It’s amazing how quickly time passes from spring to winter. The Arab Spring was ignited on December 17, 2010, by Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi, who decided he had been pinched one too many times by corrupt cops. When his attempt to pay the fine for his unlicensed vegetable cart was shunned by more than mere ridicule, his protest was self-immolation.1
Waves of protest soon followed, directed at the autocratic governments spread throughout the countries of the Arab League. By the end of February 2012, heads of state had been removed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen because of massive youth protests.2 The thought then was that this push, aided by social media, would end in democracy all around the Muslim world. Unfortunately, that isn’t at all how this played out. Now, though the moniker has not yet been affixed by historians, not only has the Arab Winter set in, but we may very well be in the initial throes of World War III.
How did this happen? Easy, just as with nature, a vacuum of political power and cooperation is abhorrent.
The previous order, regardless of how corrupt, like all societies was organized by “roofs” — i.e., political cover — up to a top dog. Remove the top dog and things become a free-for-all. Punching into the political vacuum, new players rushed in, jockeying for position.
Now is that it? Probably not, there were still some Arab countries, e.g., Syria, whose governments hadn’t fallen yet. These autocrats appear to have looked around at all the chaos and thought to themselves: (a) how can we protect our positions of power; and (b) how can this mess be turned to advantage?
It doesn’t seem that hard of a leap to conjure the idea that they sought to scourge specifically leaders of political protest in particular while at the same time cracking down generally on their own societies. Quickly born was a repurposed core group of jihadists, ruling elites trying to reorganize society to that of a caliphate. Ideological, religious and geographic splits started to be used as a means of ratcheting support for the majority at the expense of minorities.
Oh, but this wasn’t enough. Not everyone was roped in yet. So, the plan was to attack the enemy “over there.” The reason for doing so was not so much for the purpose of getting the enemy involved per se. No, instead it was to bait the enemy so that there would be further reason to impose order on those within the Islamic State. After the enemy within was dispatched, the plan appears to then turn the corralled population outwardly to fully engage in increasingly sophisticated waves of terrorist warfare.
Now, I realize that the specifics of all of this are brushed back and forth like the initial blast and backdraft of a nuclear explosion. War is never perfectly clean. Yet, when we look at war through the kaleidoscope of its horrors, isn’t this pretty close to how things generally play out?
How should the United States react? Well obviously, as a “Christian nation,” we ought to be fearful that if we allow Muslim refugees into our country, we will be overly exposed to terrorism. Hmm? Let’s unpack this a bit.
First, we should ask which “Christian” actually thinks he or she is acting in accord with the teachings of Jesus when taking such a jaundiced approach as to suggest only Christian refugees should be allowed into America. Jesus’s intention was to bring good news to all the nations and all the peoples. In keeping, refugee status cannot be extended based on religious affiliation; it is need based.
Second, if we were really Christian about this, wouldn’t we “have faith” that God isn’t going to harm us beyond what we can survive? Really, think about it. Though we may individually have our “moments,” in the grand scheme we are all traveling paths to the same endpoint. Moreover, how we may or may not be scattered after crossing that threshold is something on which we neither agree nor know for certain. That’s why Christianity is one of several faiths.
Third, we have mass shootings all the time that have nothing to do with jihadists. In a society that has become unhinged from religious belief of any kind, there are “sickos” who see the vacuity of Western culture and become completely indifferent to life. How could that be? I suspect the reason is because a majority of our culture, which to great extent is really post-religious, posits its faith only in science, a mindset that at its very core rationalizes and objectifies in all its aspects, including its regard to life.
Unfortunately, after crossing the gap between valuing life and the objectification of life, it is relatively easy to become indifferent as to whether to snuff it out. So, the question becomes: How do we reinvigorate the value of life? I’m not clergy, rabbi or mullah, so my bailiwick is insufficiently broad to opine except for this. We need to dial down the “we” and “them” rhetoric because it is toxic. The toxins created from this rhetoric, if not stopped, if allowed to run amok, will pollute our way of life much more severely than all the damage possibly done should every U.S. city and town witness terrorist events.
Does this mean that we need not take undue precaution as our nation grants political asylum to Muslims? Of course, it does. Does this mean that we will have higher exposure and likely more terrorist events? Yes, that is probably the case, too. But that’s acceptable loss. Absolutely unacceptable is to allow a demagogue to use divisive rhetoric to rise to autocratic power. Why?
Because with the technological tools that the government has in place now, we simply can’t afford to allow any loose cannon — much less an autocrat who audaciously believes he is unanswerable to anyone — to gain control of our nation’s highest office. Should that occur, we will almost certainly become the very evil we want to believe we are fighting.
Once we’ve crossed that boundary, to live or not to live will not even be a question worth contemplating. Even if all our hearts still beat …, we’re dead.
Robert WM Zierman is a Christian and Republican who asserts his faith and party are in the process of being hijacked for ulterior purpose in a vein similar to the jihadists who have hijacked the Islamic religion for the state that terrorists seek to create. Instead of blindly reacting to this course, Americans must select leaders who are willing to put divisiveness aside and instead together engage in collaborative effort to pursue peace, tolerance and understanding.
1 See http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2044723,00.htm
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