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Archive for the ‘Violence’ Category

God Help Us

Americans live in the most violent nation on earth. Forget the bloodied little boy in Aleppo. That’s warfare and innocents become collateral damage in warfare. I’m speaking of everyday activities, and I’m not talking just about the 21st Century. We have more prisons and more people incarcerated than any other nation on earth. While crime statistics are, supposedly, being reduced, we still kill, maim, rob, and rape at an absolutely astounding rate.

When one stops to think about it, ours is a history rife with violence. Ten years after the Pilgrims landed, one of its passengers, John Billington, was hanged for having shot and killed John Newscomen. The Pilgrims even codified what counted as a hanging offense; these included willful murder, forming a solemn compact with the devil by way of witchcraft, willful burning of ships or houses, sodomy, rape, and buggery, and adultery. By 1637, the settlers were already at war with the Pequot Indian tribe. In that year, a series of assaults on the Pequot’s resulted in an annihilation of the tribe with the few survivors being sold into slavery. A bit more than a century and a half later, settlers were at war with the British Empire, and we all know how that one turned out. Let me put that another way…we know that America became a nation because of that war, and we know that to win, the ‘rebels’ adopted some tactics that the British had not seen before. We’ve been told of how brutal the British were in their treatment of those they considered traitors, but I can’t help but believe that those on the other side were just as vicious.

We know that those who fought in war, be it that of 1812, the Spanish American, the War of Northern Aggression – I threw that in for my friends from the South – the first or second world wars or, oh hell, any war in which we’ve been involved, come home and are generally very quiet about what they did. “I just did my duty.” It wasn’t until 1980 that the American Psychiatric Association first used the term, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD), and yet, it goes without saying that members of the military suffered such a condition long before it was formally identified. Terms that had been previously used included “battle fatigue” and “thousand yard stare.” I prefer to look at it as “violence overload.” It is violence beyond what the human brain is able to comprehend.

However, it’s not just war that has bred violence in America. Violence has been fueled by immigration, overcrowding, and by poverty. We have not always been the nicest people when it comes to treating our immigrant populations with kindness. Just ask the English, Irish, and Germans who settled on New York’s Lower East Side shortly after the War of 1812. Violent gangs sprang up to both protect the ethnic groups and to attempt a grab at the American Dream. Little has changed from those early gangs other than that the violence has become more pronounced.

Figure it out. If you are brought up in an area that has become a sore allowed to fester, what are your options. You could go to school but chances are that the school you attend has already been infiltrated by gangs. I’m talking about middle schools here. As a consequence, your best options are to attend another school – oops, sorry, that isn’t an option or to join a gang and become one of the “homies.” The gang becomes your family, and it’s not a family you want to turn on. Gangs also offer a sense of protection. If you belong to one, the gang will, supposedly, watch out for you. According to a 2015 study from Sam Houston State University, there are over one million juvenile gang members between the ages of 5 and 17 in the United States. Pile that on top of the ‘adult’ gang members in the country and you have some very frightening figures.

America has a population of over 324 million people. One immigrant arrives on our shores every 29 seconds. While 47% of the United States remains unoccupied, newcomers gravitate to the more highly populated areas. Often, there is resentment of some kind or other about ethnic groups that bond and band together. Communities of Muslams, or Jews, or Irish or Italians or whatever, are, all too often, viewed as “hiding something,” or “not wanting to blend in,” or some other bull crap phrases. Then, someone from an ethnic group is found to be sympathetic to ISIS or Al Qaeda, or some other group with whom we are in conflict, and the entire community of that person gets blamed for what one individual has done. Hatreds become more pronounced and by the very nature of the population growth, there are bound to be a few people with undiagnosed mental instabilities. Toss into that mix America’s history of slavery and you have the makings of a violent society. The recent episodes that we have seen are easily explained by ingrained racial hatred and stereotyping…as much as I hate to admit it. I harken back to the Civil War and the stories that have been handed down from father to son since that time in both the black and white societies, and one can easily see how a Dylann Roof or his black equivalent can make headlines.

