Well, it didn't take long, did it? Right when we're still in mourning for Paris, on Wednesday the 2nd of December, another December day that will "live in infamy," two animals claiming to be religious soldiers killed 14 innocent people and wounded 21 others. Syed Rizwan Farook was born here. His wife, Tashfeen Malik, was born in Pakistan and was here legally.
Just before the shooting, Malik "pledged allegiance" to the "Islamic State" in a Facebook post. In their apartment, every manner of weapon and ammunition these two could put their hands on was found, along with some homemade bombs, and, of course, a good deal of religious material.
Since that day, we've heard little else on the national news front but more about this senseless tragedy; we've also heard some incredibly anti-American rhetoric; meaning, rhetoric no self-respecting American would ever utter or endorse.
The only problem, of course, is that the afore-mentioned anti-American rhetoric is coming from Americans. Specifically, it's coming from Donald Trump, tea-party loonies, and their supporters and apologists.
Before you read on, let me give you my standard warning: I respect the right of a person to believe as they will because the Constitution protects that right. I believe in the Constitution as the governing document of our (unique) American democracy.
Yet there's a limit. You can believe, pray and worship all you like, but your religious rights stop when their expression causes harm to others. Which is why you can't force your religious views on others in the workplace. Or express your freedom of speech by painting swastikas on temple walls.
One of the things I find most distasteful about people of any extreme religious conviction is their inability to consider other religious viewpoints as in any way "valid." If I had a dollar - well let's be fair, if I had a hundred thousand dollars - for every time I've heard a person of a particularly "deep" religious conviction call someone from another religious conviction a "cult," - smugly - I'd be really, really rich.
Religious violence is absolutely an outgrowth of the sense that one's own religious belief is the "correct" one and that all others are to some degree impaired, unreal, unjust, inaccurate, etc. The most benign people who hold these views may quietly, privately and even respectfully refrain from judgmental statements about other religious observances, but they have those views, even if they keep them to themselves.
This is why San Bernardino happened.
Now let's move a step beyond that and look at what happens now. And even more importantly, let's look at the real reasons why 14 people were killed.
ISIS wants you to hate Muslims.
Let that sink in for a moment. Because it is absolutely 100% true. The "Islamic State" movement is, at its core, a political movement, not a religious one. They can talk about God all they want, and they can spout the Quran all they like, but they're no more "religious" than the fools who shoot up abortion clinics in this country (or than anyone else who does something abominable and atrocious in the name of a deity). At the end of the day, ISIS wants to separate "Western" Christians and Jews from "Western" Muslims living among them.
Do you really believe that every single Muslim living in The United States is a secret agent for ISIS? Do you really think that they're all going about their daily business, working, trying to make a living, sending their kids to school, going to sporting events, while just waiting for their "sleeper" instruction to do harm?
If you really think that, well, then you're just a nut. For the non-nuts, you know the above isn't true, which leaves us with the necessary truth that the vast majority of Muslims - like the vast majority of Jews and Christians - just want to be left alone, go about their business, get along with others and have others get along with them.
Well, that's not going to work for ISIS. See, if that happens, ISIS sort of just peters out. ISIS needs more meat for the grinder. They're not going to get it if everyone gets along. Sure, they'll always be able to find some nut jobs willing to give up their lives and go work for ISIS directly and openly. These people, however, are no great loss. These aren't people we particularly needed on the planet, after all. Had it not been for ISIS's call, these people probably wouldn't have accomplished very much that benefited their communities or our society. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
But what about everyone else? ISIS needs those people - those tens of millions living in the
West - to feel afraid, isolated, separate, judged and, ultimately, hated by their Christian and Jewish neighbors.
That's when ISIS's recruitment drive really heats up. Us against them. Apocalyptic battle. It's go time in God's name.
What have you been feeling since you've heard the news? A little angry? Nervous about when and where the next cowardly crazies will hit? How have you been feeling about Islam? Be honest. Feeling a little judgmental, maybe? Just a little?
I bet, if you haven't said it yourself, you've heard someone else say that the Quran all but requires extremism and murder of infidels, right? And I bet that, just for a few angry seconds, you believed it, didn't you? After all, it's easy to do; especially if you haven't read the thing (not that more than .001% of "devout" Christians or Jews have read their holy books cover to cover either).
When we're feeling angry, afraid and betrayed, those are all easy feelings to have, even we're good people and we only have them for a few moments until we master ourselves.
There's nothing in the Quran that says "go out and kill everyone else." I suppose, though, that if you twist it all up - like when you twist the bible all up - you can imagine it tells you do anything you want it to tell you to do, can't you?
What ISIS desperately needs is for everyone in the West who isn't Muslim to think that all Muslims present the sort of risk that these two lunatics presented. When they get that, they'll finally have enough traction to start converting not isolated hundreds from around the world, but tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands. Millions.
And then, we'll have a war.
ISIS wants a war. Do you want a war? Sometimes, wars are unavoidable. Sometimes, they are very avoidable. Here's what you can do to help avoid this particular one.
Don't be a moron.
Don't think that just because two Muslims shot and killed 14 people, that all Muslims are a problem. While you're at it, don't think that just because a Christian lunatic shot up Planned Parenthood, that all Christians are horrible people. Don't draw those conclusions, because they're not logical. They're not reasonable. The overwhelming evidence from around the world impels the opposite conclusion. Normally, I'd tell you that the cost of failing to heed this advice would simply be that people would look at you and think you the fool you are, or what a bigot you are.
Yet today, the stakes are a bit higher. If you feel that way, and worse, if you talk that way, then you might as well sign up for ISIS and wear the uniform, because you've just become one of their recruiting agents. And don't think that that's not exactly what they want. When they hear people in the West - idiots like Trump - talk about "registering" Muslims, or barring entry, the leaders of ISIS sit back and smile.
They love hearing that shit.
It's exactly what they want, and Trump - fool that he thinks enough American's to elect him are - is playing right into their hands. Of course, Trump himself isn't really stupid. If he was that stupid, he wouldn't be where he is today. He is, however, counting on the fact that millions of American are that stupid, the people that will "like" (either virtually or otherwise) what Trump has to say in his anti-Muslim rants. If those people "like" what Trump has to say, Trump will keep saying it. He might even actually do things in furtherance of those of opinions if (god forbid) he's ever elected. And if other people see Trump getting traction with fools who like what he has to say, then they'll say it also, and more millions of Americans will be ISIS recruiting agents.
And then all Americans around the world - in uniform and out - will be in greater danger than they are already.
You know what? I don't like ISIS, so I don't want to help them. I don't want to work for them. Do I have an advantage here being a civil rights lawyer? You bet I do. I know the Constitution. I live it. I breathe it. I love it. To me, it's as glorious as our flag, and as emblematic of the special and unique experiment that America has always been (and continues to be), the experiment that draws millions of people (Muslims and everyone else) in hopes of a better, freer life. It's because I love my country that I will continue to call Trump a fool and anyone who agrees with his anti-Muslim nonsense a fool
And an ISIS recruiter.
I'm not telling you to go out a find a Muslim and hug them. That'll make them uncomfortable. Muslims may feel horrible right now because they are afraid. They listen to people like Trump say what he says and they know that this would never be said about Jews or Christians in this country. Yet Muslims seem to be fair game politically. And now they have to live at least uncomfortably, if not in outright terror, because of it.
I am suggesting that you think before you feel. Think before you speak. Remember what ISIS wants. Remember their very clever plan. Remember not to work for them.