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Monday, January 25, 2016

It's not about terrorism; it's about our response

  GEORGE TEMPLETON  
        COMMENTARY        

By George Templeton
Gazette Columnist
 
Fearful
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me…” 
A new Texas law allows licensed gun owners to openly carry their weapons in any place that does not expressly prohibit it.  The 2500 member First Baptist Church of Arlington, merging guns and God, has jumped on the bandwagon.  It should not be a problem for their principled congregations.  Guns are a status symbol, associated with manhood and courage.  Legitimizing them in the public square teaches children by example.  It will help to craft a brave new world.  Come Easter, those spiffily dressed in their “Sunday go to meeting” bulletproof suit will need to find a compatible holster.  The ladies will want pink assault rifles to match their bonnet.
The Arizona culture warriors, mixing God, guns, and the Constitution are at it again!  HB2170 permits concealed weapons on campus, but HB2186 restricts that to faculty.  HB2494 offers state tax refunds to pay for concealed weapon permits required in other states and settings.  SB1063 requires public buildings without gun lockers to allow weapons inside them.  HB2339 allows guns even when lockers are available.  HB2320 allows government agencies to be gun free only when there are metal detectors and guards at each entrance.  HB2431 prevents background checks before selling a gun.  Arizona, since 2010, allows concealed carry without a permit.  HB2337 requires police to have more than suspicion before they can question a person about being armed.  HB2338 increases the penalty for taking a gun away.   
What is the greatest danger?
Terrorists know that fear advances their cause.  It rewires our brains.  We closed the entire L.A. school district, not two terrorists.
Fear leads to bigotry.  In 1846, Louis Agassiz, the great Harvard professor wrote a letter:  “In seeing their black faces with their thick lips and grimacing teeth, the wool on their head, their bent knees, their elongated hands, their large curved nails, and especially the livid color of the palm of their hands, I could not take my eyes off their face in order to tell them to stay far away.” 
Terrorism promotes fear.  In 1919, Attorney General Palmer, following a terrorist bombing, wrote about European immigrants:  “Out of the sly and crafty eyes of many of them leap cupidity, cruelty, insanity, and crime; from their lopsided faces, sloping brows, and misshapen features may be recognized the unmistakable criminal types.”
Oliver Wendell Homes was not concerned that some child might be left behind.  He wrote:  “It is better for all the world if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or let them starve for their imbecility; society could prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…”
Charles Davenport, author of a 1930’s college text, Heredity in Relation of Eugenics, warned that “unless immigration stopped Americans would have darker skin; grow more emotional; and become more given to crimes of larceny, kidnapping, assault, murder, rape, and sexual immorality”.
William Shockley, the 1956 Nobel laureate who invented the transistor, agreed when he worried about the “genetic deterioration of the human race through the lack of elimination of the least fit as the basis of continuing evolution.”
Fear widens the gaps between people, making those who warn us special, but science denies that.  We created false differences, allowing culture and prejudice to dominate our classifications.  There is much more genetic variation within races than between races.  Someday, there will be no such thing as race. 
What happens when culture fractures?
Culture is a bias about how we act, think, and want.  Sylvia Allen claims that taxpayers will need to support Syrian refugees because they are not above average like us.  She says that Muslims would be more comfortable in a society governed by Sharia law, but isn’t it a fact that we would be more comfortable if we did not have to live with people having different views?
Jeb Bush’s strategy to defeat terrorism is simple:  No Islam!  A crusade against one of the world’s great religions will never put to rest those who hear the Almighty’s word and know they are going to paradise.
Marco Rubio would cancel the Iran nuclear deal, restore sanctions, and prevent the Iranians from having a nuclear bomb, but he does not explain how. 
Ted Cruz promised to paint in bold instead of pastel colors.  He will paint with the blood of soldiers.  The number of angels that can stand on the head of a pin is an argument that cannot be won.  Divisive religion will be the Achilles’ heel of the Middle East.
Paul Gosar speaks of fear, evil, and danger.  He warns that Muslims believe in an apocalypse but fails to mention that Christians also have a version of the end times.  He would lead, but where?  Leadership is more than getting revenge.  It is smarter than the drunken cowboy who tried to ride the rhinoceros at the Phoenix zoo.  Gosar describes President Obama as “scared”, suggesting that he is brave, noble, and wholesome when he argues for an expanded war.  Anyone who doubts is a coward on the side of the enemy, but we have no skin in the game.  Romney missed an opportunity when he did not advocate youth service, like Mormon missionaries, but with secular civic, geopolitical, and military components.