I began this piece by saying that ours is the most violent nation on earth. How do we change that? I really don’t have a clue. How does one clean up these ghetto neighborhoods? How do we eliminate gangs? How do we ensure that our law enforcement officers gain greater respect? How do we prevent bad apples in the police community? How do we win the war on drugs? How do we eliminate poverty? All of these questions and thousands more must be answered before we can even begin to consider reducing violence in the United States of America, and it will take people far more intelligent than I to provide the answers. Until then, to paraphrase Tiny Tim, “God help us, one and all.”

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“Hey, we bagged the guy who planned the terrorist attack in Paris!”

“No kidding. You really got him?”

“Yeah, had to shoot him in the leg, but we got him. Now we just have to interrogate the son-of-a-bitch and see what else they might be planning.”

“Oh, man, that’s great!”

“Yeah, we found a number of suicide vests in his apartment. See ya later.

“Yeah, later.”

Less than two days later, what happens?

“Breaking news…There have been two bomb explosions at Brussels-Zventam airport outside of Brussels and another in the underground train system. At this moment, 21 are known dead…update…36 are now known dead, and ISIS is claiming credit”

Was this a real conversation? I don’t know; I wasn’t there! I didn’t shoot the son-of-a-bitch in the leg. I’m not a member of any Belgian law enforcement group, but I cannot help but wonder…Did you beef up security at the airport, railroad stations, underground transit terminals, and other public places that daily draw crowds? The minute he was in cuffs, did it occur to anyone that perhaps other cell leaders might start thinking about changing their time tables? If the answer is, “We cannot afford to have a continued heavy presence in all of these places,” then I have to believe that Belgium, like nearly every other nation will continue to be shocked every time another guerilla attack of this nature takes place.

“Suicide vests in his apartment?” What the hell is that? “Oh, hi…Mary…this is Abdul….yeah, fine, thanks, and you (pause). Oh, that’s great. Hey, listen, we finished your vest. Yeah, that’s right, the one with the Semtex in the back. Yeah, that’s the one. You can come over anytime and pick it up. Oh, by the way, has Hassan told you your target yet? Wow, that’ll be spectacular…yeah, right. Okay, we’ll see you later tonight then. Okay, Mary, see you later.”

This is the world in the early 21st Century. Would it be an open phone line? No, of course not. Would the conversation have been that blatant? I really doubt it. Could it actually happen just like that? You bet your bottom dollar it could.

We. Are. Living. In. A. World. Of. Terrorism. And. A. World. Of. Hatred. Why is this so? I do not have a clue. Political candidates in the United States say that Americans are angry. Are the Belgians angry? Are the Spanish angry? How about the British or the French? Are they angry? It would seem so because terrorists – I guess these are the angry people – are setting off bombs to kill those who aren’t angry; who are innocent and haven’t done one damned thing that they deserve to die or be maimed.

What is the ultimate goal of these terrorist people and groups? It can’t be world domination…well, I don’t think that’s what it is, so we have to ask, “What is the end game,” and the answer is that no one, the terrorists probably included, knows what the hell it is. For now, it appears that all that want to do is create world panic about who will be next. “The main and principle goal of the Islamic State that ISIS tells their new members is that to establish an Islamic State that will encompass the Arab world and after that we go to other countries.” Wasn’t Hitler’s goal to get back the lands the Germans lost after WWI and then get the rest of Europe? I believe that was the original plan and, as has been asked many times of many people about many things…”How’d that work out for ya?”

Am I being simplistic in my thinking? Yes, deliberately so. There is so much that none of us know about Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham or ISIS. Can we identify how their religious beliefs differ from those of other forms of Islam? Sure we can, but that makes no difference. It appears that in the end, this religious sect wishes to rule the world as they see the world, and they will achieve that goal through the spreading of terror around the world until every single person conforms to their beliefs. As a consequence, total destruction of this group is the only answer, and the only way to achieve that is a vigilance level that we have yet to reach.

