Use tradition to fight terrorism

........................................................................................................................................................................................

I was surprised at the way Socorroans reacted to my Xmas column a couple of months ago. Letters came in, though not as many as I had envisioned, and rather than wishing me a cruel death, they said things like Miss London is brave for sharing her thoughts on atheism with a small town like this.

I tried to stir up a bit of controversy and sell a few papers. Oh well, this is nice too.

Some people even went out of their way to tell me in person that not all Christians — or Republicans, for that matter — are bad people, and then bought me a green chile cheeseburger to underline the point.

Socorro, when I asked why Christ’s teachings are not implemented in public policy, I didn’t mean you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you’re going to convince me there’s a God — cheeseburgers notwithstanding — but I also don’t want to convince you there isn’t one. I wouldn’t have it for the world. I like you just the way you are, Socorro. Let’s revel in our diversity.

And let’s talk about gun control, since everyone else is — and I am nothing if not a loyal follower of everyone.

Every time some lunatic opens fire in a public place, politicians bring up gun control, background checks and other catch-phrases. It is a knee-jerk response born out of a desire to appear proactive, and it solves nothing. Terrorists and criminals will always have access to weapons, no matter how access may be limited to the law-abiding.

This is such a tired, old discussion we have already had a million times over. Aren’t you sick of it?

Consolidating power into the hands of fewer and fewer individuals never brings us to any good place in history.

The only way we will ever defeat terrorism, whether home-grown or imported, is on the individual level. That means we have to build on our traditions of expanding civil rights, not move in the opposite direction (airport strip search, anyone?).

I notice a lot of nostalgia in some circles about our Founding Fathers, their ideas about liberty and their greatness. I wish people would remember that at the time the Founding Fathers were developing the Constitution and other great works, all those concepts of “freedom” only really applied to white male landowners.

Over the years and with the help of some who were considered radicals in their time, other groups were eventually allowed to partake in the concepts of liberty. It was 1920 before women were guaranteed the right to vote in this country’s elections, for instance.

Our uniquely American tradition of expanding on civil rights for the individual is the perfect two-pronged approach to eliminating terrorism. It will accomplish everything whereas making up more rules and taking on the appearance of seeming “busy at work on the issues” do nothing but piss people off, possibly creating more terrorists.

Terrorists are grown in environments of oppression. Remember the term “going postal”? This term, for a long time now a cliché, comes from a series of incidents beginning in the early 1980s in which postal workers shot their bosses, co-workers, police and the public at large due to rage fostered in the workplace — an environment of oppression.

“Going postal” has become such a cliché, in fact, you never hear it anymore — even the most simpleminded seem too embarrassed to voice the term anymore. Also, there are so many more oppressive environments than just the U.S. Postal Service. These last few killers were not postal workers, for instance, but I do not doubt they have been steeped in some brand of oppression.

The larger entities among us are responsible for fostering environments of poverty and oppression overseas, as well as here in our own stagnant cubicles. So not only our own lunatics want to shoot and bomb us, but we also have them flying in from elsewhere.

Those responsible for cultivating environments of oppression want to keep the conversation firmly rooted in “gun control” and “background checks.” If we dare look at these subjects any more deeply than the sound byte of the day, we run the risk of taking back our power as individuals and limiting the power of corporations and government agencies.

We could change our lives forever. It is not only the power-hungry corporate overlords who fear this; a distressing number of individuals fear their own power, fear change.

This brings discussion to the second prong in the fork to stab out the heart of terrorism: empowering the individual. In the interest of not taking up the whole page, I hope to make this point with one example: the passengers of the fourth plane in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The first and second planes crashed into the two towers of New York’s World Trade Center. The third crashed the Pentagon. The fourth, however, although meant for the U.S. Capitol, ended up in a field in Pennsylvania.

And why?

The individuals on that plane are why. Number one, they were informed; they heard about what happened to the other planes. Number two, they made the choice to defy those in power; at that particular time in that particular confined space, terrorists had the power.

Terrorism isn’t something we can address at the level of military or government. Terrorists are angry, violent individuals who feel compelled to do something awful because they feel powerless. In the end, only calm, empowered individuals can stop them, and at a very personal level. Like the people on the fourth plane.

So we need to focus on empowering individuals.

We should worry less about propping up top-heavy corporations to foster the growth of “jobs” — a phantom concept that never materializes anyway — and focus instead on building communities and enriching opportunities for individuals. We should have more structure and regulations for large entities like big banks, and far fewer rules governing the minutiae of an individual’s everyday life.

Buy local whenever possible. And learn martial arts. If everyone did only those two things, it would keep us far safer, not to mention far more liberated and happy, than all the background checks in China.