Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Paris: The Best Revenge

As a child, one of my favorite stories, and holiday television shows was the original Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas.  The television production has since been remade into the now familiar full length feature film (2000) starring Jim Carrey.  My brother and I would get pretty excited when the original's annual appearance was heralded by the TV Guide; when the Grinch came on, it was a family affair.  Baths were taken early, pajamas were donned, popcorn was made, and lights were turned down low.  Lessons learned and laughter shared during happily predictable holiday programming was a  tradition at my house.  Although I had my favorite parts, I could recite the words right along with the narrator after a few years.


From the Wiki:
The Grinch is depicted as a furry recluse living in seclusion on a cliff overlooking the cheerful, optimistic community of Whoville. He scorns the Christmas season and the boisterous festivities customarily celebrated during the holiday; apparently irritated by the happiness of others and deriving pleasure from spoiling other people's merriment. Aided by his long-suffering pet dog, Max, he disguises himself as Santa Claus and breaks into the Whos' homes to steal their holiday decorations and gifts. Although his plan works, he is infuriated on Christmas morning to find the Whos singing cheerfully despite his actions. Convinced that the holiday must carry a meaning distinct from its decorations and gifts, the Grinch returns and distributes his stolen goods to the Whos, with whom he thereafter celebrates. 

We'll return to the first war on Christmas momentarily. First let's talk about another story.  It starts like this:
Darius III (c. 380 – July 330 BC), originally named Artashata and called Codomannus by the Greeks, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great began his invasion of the Persian Empire and subsequently defeated the Persians in a number of battles before looting and destroying the capital Persepolis, by fire, in 331 BC.  [Before that]  In spring 333 BC, Alexander crossed the Taurus into Cilicia. After a long pause due to illness, he marched on towards Syria. Though out-maneuvered by Darius' significantly larger army, he marched back to Cilicia, where he defeated Darius at Issus. Darius fled the battle, causing his army to collapse, and left behind his wife, his two daughters, his mother Sisygambis, and a fabulous treasure. He offered a peace treaty that included the lands he had already lost, and a ransom of 10,000 talents for his family. Alexander replied that since he was now king of Asia, it was he alone who decided territorial divisions.  Alexander proceeded to take possession of Syria, and most of the coast of the Levant. With the Persian Empire now effectively under Alexander's control, Alexander then decided to pursue Darius. Before Alexander reached him, however, Darius was killed by the satrap Bessus, who was also his cousin.

Here's the latest chapter
French warplanes pounded the headquarters of Islamic State on Sunday in retaliation for what the government here said was the group's orchestration of the terrorist assault from its base in northern Syria.  The airstrikes by a dozen aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, destroyed a militant training camp and a command and weapons center in Islamic State's declared capital of Raqqah in Syria, the French Defense Ministry said. It was the biggest such bombardment by France since the country expanded its aerial campaign against Islamic State in September, and was carried out with targeting information supplied by U.S. intelligence.

Now you can add to that threats against mosques and more than half of the States' governors refusing entry to Syrian refugees.  As lamented in my most recent Journal entry, originally the hard part of this post was determining where to start with this story.  A swift kick in the balls would be preferable to rehashing 9/11, the Iraq War, or even attempting to detail the circumstances of the current Syrian conflict.  It's my opinion that anyone who truly cares already knows the fine details, and the rest either don't want to know, won't believe it anyway, or don't care.  If you really want to get up to speed on "ISIS," a good place to start is here.  Hell, the bombs in Paris were still exploding and the bodies hadn't yet been counted and people were already chanting "false flag" on my Facebook timeline and the right-wing wargasms had begun!  Finally, it was this quote from Christopher Loring Knowles' latest post on the Secret Sun blog that provided the inspiration I needed. 

There's a strange kind of ethnocentrism at work in this conspiracy thinking, denying emotion and agency to people not like yourself, thinking they are all just puppets of CIA fratboys. It reminds me of the kind of patronizing paternalism you see among liberals when you talk about Islamic radicalism. I think at its root is a kind of dehumanizing thinking.

Like everything I've written through the blog's and my own personal evolution, the words made me realize that I was reacting emotionally to the Paris attacks (like everyone else), instead of understanding the obvious; I needed to approach this situation through the lens of my own personal experience and my six years of concentrated anthropological study.  Along with the cure for writer's block, Knowles offers an enlightening perspective on recent terrorist attacks, along with a thoughtful debunking of the "false flag" rumors.  His piece entitled Paris, or a Calendar Other Than Your Own is highly recommended.  

My days are currently spent in the pursuit of scientific discovery and academic excellence.  Yet, my hours off are spent with family, discoursing on social media, and tapping away on my obscure little blog, proving daily what Mr. Knowles pointed out, and every good anthropologist knows; culture, religion, philosophy and history are important, if often unquantifiable, variables that must be considered in any situation involving human beings.  All my life, especially lately, it's often felt as though I'm trapped in a never-ending version of The Emperor's New Clothes.  Of course, we all have unique perspectives and trouble recognizing our own blindspots.  Let's all try to dispense with the emotion and hype for a moment if possible, and I'll tell you what I see.

