks can use religion as a reason for hating outsiders.

That's more an indictment of human nature, I think, than a reason to distrust all spiritual beliefs.

Here's a sampling of how different folks express their religious beliefs:

From ''Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty'', 1926. Published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ. Copyright was not renewed.
(Pillar of Fire Church, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"From ''Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty'', 1926. Published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ...."

New York, NY, September 28, 2001 -- A view of the recovery operation underway from a roof adjacent to the World Trade Center. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo
(Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)
"...A view of the recovery operation underway from a roof adjacent to the World Trade Center. Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo." (September 28, 2001)


(From "The Pope and Children" (January 6, 2003), used w/o permission)
Some Catholic, carrying out standing orders: Matthew 25:31-46.

From the Days of Abram to Cable TV and Beer in One Generation

I've had personal experience with Christians who didn't distinguish between personal preference, cultural mores, and eternal principles. Folks who sincerely believe that God ordained that folks always act like the American middle class of the 1950s are more funny than dangerous: because they're not likely to kill you.

Other folks, equally convinced that God ordained that everyone should act they way they did in some village before they had Internet and cable: they don't always have inhibitions about enforcing their beliefs with an axe or a sword.

I'm strongly inclined to believe that we're looking at cultural values here, since many Muslims in places like Malaysia seem to have little trouble fitting into a global society. I doubt that every Muslim in Malaysia thinks the Petronas Towers were a good idea: but quite a few Americans of various beliefs are grumpy, too.

I do not think that feeling bad made it okay for white supremacists to kill people in Oklahoma City, any more than I think it's okay for folks to kill Americans because they miss the 'good old days.' I do think that we need to remember that some folks sincerely believe that killing others for being different.

Terrorists, whatever their motivation, are a real threat. Forgetting that, and 'defending' America against efforts to stop terrorists, is a bad idea.

So is forgetting that disagreeing with the government is not treason, too: and I've written about that before.

Related posts:

1 Excerpts from CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley transcript
CROWLEY
"The big question that's always asked, are we safer now than we were a year ago, two years ago? In general?"

FEINSTEIN
"I don't think so. I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that, the fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs, trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnatometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups that ever and there's huge malevolence out there."

CROWLEY
"So congressman, I have to say, that is not the answer I expected. I expected to hear, oh, we're safer. Do you agree?"

ROGERS
"Oh, I absolutely agree that we're not safer today for the same very reasons.

"So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it's getting more difficult because we see the al Qaeda as we knew it before is metastasizing to something different, more affiliates than we've ever had before, meaning more groups that operated independently of al Qaeda have now joined al Qaeda around the world, all of them have at least some aspiration to commit an act of violence in the United States or against western targets all around the world.

"They've now switched to this notion that maybe smaller events are okay. So if you have more smaller events than bigger events, they think that might still lead to their objectives and their goals. That makes it exponentially harder for our intelligence services to stop an event like that."

...

CROWLEY
"So, one of the things that the senator said was that there is more hatred out there, more - and why is that?"

FEINSTEIN
"I think there is a real displaced aggression in this very fundamentalist, jihadist, Islamic community. And that is that the west is responsible for everything that goes wrong, and that the only thing that's going to solve this is Islamic Sharia law and the concept of the caliphate.

"And I see more groups, more fundamentalists, more jihadists more determined to kill to get to where they want to get. So, it's not an isolated phenomenon. You see these groups spread a web of connections. And this includes North Africa, it includes the Middle East, it includes other areas as well."

CROWLEY
"Lots of times we look at kind of some of these splinter groups going, yeah, but their interest is local."

ROGERS
"And here's the - but here's the concern of that. Now, remember, you have somewhere near 25 states that have some failed level of governance, meaning they can't secure large spaces of their own country. Those are always attractive for safe havens when it comes to any terrorist organization. And we're finding they're taking advantage of that.

"So you see what's happening in a place like Syria where you have a pooling of al Qaeda members and affiliates of al Qaeda in a way we've never seen before at the level of numbers that we have never seen before, and here's the scary part of this, some thousands of people showing up to participate in that in their mind jihadist effort are westerners, meaning they have western passports.

"A percentage of them have already gone home, including the United States, by the way, is included in that western number. We are very, very concerned that these folks who have western paper have gone there, participated in combat events, are trained, are further radicalized, now have the ability to go back in western countries.

"We know that those–"

...
("Feinstein: 'Terror is up worldwide'," CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley transcript, CNN (December 1, 2013))

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Editing artifact? "ancestors grounds and living in America grounds for suspicion"

Wrong word: "everyone act they way they did in some village"

Stutter: "folks sincerely believe that that killing others"

Redundant: "So is forgetting that disagreeing with the government is not treason is a bad idea, too"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Multiple editing artifacts; and not so much a wrong word, as a missing one.

Found, fixed, and thanks!

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Blogroll

Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.