Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Give Them Liberty or Give Them Death.

It was still dark outside when I awoke in a panic.  “Had they gotten it?” I asked myself, frantic.  I could still hear the alarms clearly sounding which meant that the lab had indeed been breached and the soldiers were undoubtedly on their way!  There was no time to think about it, I had to get out of there to avoid capture, not to mention almost certain torture and death.  I made to leave, but wait….what is this soft material surrounding me?  Why is it so dark and quiet all of the sudden?  My heart pounds.  My eyes focus.  Is this my bedroom in San Antonio and not my secret, Level 4 Bio-lab two miles beneath the scorching sands of Chile’s Atacama Desert? Am I not in mortal peril?  But, I can still hear the alarm?!  My wits return, my mind clears.  I turn my head in the direction of the sound and realize that the alarm had come from a cell phone that now sits placidly at my bedside, no longer sounding.  I realize quickly what has occurred and understand that the alarm sound that had integrated itself so successfully into my dream world, molding and guiding it, was nothing more than a cell phone notification in the wee hours of a morning still too new to be faced.  

Well, as it happens, the notification was that there had been a kidnapping in North Texas and my phone had felt it prudent to give me the ole heads up in the (I guess likely in my phone’s estimation) event that both abductor and abductee may at that very moment be entering into my bedroom some 250 miles south of the scene of the crime and that I may be able to subdue the former and rescue the latter saving the proverbial day.  I disagreed with that assessment, however, and, selfishly cursing this unsolicited Amber Alert notification and the Apple Corporation as a whole for leaving me vulnerable to it, darkened my cellphone screen and, slamming it back down onto the bedside table, rolled over to reenter sleep.  My sleep, however, as in most cases of abrupt and unexpected interruption, was sadly not to be so instead I sat, wide-eyed and hating Apple, staring at my ceiling and thinking about how I was going to turn off those notifications just as soon as I woke up.  But I was already up, I guess.  As I lay there thinking, wallowing in that moment of clarity that often succeeds subjugation to a frustration beyond one’s control, I was able to probe something that I hadn’t considered before and that, in fact, few of us ever do in our fast-paced lives.  It made me a bit uncomfortable as our late night thoughts often do.  It was a thought of how little I cared about this kidnapping victim.  My first thought at seeing the alert was one of frustration, not compassion.  What had become of me?

Sadly, my lack of compassion is not something lacking in our society at large either.  I read daily about the struggles of countless Middle-Eastern refugees and the folks who deny them asylum in their countries fearing that the oppressed are but the oppressors in disguise.  That they are angling to first gain access to and then destroy Western Nations from within by enduring countless hardships to achieve something that does not, in fact, even align with their cause!  After reading that sentence you may be wondering what their cause is and even who “they” are.  Well, for the purposes of this post, the bad guys are ISIS, just to keep it simple, and what they want may not be what you think.  So, without further ado, please allow me to oversimplify the shit out of this whole situation for you via bullet points:
  1.  ISIS wants to (and did) establish a Caliphate which is in essence a borderless country that follows Islamic Law (very strictly, mind you).  This requires physical land so it does not behoove ISIS to be trying to destabilize America from within when they can do so perfectly well from without.  It is far more useful to take and then HOLD physical land in the immediate vicinity of its current occupation and ISIS is well aware of this you can be assured. 
  2.   No one who has joined ISIS would agree to go to a Western Country because leaving the Caliphate once you’re there is an act of apostasy and punishable by death.  Meaning to leave would be a betrayal of Islam.  That’s right, they’re not even allowed to do what you’re afraid they’re trying to do.  Once you’re in you do NOT leave but, for the sake of imagination, let’s say that’s not true and explore the alternative.  If, and that’s a big “if”, ISIS wanted to send its people into Western countries to instigate terror attacks it would almost certainly do so illegally and secretly rather than attempting to navigate the impossible and absurd process undertaken by legitimate refugees.  If refugees were members of ISIS it would take them in some cases about 5 years to penetrate a country’s borders.  Very efficient indeed. 
  3.  They want to have this war on their land.  Dabiq, Syria to be exact and, no, that’s not a typo.  They literally want and expect to duke it out with the West, in Dabiq, because that is exactly what is prophesized to happen in the scripture.  According to Islamic end-of-days scripture the Western powers will destroy about 1/3 of the armies of Islam, another 1/3 will abandon their cause (and burn in hell for it of course, not to worry) and the remaining 1/3 will defeat the infidels (us) and then we get our turn to burn in hell.  This is what ushers in the apocalypse and ISIS believes the end of the world is upon us already!  Once it happens all the boys from ISIS get to chill in Heaven with their 21 virgins and presumably laugh at all the rest of us.  So, in summary, this war takes place in Syria (not in America) and ISIS is cool with all that.  Moving on.
  4.  ISIS can terrorize the West perfectly well without sending any of their men there.  There are countless ISIS sympathizers in Western countries and those same countries do not let those sympathizers leave for fear of, you guessed it, them running off to join ISIS!  Those folks become restless and anxious regarding their inability to help, ergo, they attack the country in which they are trapped fancying it an honorable deed in service of the cause they cannot otherwise contribute to.  That’s right, it is not folks from ISIS committing these attacks (directly, anyway).  It’s those who are NOT able to join ISIS!  Of course, ISIS is perfectly happy to give them a nudge in the terroristic direction but to say that ISIS is infiltrating these countries and attacking them is a stretch at the very least.  Remember, that once you reach the Caliphate it is an offense punishable by death to leave it! 