My simplistic sense tells me that the FBI, Homeland Security, or any other federal agency with a terrorist task force, could walk into an apartment in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, or even Washington, D.C., and find bomb-making equipment, perhaps even a few unclaimed suicide vests. They could do that if… but where would that lead? So we will continue to follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice that, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” and we other nations will do the same.

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There was a time when I was color blind. It’s only taken me something over 80 years to learn that perhaps I was mistaken. Perhaps I wasn’t color blind all those years after all. Black people seem to have a greater propensity to commit criminal acts than other races. Jeff, Beshama, Jimmy, Ernie, Joe, Sandra,and so many more black friends can feel free to call me out on this, but I’m sorry folks, check the Department of Justice figures. I don’t believe they have been skewed or fiddled with or offset in any way just to make the members of our black population look bad.

I watched the news recently as a disgruntled V. Lester Flanigan shot a white reporter and cameraman on a local television station. No, admittedly, I didn’t see the actual shooting; I just heard one gunshot. The camera was then dropped as V. Lester continued his rampage. Now, I don’t happen to be gay and I don’t happen to be black, but I do know what it’s like to be fired without cause and without recourse. Disgruntled? You bet your sweet patootie I was disgruntled. I guess knowing where the next university president was having his affair, with whom and on what day was just cause to him, but it certainly didn’t appear that way to me. What the hell, I’d known for a few years what he was doing. If I hadn’t told anyone before, what kind of a fool would I have been to tell others now. Therefore, yes, I was somewhat more than irritated when I was informed that my job was being abolished (can you say “bullcrap”?). However, I didn’t publish a manifesto and I didn’t go out and shoot people. I consider that my regard for human life is just a little higher than that.

On that same television newscast, another black man was fighting with police as they attempted to bring him into court for arraignment on a second murder charge.  When they read the charges against him, I wondered how one human being could do that to another. There are times when I wonder just how my black friends must feel when one after the other of their own race gets paraded before the television cameras for some heinous deed. Hopefully, they just let it bounce off in much the same way I do when I see a crime televised that has been committed by a white idiot. That’s what I consider all of these people to be, idiots. Nothing, nothing in this world with the exception of war, justifies the killing of one human being by another…nothing. Losing a job does not; racial slurs do not; nasty comments about one’s sexuality do not; a perceived insult is not a cause for killing. You want to kill someone? Kill yourself, but what others say and do, while somewhat painful, is no cause for ending their lives.

I’ve searched and searched and searched for accurate statistics regarding violent crime by race in the United States. One study claims that,  “… during the 2012/2013 period, blacks committed an average of 560,600 violent crimes against whites, whereas whites committed only 99,403 such crimes against blacks. This means blacks were the attackers in 84.9 percent of the violent crimes involving blacks and whites. Interestingly, we find that violent interracial crime involving blacks and Hispanics occurs in almost exactly the same proportions as black/white crime: Blacks are the attackers 82.5 percent of the time, while Hispanics are attackers only 17.5 percent of the time.

“Some observers argue that what causes the overwhelming preponderance of black-on-white over white-on-black violence is “chance of encounter,” due to the fact that there are five times as many whites as blacks in the American population. However, there are only about 30 percent more Hispanics than blacks, yet black-on-Hispanic violence is almost as lopsided as black-on-white violence. This suggests blacks may be deliberately targeting both whites and Hispanics.”

