Because ISIS Said So

By Rebecca McCauley Rench

I want my government and the people around me to make rational decisions based on science, not judgments based on belief, morality, or stereotypes. However, this is not the world I see when I turn on the news. The recent attacks on freedom through those pledged to ISIS – the Orlando nightclub massacre, the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino shooting – people unwilling or unable to think rationally about their actions have perpetrated all these. They have committed atrocities in the name of a religion, a group, or cause without contemplating the simple question of “Why?”. The most recent attack on Western values was committed by someone that grew up as a part of the culture. Omar Mateen was born in the United States and worked as a prison guard and security officer, jobs that require some commitment to protecting people, yet he was able to put that aside for the hate he felt towards a group of people. There is no rationality to that decision, only blind ignorance. There is no place for such ignorance in a rationale society, yet it persists in our country and around the world.

In the United States of America, we stand on doctrine that government is for the people, by the people, but have we spent time ensuring that those people act rationally? We have all had a hand in creating an environment where people do what they are told without thought. The best example of values and principles of a culture can be easily seen in the interaction with children. Children are nearly blank canvasses with which those around them instill values, knowledge, and expectations. However, we do not drive our children towards a future where they are taught to question those lessons. We stamp the question of “Why?” out of our children through our callous, lazy, and stupid answer: “Because I said so.” How can we expect our children to grow to adulthood and be able to question the rhetoric around them, preventing them from being drawn into hate speech, if we do not teach them to think critically? Perhaps our children would be better off in the hands of Siri, Alexa, or OK Google – those willing to respond with the answer to their best of their knowledge regardless of how many times it has been asked before, how tired they are, or how irritated they may be. If we don’t begin to take our role as parents, mentors, and thought leaders responsibly, the future may be better off in robotic hands.

Leadership

by Paul Syers

Two nights ago, the President gave his third televised address from the Oval office.  Given the important location and format, the country took notice, expecting a bold plan of action, hoping for stirring words from a strong leader to stir a change of national or global scale. 

The President’s address wasn’t that — it certainly wasn’t anything memorable — which made me feel the pang of the absence of great leadership in this country right now. 

Can the role of a good leader really be appreciated enough? Some famous leaders happened to fall into leadership roles, riding the crest of a wave of change that was going to happen with or without their presence.  Some leaders create great change through their own will.  It is most evident in their absence.  The movement they built begins to falter and die off soon after their death.  Their mark on the world is mainly from the momentum they build while they are on this earth.  The empire that Alexander the Great built fell apart quickly after he passed. Apple changed a number of different industries (computers, phones, music, etc.) with Steve Jobs at the helm, and since his death it has slid to merely following the pack. Amazon is another singular giant in its industry, expanding from online commerce to microelectronics, and now they have overtaken SpaceX in the race to re-use launch rockets. 

Complex problems may end up being solved, but true leaders often act like catalysts to produce a solution far faster.  Everyone agrees that a solution to the fight against ISIS exists – for the survival of free thought, it must – but everyone also agrees that finding and implementing the solution is complex.  The solution will almost certainly involve a coordinated effort amongst the world’s major powers, but current circumstances make that unlikely. We need the catalyst of a true leader: someone with the will, gravitas, and mind to hold the coalition together and steer it with a singular purpose.

I hoped that Obama’s address would be an announcement to do just that.  With those hopes dashed, I’m looking for another way to do SOMETHING; I’m looking for a plan B.  In the absence of a truly great leader, here’s a radical idea, harness the talents of someone with a forceful will: Putin.  No one can deny that he has exerted his singular will in his own country and increasingly abroad as of late. 

Many may see him as just another tyrant, but France, Great Britain, and the U.S. allied with Stalin during WWII, so there is precedent.  Granted, the aftermath of that took us into the Cold War, so making such a similar choice today would have significant risks.  It’s not an ideal solution.  I’d much prefer a different leader, but in the absence of one, maybe we need to go with plan B.

Another Sad Day

By Charles Mueller

I woke up today to news that 14 people were shot dead at a holiday party in San Bernardino, California.  Another tragedy on American soil, another morning waking up to terror.  Every time it happens I feel the same way; I become angry, sad, scared and confused.  This isn’t supposed to happen in America.  This isn’t supposed to be part of our narrative.  We are not supposed to live in a country where the risk of being shot or blown up is something real that we have to learn to manage our lives around.  Yet, this is our new reality.  This is becoming our new narrative.  And we have terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh as well as domestic terrorists like Dylan Roof and these people in San Bernardino to thank for this.