Having said all that, let’s leave off ISIS for a bit and digress to the refugees now that I have made my case for them at least not being terrorists.  Why has our compassion been replaced by something more sinister?  Why did I not care about the kidnapped victim that was the subject of the phone alarm that so annoyed me?  Well I think there are a few reasons none of which are that other people are terrorists and I’m afraid of them.  I think it boils more down to selfishness.  A selfishness applied in different ways but adhering to the same underlying principal of self-preservation and lack of empathy.  I think propriety is a common form through which our selfishness is manifested and a good example of what we’re talking about here.  We say we don’t want them here taking OUR jobs, eating OUR food, drinking OUR water or marrying OUR women/men.  It’s easy to say stuff like that but it’s also terrible coming from Americans who stole everything we have from the Native populations when we got here.  I’m not really sure why we feel like we can shut the gates now considering the folks that want in want only to survive.  Where is our humanity?

My beloved Texas, sadly, is at the forefront of the anti-refugee movement and with every piece of flying rhetoric does an incalculable disservice to itself.  Such a rich history of immigration and diversity tarnished with the smudge of irrational fear and hatred.  The landing place of the German free-thinkers (my family) and a home to Mexicans, Native Americans, Spanish and French!  Six flags over Texas and one fanatical, fear-mongering governor willing to shit on it all!  It’s a sad day when your governor sounds more like a conspiracy theorist than competent statesman (See: Jade Helm 15) but we shout praises to him for keeping Obama at bay!  Give me a fucking break.

In conclusion, our humanity is what is at stake here and the loss of it is exactly what we condemn our enemies for.  To voluntarily wave goodbye to it would be to align ourselves at the same human level as those we despise and the ultimate act of hypocrisy on our part.  It is engraved on the Statue of Liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – yet we seem to not heed the words on which our country was founded.  We refer to ourselves as a “bouillabaisse” of different cultures and I was taught that as a point of pride growing up here and now we turn our backs on those who need us and blame ISIS for it.  It makes me sick to think that we can live so scared and so cruelly and yet still maintain that we are superior to anyone else.  Always remember that doing nothing is the same as doing the wrong thing and shutting your door on these people is as good as killing them.  I for one welcome anyone in need and pray that, were the tables turned, I would be offered a helping hand as well.  If France can be attacked and still honor their pledge to take refugees then how can we, as Texans or Americans, not hang our heads in shame.  We view ourselves as strong but our actions are fraught with weakness and our fear is indicative of defeat at the hands of our enemies.  To deny it would be to lie to yourself.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I'll Have What She's Having!

