The Radicalization Of America

Go get a drink, I’ll wait.

I have to start this post by adding to my disclaimer. This post is in no way an attack on America, the military, police, men, religion, race or politics. I am just trying to figure out something in my head and this exercise is always easier when I write. I put ideas in this blog so that others can expand upon them, I don’t try to put this out there to be a contrarian in any way. In fact what I want to do is be constructive.

All the talk of radicalization of Muslims has made me start thinking of something just a pervasive, the radicalization of America. While Donald Trump is doing a great job at exposing it, we cannot blame him for radicalizing the country. The first glimpses of it was when I watched the movie American Sniper. It simplified the world into sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. When you do dig deeper into the origin of the quote you find that it was a little more complex of an idea by a Lieutenant Colonel.

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath—a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path.

David Grossman

I went to high school in the Chicago area, gangs were a reality there. Besides learning about colors and how I had to be careful what and who i said it to, the thing that stuck with me the most is why people joined gangs. The need to belong and be protected is natural in most people. A family provides that for most of us, but what happens when you don’t have a strong family structure. You fall prey to the mentality of I need someone to provide that sense of family. The same can be said about community.

We all marvel at what ISIL (who I like to call Daish since it suposedly pisses them off) has been able to do to recruit and radicalize people into horrible atrocities. Are we maybe missing the mark by not seeing what is being done with our own population?

A recent trend has the introduction and use of the term “soft target” aka sheep. If you associate the very negative connotation of children being murdered that should be enough to end the gun control talk with most, but that did not happen. I have a theory as to why it did not.

Guns in this country are part of the culture. One thing people don’t think about is that also part of the culture is the “hero” and “warrior” mentality. To a certain degree it is also something most people associate with manhood.

As a parent now I have become even more protective than I was before. I always though of myself as a guardian and martial arts always thought me about self defense. I never felt that the best defense is offense. Avoidance was always preferable to confrontation, specially if I had the upper hand. However, that is not what our military programs people to do. I don’t have statistics of how different the post deployment debriefing is compared to WWII, but the fact that there is a fast track between military service to police department and a mix of PTSD and you have in my opinion a recipe for disaster.

I have seen a trend this last year of using memes to hook people into ideologies, not from ISIS but from veteran groups. The first meme starts with a simple, take care of our troops before you take care of refuges. Not a position I would ever take but I can see how it rings true with some people. Then the next one from that same source is more radical, a veteran relaxed with the text; just let me know when I can start shooting people. Then the cherry on top is a block text proclamation of “We are full, F@ck off!”

I have seen this stuff re-shared by people I know. I’ve been wrecking my brain trying to figure out how xenophobia is spread so easily. Then it hit me, we are being pushed into a warrior class again rather than guardians. Yes I also loop cops into this conversation and here is why.

Warrior class is something that modern warfare had made something of the past. I’m not saying that every person that joins the military does so because he/she wants to become a warrior. Most of them do though, and some of them end up eventually being our police. Also, some of those police officers also have the warrior mentality in them. Not just protect and serve, which is supposed to be the motto.

I also take that one step further. Most people don’t want to be a sheep, and what makes you feel powerful and not vulnerable? A gun. The moment someone threatens to take that gun away, they are basically making you into sheep because you are not a wolf, you have to be a sheep.

America is being radicalized into thinking that guns are the only thing that is keeping you from being a victim. First it was just for home safety from robbers. Now it has grown up to terrorism. Next will be from your own government. This country is little by little being told a lie that in the end is just about someone making more money.

Lets Talk Religion

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing bad things, but for good people to do bad things, it takes religion.”
Steven Weinberg

Not too long ago I started the conversation about faith. From the comments and conversations that followed we came to the same fork on the road. Religion.

I actually don’t talk about religion as much as I would like to in here because I don’t truly like to alienate people based on my views of it. If you have never met me I will give you a little bit of my background with religion.