This is all well and good except that the organization releasing this data is a conservative think tank, known for its right-wing thinking. I’m not saying that the data is wrong or right; what I am saying is that I’ve seen too many occasions when statistics have been twisted and skewed. Nonetheless, just looking at the raw data presents a frightening picture of black crime in the United States. And it’s as frightening to members of the black community as it is to other ethnic groups. Civil rights advocate, Van Jones, wrote in a 2005 article, ‘Are Blacks a Criminal Race?’ “African American youth represent 32% of all weapons arrests [and] were arrested for aggravated assault at a rate nearly three times that of whites. A 2012 study by the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention revealed that in 2010 black youths committed six times more murders, three times more rapes, 10 times more robberies and three times more assaults than did their white counterparts.

Similar statistics were released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the “Uniform Crime Reports.” They determined, “In the year 2008, black youths, who make up 16% of the youth population, accounted for 52% of juvenile violent crime arrests, including 58% for homicide and 67% for robbery.” By contrast, the only categories where white youths surpassed blacks were in liquor law violations and driving under the influence.

I don’t know the people who make up these statistics. I know plenty of black people. They don’t fall into any categories in this statistical data. So where are all these black criminals? People like Al Sharpton and other ‘injustice collectors’ will find every reason in the book not to blame crime of any kind on blacks but on the white society in which they live. To me, that’s just plain wrong. Is there greater poverty among members of the black community in the United States? Yeah, possibly. The bigger question is why? Although he’s no longer the hero he once was, Bill Cosby has made some good points. Black fathers should be assuming more responsibility for the children they create. Black mothers should be saying, “No,” and meaning it when more sex is going to lead to more kids and they can’t afford to properly raise the ones they already have. I think there is an innate fear on the part of white people in this country to confront the social ills that affect the black community. Black gangs form because there is safety in numbers; well, screw that. Let’s cut down the numbers so that black kids won’t have to worry about walking down the streets in their own neighborhoods. If more police are required, let’s get them; if more prisons are required, let’s build them; if stricter enforcement of laws are necessary, let’s enforce them. At the same time, however, let us not paint every black person we see with the same damned brush that says, “You’re black, therefore, you’re a criminal to be feared;” that, too, is bullcrap. Let us eliminate the United Negro College Fund and make it the United American College Fund with just as much money going all ethnic groups. Let’s eliminate Black Entertainment Network and Miss Black America contests, and let’s begin to unite, integrate, and truly integrate all races into one giant community. I’m not proposing that we gather in the circle and sing Kumbaya; that’s nonsense. But whatever we’ve been trying so far sure hasn’t worked. The black community and the white community are still miles apart in this country. Let’s stop talking about why we can’t do something better and let’s start talking about how we can do something better. Please, before I die, I want to be color blind once more.

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So, Dylann Roof was afraid that black people were taking over the world. Well, maybe that’s just not such a bad thing after all. I can hear the screams now…”Are you out of your friggin’ mind?” “Oh, come on, you can’t be serious!” “Didn’t you see all of those shootings in Dorchester and who committed them?” “Yeah, right, and all those black gangs would be taking over our neighborhoods and killing all the white people; that’s what would happen you idiot.”

Yep, possibly true. But why is it true? It’s true because a minority of the minority make all of the headlines because of their actions. I have seen the riots; I have seen the black banners; I have heard the yelling and screaming, and; I have seen the way in which we ‘educated’ whites have treated “uppity n___as” for over 200 years.

Despite all of our legislation; despite all of our efforts to integrate blacks and whites, nothing seems to be working. In one of the most advanced civilizations in history, we cannot overcome something as seemingly simple as two races living together in some kind of harmony. Even when we elected a black president, there was sufficient racism in the legislative branch – and other branches – to stop any kind of progress from being made. Anyone who tries to tell me that racism isn’t behind the gridlock in Washington is a goddamned liar! “We won’t let him get anything passed in the House.” Those are as close to an exact quote as I can remember from one Representative. “Him,” the word was “him,” and who was “he?” He was the first black President of the United States.