When bombs go off in Beirut or people are gunned down in Egypt, we don’t respond the same as we do to the shootings that took place in Paris or any of the most recent mass shootings here at home.  We don’t respond the same because it is part of our narrative that regions in the Middle East are unstable and crazy things are supposed to happen there.  Those regions of the world have many people who don’t live by the code of rational thought, they live more by the code of the holy text.  It is “normal” for people in these regions to do crazy things due to their religious beliefs.  Crazy things aren’t supposed to happen here though, we are supposed to live in a stable country full of rational people who would never dream of killing the innocent.  That is what is supposed to make this country great.  The idea that we can put so many people, with so many different religions in the same place and nobody kills each other over their beliefs.  At one point in time that thought was revolutionary.  Now it seems we may be taking that world we’ve fought so hard to create for granted.  We have lost control over our narrative and now we are being forced to live in a world dictated by fear, a world controlled by terrorism.

Our narrative is tied to what we believe is possible. The greatest motivator to change one’s beliefs is fear inspired by real events.  This is the goal of terrorism.  To use fear to change our beliefs, to make us feel like we aren’t safe, to remind us that every day could be our last.  When we as a people begin to believe this myth, they have won, they have taken control of our narrative even if they aren’t ruling our lands.  There is only one way to get it back and that is to unite, to reignite our own myth that we can come together and make the world a safe, stable and free place full of opportunity for everyone.  Right now though, it is hard to find the leadership to unite us like this.  We have leaders arguing over the wrong things, forgetting who the real enemies are and taking us down a road that only leads to chaos.  If fear is the greatest motivator, then we need to be fearful not that we might die, but that our children’s children will not grow up in a world with free thought.

 

Tragedies like what took place yesterday in San Bernardino are becoming normal; they are becoming part of our narrative.  People are beginning to expect things like this and those in Paris to happen.  This is what groups like Daesh want, this is the world they want to create and when they have finally destroyed our world, they will continue the fight with each other to figure out which illogical, irrational form of governance should rule the world.  We have to unite, we have to come together around the world and take back the narrative.  The only thing terrorists fear is our unity because they know what that means. Free thought, opportunity, equality, these are all things worth fighting for.  We might not want to recognize it, but right now we are in a fight to keep these ideals alive.  The more we act like we aren’t, the more we act like these things will just “go away”, the more we adopt this new myth of terror and fear, the more we lose the dream of the free world.  We aren’t in a war with terrorism, if anything we are in a war for our freedom.

The Choice of the Governed

by Rebecca McCauley Rench

Government by Science propels us into the future. In a system driven by imagination and innovation, you create a society that is enlightened, educated, and full of potential. We can take in the knowledge of our current situation, think about how this can be used to create a better world, and see what happens when we try. This is the fundamental idea of the United States of America.

Government by Religion traps us in the past. Religion holds the thoughts and ideas of the past as truths to never be questioned. In the 7th century, after the Prophet Mohammed passed, a caliphate was established to rule. This is what Daesh is trying to re-create in the Middle East. A society dictated by the past without the ability to evolve and adapt.

Lessons From History

Paul Syers

The events unfolding in the Middle East in recent months have gotten many people questioning if we’ve reached the precipice of World War III. This immediately conjures memories of the last World War. Is Daesh like the Nazis? They both fit the description of an organization with an extreme ideology based on external control instead of reason and thought, taking territory and bent on the total destruction of an entire way life. We make comparisons to history in hopes of recognizing the faults of the past and avoiding them. In the most recent rise in tensions between Russia and Turkey I see a lesson that comes not from WWII, but from WWI.

These parallels between WWI and today’s conflict have been noticed by others and are few and broad, but the common thread is that larger powers got distracted by smaller interests and lost the larger perspective. They used alliances to escalate a small event and get pulled into a much larger conflict with each other.

The tangled set of alliances that evolved in the fight against Daesh as well as the fight over control of Syria and Iraq has begun to shake the modern balance of powers. Things were strained when Russia began bombing U.S. aided rebels in Syria. Most recently, tensions have escalated between Turkey, backed by NATO, and Russia. We cannot make the same mistakes of a century ago and let the differing national interests of Russia, Syria, Turkey, the US, and the European powers create and escalate more conflicts. It poses a needless danger and it distracts us from the real enemy, which is Daesh and the extreme ideology that terrorist organization spreads.

Syria, the U.S., Russia, France, Turkey and other nations involved need not suddenly become close allies, but they should start focusing on the bigger picture and the end-game, which is stamping an ideology that does not allow freedom of thought.

A twisted strength of Daesh is that it has a unified message and set of goals. Sadly, I can’t say the same thing about the combined actions of the international community in recent months. Putting individual national interests aside, focusing on the end game and coordinating efforts to reach it should be our top priority in the war against terrorism. A coordinated effort will make it easier to provide an overwhelming force without forcing a single nation to provide all those resources. The world needs a global, united strategy if we are to defeat not only the fighters of Daesh, but also their mindset.

