Sunday, July 10, 2016

By Reed Galen

Quote by a Smart Person: “There is no such thing as perfect security, only varying degrees of insecurity.” Salman Rushdie

Welcome to the American Singularity.

For most of its nearly 250 years, the United States has been different and better for any number of reasons. Perhaps the most enduring feature of our republic, though, is that civil discourse has been our primary route to progress and positive change.

What we now witness is the leading, concerning edge of a new paradigm in American political and civil life. We cannot, as a nation, allow the horrific actions of a few to allow the rest of us to be pushed inexorably away from our tradition of talking through our most pressing issues and allowing the rule of law that has built the American foundation, to become nothing more than lip service.

One hundred fifty years ago we saw the carnage and destruction that occurred when one faction concluded the time for talking was over. The result? Five years of unimaginable human loss as the states battled over slavery, their varied economies and sectional beliefs. While we are hopefully a very long way from such a result, we should use the Civil War as a reminder. When debate dies, so do people.

As we recoil from the past week’s tragedies — first in Louisiana, Minnesota and then in Dallas, we individually try to make sense of the senseless. Of two men dead at the hands of those sworn to protect, and the loss of five police officers lost at the hands of a man claiming vengeance as his motive and his right. Before this week it was Orlando. Before Orlando it was San Bernardino. Does one event beget another?

Courtesy, Associated Press.

When we aren’t dealing with horrific video of our own, we watch as the scenes of terror across the world fill our screens. In Paris, Belgium, Baghdad and Instanbul, even with all that we try to cope with here, we still harbor a quiet and subconscious appreciation that at least we’re not dealing with bombings at airports.

As Americans, we have for many years taken our basic safety for granted. Protected by the aegis of American might and the two largest moats in the world, we always appeared blessed by provenance to be separated by distance and obstacle from the horrors of the rest of planet Earth.

That’s not the case anymore. While the September 11th attacks did the most to puncture our sense of invulnerability at home, what we deal with on an increasing basis is forcing an evolution upon us. Are we safe at the movie theater? Are we safe at church? Are we safe at the office Christmas party? Are we safe walking down the street of a major city?

For as long as any of can remember, these answers were unequivocally “yes” if we ever stopped to take time to ask the question in the first place. Now, even if we don’t wake up every morning and ask ourselves “is it safe to go to work today?” there is a creeping, growing sense of disquiet regarding our basic safety.

The culprits of the attacks that shake our personal and collective foundations may have different motives, but the results are the same. We close ourselves off a little more. We spend more time asking, “does that guy look suspicious to you?” Self-preservation, rightly so, is the strongest human motivation.

When we have to consciously think about whether or not it’s safe to go to the grocery store, or the corner store or to the mall, we have lost something precious; something that much of the rest of the world lost years, even decades ago.

Unlike the attacks in Europe and the Middle East, in which ISIS is attempting to instill fear in civilian populations, those that carry out attacks on American soil are more often than not loners who, left to their own demented devices, tear asunder the lives of their victims, their families and their communities.

The psychological profiles of these lone gunmen are frighteningly similar. A deep-seated anger or resentment at the world around them metastasizes into the desire and willingness to carry out horrendous acts whether they be in the name of ISIS, as revenge for police actions or simply to show the world, that despite their long isolation, they too can make their mark.

Determining the root cause of these killers’ motivations, is a large, smelly and unpleasant onion that we as a nation are either unwilling or unable to begin peeling. Because everyone, regardless of their race or political persuasion, will have to face certain unpleasant truths about our personal worldview. The first most difficult realization: That while our beliefs may be rooted in terrible events and deeply held, they are probably not 100% correct or infallible.

Next, we must begin to accept the fact that those with whom we disagree are not likely evil incarnate, though they may be misguided, and that demonizing them only reinforces the beliefs of both sides of an argument; preventing real dialogue from occurring and divining a solution, even an imperfect one, likely impossible.

Most Americans will mourn the loss of life we now too regularly witness in their own ways. Some will find anger welling within them. Others will despair at the state of our country and national conversation. If the violence continues, it will become more difficult for us to believe that argument and discourse can really solve our problems.

We must try and break this divisive and destructive cycle and we must begin right away. Whether your Back the Blue or stand with Black Lives Matter, overheated rhetoric and vengeance will not bring us together. Only a greater sense of understanding will begin to heal the self-inflicted wounds which threaten to further push apart.

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AuthorReed Galen