America was not ready to accept anything other than a white person for the Presidency. It is doubtful that America will ever be ready for anything but a white presidency. It’s too ingrained in us over our two hundred plus year history to accept anything else. We are creatures of habit; we are NIMBY’s such as there has never been. We talk of how we have advanced our civilization by trying new things, and that’s true, we have. But we sure as hell don’t want to disturb the status quo when it comes to the who of how we govern. Someone said to me, “When the Obama’s leave the White House, they’ll take all the china and silverware.” The person was only half joking. Why? Because that is the impression too many of us have of men and women in the black community. Wait a minute; who gambled away the White House china? Why it was President Warren G. Harding. How many alcoholic white presidents have we had? Too goddamned many. How many wheeler-dealer crooks have we had in the White House? Too goddamned many.

I have no sympathy for Dylann Roof; don’t get me wrong. Certainly, trying to start a race war is not the answer to bringing this country together. He deserves to pay the ultimate price for his actions. My gut feeling is that if he has already confessed to these murders, there is no reason for a trial. “That’s not the American way!” Bullshit…why isn’t it the American way? Why waste time and money to satisfy the blood lust that the media will create over this senseless and heinous act? The same should have been true with the Marathon bomber, the theatre killer, the one who shot Gabby Gifford and others, as well as Edward Hinckley. You did it; we saw you; you pay for your actions in the same manner as your actions. Within 24 hours of your capture, you are on your knees with two shots behind the ear. “Oh, my God, how brutal; how you can even think such a thing; this isn’t China where they do that. This is America; we’re not savages@” Oh, really, what would you call the people I’ve listed above…preachers of God?

Over the past 15 years I’ve watched this country begin to come apart at the seams. Statisticians tell us that crime is going down…and we’re supposed to believe their bullshit! The FBI, the Justice Department, this one and that one tell us how we’re better off than we were a couple of decades ago. Guess what, I don’t believe them. I think they are covering their butts and lying to us. Perhaps it’s because when something like Charleston or Newtown happen, it makes a big splash. Perhaps the media is doing a “better” job of covering the sexual assaults that are taking place on our city and suburban sidewalks and homes. I don’t know what it is, but things sure look pretty fucked up to me.

So what are we looking at for the future? Dylann Roof will go on trial, be convicted and when his execution date comes – somewhere in the next 10 years because of all the automatic appeals – the whole thing will be rehashed and America will once more be told that we cannot tolerate this kind of behavior, the population will be up in arms once more. Will any action have been taken to sort out the potential Dylann Roof’s in our society? No! Will any action have been taken in an attempt to control who and how guns are distributed? No. Will the NRA still own Congress? Yes. Will people still be going on rampages of killing children, classmates, adults of all colors? Yes.

Do I have reasonable solutions to all of these problems? No, not to all of them, but I have a few thoughts:

  • Any member of Congress who takes money from any lobby should be immediately ousted from his or her seat in that law-making body.
  • Members of the House of Representatives should not be allowed to serve any more than six terms. If they cannot get the job done in twelve years, it’s time to go.
  • Senators should be allow to serve two terms in office. Once more, twelve years in Congress is quite enough.
  • Certain lobbies are so powerful that they should be disbanded in some way, shape, or form. These include the tobacco, public utilities, pharmaceutical, gun advocacy, and several other vote-buying bastards who serve no useful purpose in our government.
  • Certainly our jails are overcrowded. We do not possess the laws to discourage crime. Opponents of the death penalty maintain that the threat of such punishment is not a deterrent, and they may well be right. However, have we ever really tested this? One execution every ten or twelve years is not testing. Executions every day for a couple of months might get a few bad guys to change their minds about committing a serious crime.
  • The Second Amendment, at least to me, means that if you own a gun, you do so to protect yourself and your home and that you are a part of a militia to guard the country. Fine, let’s put you to the test. If you voluntarily purchase or possess a gun, you will be trained and sent to wherever the United States is engaged in a ‘police action,’ or whatever we’re calling our conflicts these days. You will serve one year in a front line unit. If you survive, you will be allowed to keep your weapon when you return. However, you will not be allowed to keep an automatic weapon or more than 100 rounds of ammunition.