It’s a Wednesday morning.  Summer has technically passed although the heat that marks it lingers on in typical South Texas style.  I have the paper open on my desk and the weather man on TV chatters on in the background about potential, but unlikely, rain so I pay him no heed.  I read the day’s news, most of which is consumed by a Papal visit to the States, but don’t learn much so I give it up as a bad job and return to my computer to begin the day officially.  This is pretty typical and a routine I’ve grown quite fond of.  It centers me and allows me both a period of serenity during which I can drink my coffee as well as a quiet hour during which I can bring myself up on the goings on in the world.  What would make this particular morning atypical (or perhaps what we would once have considered atypical), however, was the visitor I was soon to receive as well as the substance of our ensuing dialogue.

He was young, proud and had been working at the company for a little less than a year.  This is serious tenure, mind you, for the latest product editions of the American college system.  His concern was that he felt he had plateaued here and that there was no room for growth (from the very bottom) and that he felt stagnated.  He wondered if he might perhaps have several people working beneath him and undertake more of a leadership position within the company.  This is a highly respectable career goal, I admit with pleasure, but simply premature.  He wanted to be running meetings, a corner office, parking spot and fat paycheck with which he could dazzle his friends.  He had been here less than a year and had no previous experience but these considerations were beside the point, I guess.

Sadly, this is not a unique situation.  The young workforce emerging into the job market now are among the most entitled of any that have ever preceded them.  They’ve watched their entire adolescence the astronomical rises of people like Zuckerberg, Kalanick, DeWolfe, Systrom or even that piece of shit, Martin Shkreli, who was recently called out trying to cash in at the expense of AIDS and Cancer patients.  What they don’t understand is that to do this you have to either win the lottery, like the former examples, or sell your fucking soul, like the latter.  What you never saw on the news were the thousands of others with equally marketable products who failed.  They didn’t fail because they were worse or less talented, they failed simply because that’s what the mob decided for them.  The internet is fickle and cruel and a good idea isn’t enough anymore.  The world is awash with them.  People have to choose yours, and no one has figured out the trillion dollar formula for that yet.  You can roll the dice if you want to play the game but it is likely going to come up snake eyes every fucking time.  But I digress.  This culture has the unfortunate and damaging side-effect of breeding an entire generation of young people that want to be on the top of the ladder immediately and without work and unfortunately it doesn’t work that way in the real world.

Now, the fundamental problem in this scenario is simple, although not easily corrected.  Jealousy.  You see a young guy with fast cars, jets and statuesque women (or men) and you say to yourself that you want that, too.  Of course you do, so do I.  Everyone does, let’s be real here.  Jealousy is one of the most toxic emotions and cruelest pranks from God’s joke bag ever to befall humanity.  It’s toppled empires, destroyed families, driven people mad and now produced an entire generation of worthless college grads (I’m speaking in generalities, of course, and obviously a bit unfairly, I admit.).  It doesn’t have to be that way though.  I was thinking about it just recently and wrote the following passage to which all the preceding text has lead us.  Perhaps you will take something of value from it.  Perhaps not.  Either way, it is offered. 

Jealousy.  It is a poison.  Gaining strength continuously through the further destruction of its host body.  It is as damaging as it is unconquerable.  Hated, transparent but unavoidable, despite the protestations of reason.  Paradoxically, people are and always will be jealous of the others among whom they live.  A man is jealous of me because I am well-traveled or because I have a nice car.  I am jealous of him because he plays more skillfully than I on the piano or simply because he is tall.  However, this jealousy does not make me tall nor he traveled.  Therefore, logic demands that instead of despising others because they have what we do not we should embrace them so that together we might have everything.  Only then will he grab something for me that is beyond my reach or entertain me with his piano.  Only then can I share with him my knowledge of the world or lend him my car.  Together we are complete, apart we resent each other because we are not.  

Thanks for listening.
Your Friend,