The recent Oregon federal wildlife refuge standoff illustrates domestic terrorism that combines ranching, guns, and bible thumping patriotism.  On The Liberty Roundtable radio show Ammon Bundy said, “We read in Genesis where God gives the earth to man.  He did not give it to government.”  Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Ben Carson have supported the Bundy family’s defiance of grazing fees and the BLM.  Ted referred to it as Obama’s “jackboot of authoritarianism”, though the courts have repeatedly ruled against Cliven Bundy since 1994.  Cruz has hypocritically criticized liberals for no longer believing in law and order.  Fox news lambasted liberals for hiding behind procedure.  It’s the law, but the law is procedure.  Emile Durkheim was concerned with the tyranny of the majority.  He felt that a stable society needed crime to push against the intensifying coercion of uniformity.
Ben Carson would have the Department of Education secretly monitor universities to prevent bias.  Would correcting a “biblically illiterate society” be an example of bias?  It was Cynthia Dunbar’s goal for the Texas State Board of Education when she worked there.  Now she is a state co-chair for Ted Cruz’s campaign.  Her words are about public education dubbed government education, called socialized education that deceives and indoctrinates.  Education expresses our belief in what it takes to join and compete in the world.
State Senator Sylvia Allen, Chairman of the Education Committee and Administrative Program Manager of a for-profit charter school, seems suspicious of education that could lead to an uncomfortable choice between literal sacred teachings and scientific fact.  Industrialization secularized education in the 1800’s, but in some agrarian southern states religion remained in public education into the 20th century.  Now believers, who are rightfully concerned about America losing the moral high ground, would retreat to the past.  The shortcoming of local control of schools is that the content of education in the most backward areas of our country will be determined by backward people.
More Than We Can Know
When politicians encounter an uncomfortable truth, they claim the exact opposite.   They make us feel good by appealing to our greatness.  The “will of the American people” always seems to oppose the party in power.  Bandwagon propaganda and polls are tools that recognize our desire to be on the winning side.  They infect our minds.
Sigmund Freud knew that we are more than what we think we are.  Our conscious is the superego, the Jiminy Cricket that was our parents, upbringing, and the Holy Spirit.  The id, our instincts, verified by our acceptance of dirty jokes, is of Satan.  Our rational Ego is what we thought we were, but that is incomplete.  We are subconsciously embroiled in a life and death struggle between the desire to be a free individual and the urge to be a good citizen.  Carl Jung developed this further, assuming that our minds are somehow more than brains.  They contain instincts that come from elsewhere.  We strongly react to the world in ways that exhibit our connection to each other.  However, studies suggest that only five percent of our decisions are conscious.
In 1951, Solomon Asch tried to measure independent thinking.  His experiment presented a picture of a line and a second picture with three lines, differing greatly in length, with one being exactly identical to the line in the first picture.  A group of eight people voted verbally to select the line in the second picture having identical length.  Unknown to the test subject, seven impostors were programmed to make wrong decisions about which line was identical in length.  Asch found that three out of four test subjects voted with the obviously wrong majority at least some of the time.  The test subjects said they valued freedom, but conformity was more important.
In 1963, Stanley Milgram experimented with obedience in a learning situation.  The “teacher” was ordered by an administrator to electrically shock a hidden learner, who cried in pain when a wrong answer was given.  The strength of the shock was indicated by a large voltmeter indicating “death” at its highest level.  The teacher’s duty was to follow the administrator’s instructions, which continued to increase the shock until the learner finally grew silent.  More than 62 percent of the teachers were willing to kill the learner.  It was not in their educational methods class!  It shows how authority and conformity can cloud the moral judgment of normal, sane people.
At the end of the nineteenth century, Wilhelm Wundt and Gustav Fechner began to explore how different things needed to be before we could distinguish between them.  Business contracts are applied transactional ethics where the participants are assumed to be perfectly rational and utterly self-interested.  They require deliverables, but friendly loan gives it to you, and then takes away more than you can pay.  Donald Trump wants the best outcome for himself, but he has not confided much to us.  He claims that “winners”, like himself, drive the improvement of society.  Chinese business is less concerned with measurable objectives, focusing instead on a lasting relationship that cares for you.  These views overlap, but there is a difference.
We wonder about Sylvia Allen’s ability to discriminate between individual acts of kindness and government programs.  While it is commendable that Glen Beck provided refuge for 149 Christians in Slovakia, it cannot solve the problem of more than nine million Syrians that have fled their homes.
Destiny
C. S. Lewis wrote, “The act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin.” Does America progress?  To answer that, we must consider what gives meaning to our lives, what our values are, and how they are determined.  It is not about terrorism, but is about our response.  We have experienced the silent majority and the moral majority.  Now it is time for the rational majority to step up.

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