These are very rough plans and will have to be worked out…by whom? Aha, therein lies the rub. Who creates and who enforces these rules and regulations? Won’t be me; I plan to be dead. Good luck, America; you’re going to need it!

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I want to know where the hell the protesters are in Philadelphia and Fulton County, Georgia. What, you don’t know about the shooting deaths of two Black men in that city and Local County? Or is it possibly because they just happened to be police officers ambushed and killed in the line of duty? Is someone going to try and feed me that bullshit line that it was “in the line of duty?” They’re dead; they were Black; they were shot; they are dead. What the fuck is the matter with people who will protest over the death of a thug like Michael Brown and do nothing when a couple of Black, White, Pink, or Green police officers are gunned down.

Officer Wilson was in a shop to buy a gift for his son who had done well academically and who had a birthday coming up in three days. Two armed brothers entered the store and announced they intended to rob it. How dumb were these two? The patrol car, with Wilson’s partner was parked outside the store. They didn’t see Wilson until he announced himself. According to the “Officer Down” web site, “He exchanged shots with the two brothers as he drew fire away from the customers and employees. He was struck three times during the shootout in which over 50 shots were fired. The two men then exited the store where they were engaged in a shootout with Officer Wilson’s partner, who had remained in the patrol car. One of the subjects was wounded during the second shootout. Who is out there protesting the death of Bob Wilson? Perhaps his wife and two sons should take to the streets. After all, they have more right than most to hold signs that say, “Black lives matter.” They won’t do that however; they’re too busy mourning the death of a husband and a father. Who protests for them? “Oh, it was in the line of duty.” What bullshit!

Twenty-two-year veteran police officer Terence Green died when he was shot in the back of the head from an ambush position. Green and other officers were responding to a shots fired call. The suspect had left his house and gone into hiding. As the officers walked past, he fired, killing Greene and striking the radio of another officer. While his mother mourns, there are no protesters. He’s dead but, “It was in the line of duty.”

Since the beginning of this year, 19 police officers have died. In some cases, they have been in gun fights with suspects. In other cases, they have been killed by accident while pursuing suspects. Who marches for them? Who holds up signs saying that their lives matter?

Last year, 125 officers were killed “In the line of duty,” 47 of them from gunfire. These men and women have chosen to uphold the law, to protect the citizens of their communities, but I have yet to see a protest on their behalf; people marching in the streets with signs that read “Stop the violence against police officers.” It appears to be an attitude of “Well, they chose their profession so tough shit if they get killed; I hope they didn’t kill some poor, innocent kid before they died.”

The attitude that I have heard from some people about the police has nearly gotten me in trouble several times. I happen to be a police advocate. When those men and women put on that uniform and strap on that belt with, yes, a gun as a part of their equipment, they haven’t a clue as to whether they will return home that night for dinner and a drink or whether they will wind up in a body bag on a coroner’s table with a tag tied around their big toe. How many jobs have that kind of risk involved… not every few days, weeks, or months, but every 24 hours? It’s a horrible job. It’s overworked and underpaid; it’s people who care deeply about protecting others and are willing to lay their lives on the line for many they don’t even know. When Greene was killed in Georgia, one neighbor said, “I wish I had known him, just to say thank you for protecting us.” Too many people show disdain for the members of law enforcement, referring to them as “Gestapo” and worse. But when they need help, these same people will cry their eyes out when the police save their butts.

Am I prejudiced on this matter? You’re damned right I am. Over the years I have taught more than 4,000 police officers. Some of them are rough and ready, I admit. Some of them appear very cynical toward life, but that’s not cynicism, that’s reality. A few are bad apple bullies, but they generally get weeded out. Most are hard working men and women who want nothing more than to be able to do their jobs each day and get home safely at night for that “dinner and a drink” and maybe, just maybe a kiss from the wife or girlfriend and a hug from the kids.