I grew up in a Catholic household with both parents being churchgoers at different times in their lives. Church was not a family affair. I also went to a Catholic high school which kind of gave me a different view on going to church and religion. Religion IS a subject down in Colombia for even non parochial schools. I have never been married in the Catholic church even though I would not mind it. I identify with the cultural aspect of Catholicism because it is very familiar to me. I have also explored other faiths specially in the protestant side of things.

I have attended protestant or “Born Again christian” churches for months with various degrees of creepiness at the end. They have always ended up the same way. First is the push for me to take more of an outreach position when they see that I can speak in front of people without much issue. Then when I decline and want to be just a member it seems like I become “one of those that doesn’t want to spread the message.” The moment I started to ask too many questions that challenged leadership in any way steps are taken to make me either follow in line or be labeled as an “outsider.” The chronology is different depending on the church but it has happened twice now.

I have always ended up in a protestant church thanks to a friend that thinks it will be good for me. I love the singing and bible studies. I love talking ideas, good, bad, salvation, sin. I love the volunteer work. The problem is that I was brought up by Franciscans and some of them taught me that religion is not what is important, that true understanding comes from questioning things. Faith is not something that you can give to others, they have to feel it themselves… its like trying to make someone happy, you can only “try” for so long. It has to come from within.

(Well known mathematician Freeman Dyson has criticized Weinberg’s remark: “And for bad people to do good things—that [also] takes religion.”)

A Franciscan monk is the one that pointed out that our history books in school left a lot of stuff out.

The problem with taking advice about religion from others is that for people like me it is a journey. If you would have asked me 10 years ago, I would have one answer. If you would have asked me during the Bears vs Broncos game, I would have another. If you ask me 10 years from now, I might have another one.

I don’t think I lack faith. I just don’t like to rely on intangibles for things to happen. That said, I have leaned on praying before to get me through tough times. Probably the reason that I could not become a full atheist because when the ship was sinking I would be asking for God. My brain, my debates with others, the books I read, all make me question the validity of both faith and religion. I don’t need it to get through my daily life, but faith is a powerful thing… like love.

The bible is a cool book, Jesus was a cool man… but there are other books and there are other great men.

A lot of horrible things have been done in the name of religion. Also a lot of good is done in the same name. I think in the end everything with an arterial motive goes back to human weakness. All tools can be used for good or evil, it depends a lot on who’s hands is holding them.

Things get a lot more complicated when you are the “Godfather” to 3 kids!

I love the honor that comes with the title. I also want to make sure that if I am ever called to answer questions about it I will have good answers. Note I did not say the “right” answer, but a good one.

Do we need faith?

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
Khalil Gibran

Notice that I did not say “do we need religion?” before you get your panties all wadded up; but I might touch on that too. So before you go any further let me explain something about faith.

Many words have tons of meanings that can be defined and interpreted differently. Take for example a color, while it is something that can be defined and classified it is a lot more than that. Blue can be your favorite t-shirt, team, car. Words carry a lot of meaning and faith, like the word love is one of the heavy ones.

How necessary is faith though? Do we need it in our lives? Is it an innate thing or something we learn?

I respect and often times admire people of faith. Some of the happiest people are those with strong faith. Then there are those that make me want to give up on faith as an idea, see “Tim Tebow” sport antics and wanting to push his agenda for Christianity and God helping him score 316 touchdowns!

Our society is losing the sense of honor and heroes. We call lots of people’s heroes, but who do we really follow or put our faith into?

Celebrity culture is yet another form of worship that some even find a mental disease associated with compulsive behavior. Yet you look at the definition for it and in some ways believing in a Kardashian (no I am not looking up if that is the correct spelling) seems no different than believing in Jesus. Same infatuation with a fabricated thing.

Yet I love Christianity in so many ways, I still feel comforted by praying “our father.”

Faith helps people get through life. It gives them energy to keep going, it gives them that sense of companionship when we feel all alone. Some would not be able to get up every day without it. So is there something wrong with those that don’t have it all?

Do we always need someone or something to worship? is it just part of the human makeup?