I see that everything I've been writing about is completely true.  America (culture) has become a nation populated by a large number of  individuals who are happily spoon-fed (religion) their distorted propaganda, who have in large part lost their ability to critically discern reality (philosophy), and they are reacting in a predictable (history), if illogical manner.  This can easily and quickly be demonstrated before we move on.

Allow me to put the unfortunate, tragic death of approximately 130 Parisians into perspective.  Since that incident, already over four times (approximately 500) that many Americans (and many Parisians) have died prematurely in automobile accidents.  Where are the protests, the indignation, the impassioned outcry?  Volkswagen corporation was even recently revealed to be involved in a huge international scandal.  No one is calling for stricter controls on foreign parts manufacturers, or demanding a sweeping change to lower speed limits, and it's a safe bet that the same people have since not become overly paranoid or afraid of riding in an automobile.  Of course not, but why not?

After all, those horrible deaths happened right here on our soil over the last four days, not overseas, and it is a stone cold fact that every one of us is at an exponentially higher risk of dying in a vehicle collision (30,000+ annually in US) than from an act of Muslim religious fundamentalist terror.    Answer:  No one has taught/indoctrinated you to be afraid of riding in a car.  If you can step away from your fear, you'll see the cold truth in this logic; a statement in no way intended to belittle the lives lost, or the extent of the emotional impact the attack has.  Pre-primed emotions and perception, it must be realized, are not reality.  So, what is?  You may not like these answers, but you'll always know that I was the one who told you the truth.

On two particular counts, President Obama is precisely right.  1.  "ISIS" is the junior varsity.  Besides their lack of any conventional military power, consider how many casualties there would be should the varsity (e.g. USA, Russia) decide to attack a city like Paris.  How many thousands would be dead?  If we could only get 130 it would be the biggest joke in the history of warfare.  2. "ISIS" is losing, thanks mainly to the bravery of those crazy Kurds. our airstrikes, and Russian airstrikes.

However, even a losing force may strike a devastating blow.  We are fighting an unconventional war after all, do you reasonably expect the enemy to inflict zero casualties?  Remember though, it did take several complete nutjobs, committed to suicide from the onset, to accomplish it.  Compared to the civilian collateral death toll we regularly inflict, this doesn't seem unrealistic.  This is an act designed to draw attention to their cause, and to goad the West into another disastrous response effort (see last 14 years of quagmire).

How do you stop a crazy person who has decided to give their life for their cause or to hurt you? Answer: you can't, but what you can do is not keep creating people who will do that to you. The last thing you do is give them what they want.  Once again Knowles nails it:

Yes, war is like treating a tumor with a sledgehammer when a scalpel and a skilled hand is called for. Preferably a skilled Russian hand and a Kurdish surgical team. What's been done to Syria is unconscionable- this nonsensical war hysteria will do nothing and go nowhere.

President Bush was right as well:

The face of terror is not the true face of Islam.  That's not what Islam is all about.  Islam is peace.  Americans understand we fight not a religion; ours is not a campaign against the Muslim faith. This great nation of many religions understands, our war is not against Islam, or against the faith practiced by the Muslim people.  Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslims. We respect the faith.  We honor its traditions.  Our enemy doesn't follow the great traditions of Islam.  They've hijacked a great religion.

There are millions of American Muslims.  They are not terrorists, rather your friends, co-workers, neighbors, and fellow citizens.  Yet even though these millions are treated shamefully by many, including many in our government, Muslim-related terrorism/violence in America is so negligible as to nearly be non-existent.  Let me just say that watching the Red State governors denying help to those in need based on their religious affiliation is the most Un-Christian thing I've ever witnessed. What happened to their faith?  What happened to their belief that God will protect them if they are doing the right thing? Turns out the people who supposedly have complete faith in the "armor of the Lord", and that they will be in Paradise/Heaven when they die, are the ones most afraid of everything. I've sadly long stopped expecting them to set the proper example.  Think about the Jewish shepherd boy David by contrast as he fearlessly faced the giant warrior Goliath with nothing but a sling and five smooth stones.

After a lifetime of having Christian principles taught to me, watching all these people shed them at the drop of an irrational hat isn't exactly confidence inspiring.  Rather it is re-enforcing the bigoted, fear-mongering, easily led and manipulated, conservative Christian stereotype...which looks not so stereotypical these days as the GOP frontrunner calls for deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants, vetting refugees by religion, and shutting mosques (churches) down.

Although a veteran like many of you, we are not currently informed to the level of seriously considering ourselves completely accurate military analysts.  I've got some ideas on the proper course for eliminating "ISIS"certainly, and I'm willing to discuss them, although I pay the generals et al. to do that.  As for the rest of us. what should we do?  How should we react?  What is the best way to get "revenge" on the bastards who attacked Paris?  What would Jesus do?  Answer:  We see the situation for what it truly is lucidly and clearly; a tragic loss perpetrated by a tragic people in a tragic world, and we resolve to make it better. We honor our allies, mourn our loss, and we move on, wiser and stronger.  Like the Who's in Dr. Seuss' story, we go on about our wonderful lives not in spite of, but despite the current circumstances.  We love each other, and we live well.

Dave ~ Thanks for your time.  I hope we get to know each other better.