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The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have issued a warning to parents that ISIS is using social media to influence young Americans to join them in fighting for…for what? For an independent Islamic state; for a chance to get their heads blown off by an Iraqi, Iranian, Jordanian, or anyone else who sees Isis for what it Is…a bunch of trigger-happy idiots who are interpreting – I should say misinterpreting – what the Quaran actually teaches. They can make all of the claims that they wish, but the fact of the matter is that if you hate this country so much, go, get out. Live the dream; become a terrorist; but understand this…those are not toy guns that are firing back at you. If you get hit by a round from anything other than a Kalashnikov – I don’t care if it hits your little finger – you will probably die, as much from the shock as anything else. This is not a game that is being played. It is not a television show where you get shot and killed one week and miraculously recover by the third episode. If our children are being radicalized by ISIS on social media, we have some very real and very serious problems.

What is this “radicalization” of which we speak? According to one of this country’s most senior terrorism authorities, radicalization is “the process of adopting for oneself or inculcating in other a commitment not only to a system of [radical] beliefs, but to their imposition on the rest of society.” By imposing their beliefs on the rest of society, he is speaking of the use of violence, which in this case means those who don’t believe as the radical believes, must be punished in order to make them conform.

Why and/or how does radicalization to the point of condoning or actually participating in violent behavior occur? No one really seems to know despite the amount of research that has been done. What actually changes in a person that causes them to accept this violent manner? Most research dictates that change goes through a variety of stages. The first thing that must occur is that the potential recruit must think that an injustice or humiliation has occurred. It might be something as simple as seeing pictures or videos of dead civilians when America was fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. These horrible sights may be blamed on American air strikes even if that is not an accurate portrayal of the horror. Over a period of time, the recruit is provided with motivational sources that make him or her more likely to believe in violence.

Research appears to show that “An individual’s search for identity may draw him or her to extremist or terrorist organizations in a variety of ways. The individual may be searching for a purpose or goal in life that defines the actions required to achieve that goal. A violent act may be seen as a way to succeed at something that makes a difference. The absolutist, “black and white” nature of most extremist ideologies is often attractive to those who feel overwhelmed by the complexity and stress of navigating a complicated world. Without struggling to define oneself or discern personal meaning, an individual may choose to define his or her identity simply through identification with a cause or membership in a group.”

Think with me for a moment about the youth who join gangs. What is their primary need? It’s a sense of belonging to something; of connecting with others who feel similarly, ie, that they have been dealt a rotten hand in life (injustice or perhaps some form of humiliation); that they are searching for some form of identity, eg, gang tats or signs, and; that they are willing to be violent in order to be recognized.

There are many other factors that appear to influence recruits to become extreme terrorists – in this day and age we think of Muslims, but they are just the latest in a long line of violent extremists – including the need for a mentor or leader. This mentor may be someone who is articulate and who shares the recruit’s values on the Internet. In the case of the Muslim jihadists, it might be an imam or other religious authority that condones violent behavior because of the manner in which they interpret the Quaran.

Another factor that has proven particularly successful for recruiting terrorists is the Internet. ISIS and other terrorist groups before them have produced some pretty slick videos that make it hard to ignore their messages. All it appears to take is an unhappy or dissatisfied individual, capable of violence, who is seeking something “better” for his or her life.

Parents may think they know their teenagers. Few do. You take it from here.

 

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Writing about something is not the same as knowing about something. I have always admired good reporting as well as good fiction. John Powers of The Boston Globe was a hell of a writer when he was covering sports. John is a huge man, towering over me, but his insight into what took place at almost any sporting event made the reader feel that he or she was actually in the arena, not as a spectator but as a participant. My dear late friend, Bob Parker, was a wonderful fiction writer who drew the reader in from the first sentence and kept the reader enthralled until the last period was place.