This topic does have more questions than answer I am afraid. One of the most important lessons I have come across in life is that to really learn you have to question. If you have faith in something, it is ok to question it… if you don’t it might not be that strong after all.

Understanding

“What I hear, I forget;
What I see, I remember;
What I do, I understand.” -Confucius. 451 BC

Ask anyone that has been a motorcycle rider about what the experience is like and you will get the same response; you cannot really explain it, you have to experience it.

There are a lot of things in life that are very hard to explain and don’t make sense until you actually experience them. Part of it is that you can hear or read about something, but until you are actually in the situation you cannot really wrap your arms around it.

I have friends that are completely against gay marriage, and therefore against a same sex couple being able to adopt children. I don’t understand why the institution of marriage is a members only club for the heterosexual folks, but I find the situation very sad. It seems that nobody understands what is like to be told what you can and cannot do until it happens to you or someone you love.

I am not sure if it is because I have the experience of being an immigrant or because I have had true friends that are in the LGBT community (and some of them have adopted kids.) but I find it hard to believe that anyone would oppose another human being in any of those issues. Sexual orientation is not something you chose like what shoes you wear in the morning. It is no different than your liking being told sweet things while making love or liking dirty talk. It’s private, it’s what you do with your significant other, it has nothing to do with anyone outside of your bedroom.

I joke around with one of my friends about the BDSM world all the time because everyone that has not experienced that world to some degree thinks that is full of “freaks.” What most people don’t realize is that those freaks might be your dentist, your lawyer or the dude fixing your computer. What they do in their private life is their business… however, it does not make them any more freaks than your secret trips to the fridge at midnight when you think nobody is watching.

I am not saying that you need to go see a dominatrix to understand the world, but that judging others or even excluding them from the rights they should have is a very narrow view of the world.

Stigma is a powerful thing and makes people feel really threatened. I play video games online and I have met several people that simply refuse to let their family and friends know that they play them. I understand that the professional world might still have some negative views about online gaming, but now that everyone is playing Angry Birds maybe the stigma will start to disappear.

Don’t wait until one of your kids or someone close to you is discriminated against to change your world view. Be open minded about everything and find the root of your “moral” stances; don’t be afraid to challenge them or change them. If they are based only in fear or what someone else says, re-evaluate them.

New Year New Direction

Small people talk about other people.

Average people talk about things.

Great people talk about ideas.

I found the quote above thanks to one of my latest finds, Wogan May circled me via G+ and I have been having a blast reading through his blog. While there are a lot more ideas for topics that reading him have sparked, this one has been brewing in my own head for a while. The quote just happened to be a good springboard for the post.

This blog has taken many turns over the years. I have wanted to chronicle several things, but it seems to not serve that purpose all that well. One constant is that it does see to make people think. The posts that seem to start conversations with my friends are the ones that I enjoy the most. That and the ones about Movies I watch. As much as I would love to mess with XO and say I am turning this blog into a foodie blog, I think this year I am going to move to talking about ideas a little more.

Lets go back to the quote and look at it from a psychology point of view. I have touched on maturity before and joked about my varying degrees of it. Most people get stuck on the gossip world of, lets talk about other people and let that be the subject. Others step onto talking about the things they see, what surrounds them. Only a few get to the level where they want to explore ideas and understand why it is that they think the way they do.

Again, I often regress to talking about other people, its easy because it is part of human interaction. However I enjoy conversations about ideas the most. I have been lucky enough to have lots of those lately and that is probably one of the only good side effects of the economy tanking. Once you get beyond the politics and economics you move onto talking about ideas and in the end what is really important.

I want to do that with this blog, I want to hopefully show people a different point of view. Who knows, if I am lucky enough maybe even spark an idea like others do when I read them. I have often fantasized that blogs will change the world in a very real way just because of how we are sharing thoughts. So I am going back to posting quotes and what comes to my brain when I read them.

That said, I am glad that 2012 has started. 2011 was not a year I can call one of the best… I do want to call 2012 one if them. Happy New Year!