I Want What ISIS Wants

Rebecca McCauley Rench

I want what ISIS wants. ISIS wants the smartest and the brightest to be a part of their caliphate. I want the smartest and the brightest fleeing the borders of Syria and Iraq to be on our side, fighting ISIS every step of the way.

Albert Einstein. Sergey Brin. Nikola Tesla. What do these people have in common? They were not Americans at birth, but rather became Americans. We are a great nation because of those that came before us—immigrants. We accepted these great minds and hard workers into the United States because we welcomed all those with the drive and ambition to make it to our country. In the modern era, immigration to the USA has become burdensome and there are many calls to limit the number of immigrants even further.

Year: 1776 Population: 2.5 million Status: Unstable, rebel colony

From the time our Constitution was drafted until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the U.S.A. had an open door policy for immigration. With a total population that barely exceeded modern-day West Virginia, and the close of the Revolutionary War, it was a no-brainer to let people in. We needed these daring explorers to help us conquer our new country. If you came to the United States before 1882, you were welcome to be here. Ellis Island, opened in 1892, was our government’s call for immigration reform when they asked those entering to simply sign a book and swear an oath. Why do we insist on having a different system in place today? Shouldn’t becoming an American citizen be as easy as getting a birth certificate?

Year: 1924 Population: 114 million Status: Post-WWI

Almost 150 years after the founding of our country, like much of the world, our population has swelled to 45x its Revolutionary War population. This was due both to immigration and advances in health and medicine. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924 which instituted quotas based on the current percentage of the U.S. population of that nationality. This law was extremely biased towards those of European descent and like so many other immigration laws in our history was based on prejudice. With most of the war refugees coming from Europe in the mid-twentieth century, the USA took in our fair share of refugees. With the prosperity of the US being what it is, why wouldn’t we take in more refugees, often the best and the brightest of their country, today?

Year: 1965 Population: 194 million Status: World Power on the Rise

The U.S. took another turn in its immigration policy by implementing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. This law negated the quota system based per country of origin and allowed immigration on the basis of worldwide quotas and the specific circumstances and career of the immigrant. This is the immigration policy that remains in place today with the addition of the US Patriot Act, which allows for deportation and barred immigration of individuals connected with terrorism. While there are often addendums passed to take in certain numbers of refugees, we lose some of our best minds that come to the USA for higher education. Why send those away that are the best and the brightest when they would rather stay here? Every person we take in is a person that is a person to fight against ISIS and one they can’t recruit.

Year: 2015 Population: 319 million Status: World Power

While bringing cultures together is never easy, immigrants helped build our railroads and skyscrapers. They mined our coal and created a new life for themselves and their families. Most people that call themselves Americans today are the descendants of those people who dared to come to this country. With every individual that we bring into the American fold, the U.S.A. grows stronger economically and socially as we become diverse and expand our knowledge-base. With our abundance of resources and land, we should welcome these explorers just like our own ancestors were enticed by lands and riches.

You will hear Presidential candidates speak about securing our borders as a first step in immigration policy, but you should ask yourself if there is a need to keep these people out. Harkening back to the day of signing the book at Ellis Island, immigrants should simply be required to be documented without the need for quotas or bureaucratic procedures. When we are born in this country, we are registered with a birth certificate and social security number. Shouldn’t the process of being “born” into America be the same regardless of where you came from? Change in our society and culture is inevitable and we should embrace that change with open arms and open doors to the shining city on the hill.

Too Many Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Paul Syers

The event in Roseburg, Oregon yesterday has once again shocked this nation. While the actions of the gunman have terrorized an entire community and, arguably, the nation, calling him a terrorist misses an important point: he was mentally ill.

Terrorism is different from mental illness. A terrorist is often someone who has been corrupted by an organization that preys upon his or her grief and frustration to brainwash that person into believing their twisted viewpoint. Examples include the RAF in Germany, the IRA in the 1990’s, Eric Rudolph, Al Quaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram, etc. Terrorists, and the mentally ill, can both commit mass murder atrocities. Preventing both types of people from getting to that point, however, requires two different types of action. Our government has taken action to identify and protect us from one of these types, but it has clearly not done enough with respect to the other type.

I find it a huge and telling problem that there are more people with mental illness in prison than in mental institutions. Our default policy is to react to the actions of untreated mentally ill people, send them to prison, and then give them treatment, which may or may not help. A reactive policy is too late.

In moving forward after this tragedy, we ask the question, what can we do to change things? Enacting common sense gun control laws would address a symptom, but does not get at a major cause of these tragedies. The Roseberg case, as well as other related tragedies, can only be prevented by both providing more resources to identify people with serious mental illness, and ensuring that those people and their families receive the help that they need.