I am about as far from a John Powers or Robert Parker or any of the wonderful writers we read on a daily basis. Like many of you, I struggle to gain and maintain the reader’s interest. It shows in that, if really lucky, I have two or three readers a day. It’s an ego thing, and I’m the first one to admit it.

Think about everything that is happening in the world today. We still have stupidity in Washington, with a President who feels he can do no wrong…and he’s wrong; a Congress now controlled by a single party, but I don’t see much taking place other than the Keystone Pipeline which is just going to line a few more pockets of the one percent; our judicial branch is, at best, confused about which issues belong before them and which should be left to the states for a final decision.

On the world front, we have the horrible executions of the French satirists at Charlie Hebdo and the assassination of four police officers by known radicals who were allowed to walk the streets freely and who got the martyrdom that they desired after their horrible onslaught. Sure, I could do my research online and read everything there is to read…like over one million articles, most of which are as accurate as would be teats on a bull, but that doesn’t give one the right to put together an accurate Reader’s Digest condensed version. Perhaps the most odious and despicable post-episodic thing taking place now is the race between al Qaeda and ISIS over who takes the “credit” for committing this hideous act. Is it fodder for the writer in me? By writing about this crime, I merely lend credence to the fact that no one, anywhere in the world, at any time, is safe from these half-crazed lunatics who are exercising their childhood fantasies of killing with no more respect for the beliefs of true Muslims and the Quran than the Bible-thumping idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church have in their beliefs about Christianity.

So what is left for me, in the few years I have remaining, to garble about? Should I talk about the 2016 race to become the next sucker in the White House? I have finally – gad, but it took a long time – figured out why smart people don’t run for president…their egos are not large enough, or as Clint Eastwood once put, “A man just has to know his limitations.” The really smart person allows the puppet to become the titular head and then the puppet-masters, eg, Citibank, the pharmaceutical lobbyists, the farm folk, and several others sit back and tug on a few strings to get the puppet to do their bidding. It’s wonderful to sit at the computer and gaze into the crystal ball. The Republican Party is firmly convinced that the next puppet will be from the GOP, thereby giving both the executive and legislative branches to a group of people who care little for the average American and a great deal for the one-percenters. After all, it’s the one-percenters who write the bills they pass and keep their bank accounts growing. And, what the hell, should a Democrat – by some miracle of God – attain the exalted puppet-post, it will merely be four or eight more years of gridlock. With gridlock, nothing gets done; the press has a field day; and late night comics rub their hands together in glee. While I consider myself an independent voter, I have to admit that someone like Chris Christie of New Jersey could really shake the old-time-DC-boys up; in addition to which, he probably knows where to get rid of the bodies….lots of swampland in New Jersey.

The recent story of the loving son is not something that you find every day. Could one invent such a thing? Perhaps if I was a more creative writer it could happen. However, I’m not that desperate to build a readership. That was just one of those poignant moments that had to be set to paper, and I was honored to have the opportunity to do so…my thanks to those who commented. The opposite of that situation was viewed by Juli yesterday. “Behind you is a mother and son,” she said. “Neither has stopped texting since they sat down.” Of course, we had no idea if they were texting one another, but my bet is that was not the case. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Can you imagine saying to one of your adult children, “Let’s go to lunch and leave our smart phones in the car.” Be the fastest goddamned lunch on record. Yes, I could write about my view on technology (said he, pounding away at the keyboard) but I don’t even know the vernacular for today’s techno-geek…tough to fall behind the times like this.

Well, I’ve almost reached my thousand word limit so to you, my reader (hopefully with an ‘s,’ I bid you a wonderful winter without falls or flu; without slipping and sliding; without icicles or idiots. If you have young children, I hope you will enjoy sledding with them at the local hill. The bumps will be a bit rougher than you may remember, but what the hell, you’ll have wonderful memories when you recall the day over a cup of hot chocolate…don’t forget the whipped cream!

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