The latest terrorist incident in which a Nigerian man attempted to explode a bomb on a plane bound for Detroit has planted yet another dose of fear into the American psyche. Our society lives in constant fear of the next big terrorist attack, as visions of the 9/11 nightmare continue to plague our minds. But Americans must accept this reality; while terrorists remain a distinct danger, the greatest threat to our national security is the violence within our own society.
Remember the insightful words of Pogo, the legendary comic strip character who said, "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo could not have been more right. Look around, do you not see what is happening in America and what we are doing to ourselves?
Violence in America, in all its many forms, is running rampant before our very eyes. But we seem to be so obsessed with the fear of terrorist threats from abroad that we hardly notice the violence being committed on a daily basis within our society. Over time, we apparently have become so mentally conditioned that this violence has now become a normal part of our culture. A passage from the Bible states, "There will always be wars," and, perhaps, in our minds we have come to accept "there will always be violence."
The tragedy of 9/11 resulted in the loss of about 3,000 people, certainly a day of infamy. But let's take a look at the extent of violence being committed within this nation, for the large part, by Americans against their fellow Americans. These statistics are for the year 2008, but they are representative of the trend in the last decade.
Murders - 16,272
Rapes - 89,000
Robberies - 441,855
Assaults - 834,855
Look at those frightening statistics. They show that our society is literally under siege. But do we Americans get upset about them; are we outraged and gravely worried about our security? The national media cover every incident 24/7, from kidnappings and murders of children, to hostages being taken by a deranged killer. But is there any hue and cry coming from either the people of this society or from the media that these things must no longer be tolerated in America? The media routinely reports and we routinely watch.
On the other hand, what happens after an incident like the recent one in which an apparent terrorist from Nigeria almost succeeded in blowing up a plane headed for Detroit? Well, there is an instant reaction of great shock and fear that our national security could have been compromised so easily. There are immediate calls for an investigation and even demands for firing officials in the Department of Homeland Security.
What is happening in America is very difficult to comprehend. One incident involving a terrorist threat can set off a massive reaction in our society, while numerous acts of extreme societal violence have become almost commonplace in our lives.
To the more than 16,000 murders committed in 2008, we must add the many thousands of victims who have been gravely wounded and will never again lead normal lives. Yes, murders are the most grievous examples of violence in America, but we cannot minimize the impact of other crimes of violence, for they also result in extreme suffering by those who have been the victims of an attack. Just think of how many violent cases of rape have brought terrible mental anguish upon their victims.
I can see potential ways by which we could substantially reduce both the threats of terrorists from abroad as well as the threats emanating from our own society. But to have this happen would take a monumental change in how we Americans deal with violence, both domestically and around the world.
With regard to threats from abroad, we need to ask ourselves exactly what causes them. Why is it that the terrorists want to do harm to Americans here in our country? If we are completely objective and honest in our assessment, then I believe that we will reach the conclusion it is due to the aggressive actions of the U.S. military in foreign lands. Without a doubt, the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia, near the Islamic holy city of Mecca, was strongly opposed by those who considered it to be a violation of sacred ground and that it became a prime motivation for Osama Bin Laden's jihad against America.
That very same case can be made with regard to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. George Bush may have thought that he was being guided by "his god" to engage in these two wars, but those of other faiths on the receiving end of the shock and awe found it to be very offensive and totally unacceptable; and they became insurgents.
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