Friday, December 11, 2015

Calm Down, Please

The last few weeks on the political and social fronts have been full of panicked voices calling for extreme measures to allegedly protect Americans and our national security.  It seems to me that if terrorism's goal is to terrorize, then the ISIS terrorists have accomplished their goal...for the moment. Clearly, Donald J. Trump has been terrorized enough to propose fear-mongering actions and buttress his support from Republicans who are as terrorized as he is.

Doug Muder at The Weekly Sift offers an antidote to the panic and fear in his blog post "In times of hysteria." I recommend it to everyone to read and think about. We need calm, reasonable voices right now that can cut through the panic vocabulary and turn down the volume on the screaming voices.

Nothing productive comes from acting out of fear.  That is actually acting from weakness, not strength, and results often in angry reactions or lashing out.  Hillary Clinton has made an important point this week, i.e. Trump's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. plays right into the terrorists' hands.  In fact, probably most of what Trump has said the last few weeks has demonstrated to the terrorists that they have succeeded in the campaign of terror in the U.S.  We don't need a political leader to do that.  We need a political leader who truly understands the goals of terrorism and how to deal with it, and never shows the terrorists that they've succeeded.

We also need to tone down the rhetoric in this country and on social media.  What can each of us do as individuals?  Mr. Muder at The Weekly Sift makes six suggestions with examples in his post:
  • Don't make it worse.
  • Disrupt the spread of rumors
  • Make fantasies confront reality
  • Call out distractions
  • Make sensible points
  • Look for unlikely allies, and quote them
 The primary point, though, is to calm down, get some emotional distance from what is being said, and examine all claims to establish whether they are based in cold fact or hot emotion, i.e. fear.  In order to solve the problems that we are facing, we need calm analysis and creative thinking, neither of which are possible in a highly charged emotional environment.

Taking a step back, what is the message of Trump's ban on Muslim immigrants?  Trump's message is first and foremost based on fear, i.e. discriminating against the foreign or the unknown.  America is already home to Muslim Americans, many who were born here. Trump's ban implicates these people, too.  It implies that we cannot trust them either.  And what happens from that?

There's a post circulating on Facebook written by a young Iranian American woman who was born in Boston.  Her post describes a man screaming at her on the commuter bus after work, telling her that she doesn't belong in this country and that she should leave the bus.  At first, she responds calmly and quietly with no effect. No one comes to her assistance until she starts screaming back at the man, and then the driver throws the man off the bus.  This is a possible result of Trump's anti-Muslim messages. How is this productive?  How does this solve the problem of terrorism?  That man was terrorizing that young woman, becoming the thing that he feared.

I've written about Donald Trump before here.  I'm not one of his supporters. He has the right to his opinions, however, and to express them.  I wonder if he makes his business decisions based on fear. I wonder how he approaches problem-solving.  There's no doubt that right now he is the loudest panicked voice in America and that he is a powerful fomenter of fear.  He believes, from what he's said, that President Obama is following an ineffective strategy in dealing with ISIS and terrorism. But how effective a strategy is it to foment fear?  That doesn't solve the problem.  It creates more and hands the terrorists a victory.


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