Eagle of Death Metal Interview

I was originally hesitant to watch this interview of the band that was playing that theater in Paris during the attacks, because I wasn’t sure how I would handle it emotionally. But I decided it was something of a duty to know what they went through, because it could happen anywhere to anyone. Being someone who goes to a lot of shows and events where often thousands of people gather, it was really easy for me to put myself in their shoes and identify with them, and hearing and watching the band discuss that night was powerful and profound. 

This post and the video are about the HUMAN aspect of what happened, NOT the political aspect. I think it’s important to watch the interview and just relate on basic human level. Having said that, I am NOT going to tolerate political comments to this post, so if you want to go off on Obama or “muslims” or Trump or whatever…don’t. Not here. Put that shit on your page or better yet just shut the fuck up. There’s a time and a place for that, but not this post. Thanks.

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Cato Article on the Refugee Vetting Process

This is a very well thought out and well reasoned article that explains thoroughly the process involved in vetting potential refugees, and also provides a very lucid perspective on what is a very hot button and emotional issue right now. To further lend credence to the article’s thesis, consider that the Cato Institute is a libertarian organization with strong right political leanings that was co-founded by one of the Koch brothers. The bottom line: it would be very difficult and arduous for a terrorist to infiltrate this way, especially when there are far easier options they can take advantage of.

Other key points from the article:

• Since 2001 there have been 859,629 refugees admitted into the U.S…of which three were convicted of planning terrorists attacks outside of the U.S. That’s 1 for every 286,543 people. Consider that about 1 in every 22,541 American citizens committed murder in 2014 alone.

• It can take up to three years for a given refugee to complete the vetting process. During that entire time, they remain in whatever refugee camp they registered in outside of the U.S.

• In 2015, only 22.3% of Syrian refugees admitted were males of “fighting age” (i.e., 14 to 40).

• Terrorists who are intent on attacking in the U.S. have other options (like tourist visas, student visas, and business visas) that are all cheaper, easier, and more likely to succeed as opposed to trying to sneak in as a refugee.

I’m not expecting to change anybody’s mind with this post, as I realize certain people are locked in to their positions and will question the veracity of this article’s facts, or more likely dismiss them as irrelevant. But I also know there are a lot of people who are still on the fence, and this article is very helpful in laying out the process in a very thorough way without emotional platitudes.

http://www.cato.org/blog/syrian-refugees-dont-pose-serious-security-threat

The Syrian Refugees

Having posted a lot on political events recently, and throughout the years, I’m sure everybody has an opinion of where I stand on the political spectrum. I’ve said it before that I’m a moderate, although I’ve been labeled a liberal, presumably because my beliefs aren’t at the far right extreme, so by definition, of course I’m a liberal. Regardless, I’m in the middle. For example, I support concealed carry when it comes to guns. That’s not a very liberal position, is it? I’m not even against it in public and private venues, although those venues should have the right to institute a “no guns allowed” policy. So I’m not sure as to where that places me in the eyes of the Right.

Having said that, my defense of muslims in general might lead people to assume that means that I blindly support accepting those 10,000 Syrian refugees into our country. I actually haven’t made a decision of where I stand on that. I understand the legitimate concerns that terrorists can sneak in. But I don’t like the creeping xenophobia that’s taking over a large part of our political discourse. If you’re not familiar with the term, “xenophobia” is very similar to racism, only instead targeting specific races, xenophobia targets pretty much any outsider who’s not “like us”. And it’s something that I think is going to dominate our society in the years ahead, and it’s already getting ugly.

But back to the refugees. It seems to me that a way can be found that can alleviate the concerns of people. First of all, I think it’s vital that we prioritize women, children, and the elderly. There are, indeed, many draft-age men among the refugees, but that’s because they are fleeing being conscripted into Assad’s army. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any women and children at all. Or have you ignored the photo of the three year old boy who drowned offshore near Turkey?

Secondly, I want to know exactly what taking them in entails: I certainly wouldn’t support just docking a boat off shore and letting them all flood into the hinterlands unmonitored. Where, exactly, are they going to be placed? When they talk about vetting, where does this vetting happen? I’ve heard it takes upwards of two years for the refugee screening process to be complete; where will they all be in the mean time? Can we/should we set up some kind of refugee camp somewhere to house them? We’re somewhat fortunate in that 10,000 seems like a number we can cope with, not like the literally millions that Europe is straining under right now. We need to help these people, but that also should ultimately mean defeating Daesh (remember that term: it’s another name for ISIS that seems to finally be taking root in the media, and it’s a preferred term for various reasons) and stabilizing Syria so they can go home. Is that even possible? It’s such a bleak situation that it seems futile, but we need to find a way.

Now, I’m sure there are people there ready to post links in comments to some right-wing websites “proving” this or that, blah blah blah…save it. I simply don’t trust those sites’ honesty. And I don’t believe Obama is purposefully letting in terrorists because he’s out to destroy this country. So don’t bother. I’m just saying that we can at least let the women, children and elderly in.

More about that unfriending; my full length response

Despite suggesting that I was going to cool it with the political posts because of the estrangement it is causing with certain friends, I do have something more to say about it. I was offended at being called out on someone else’s wall; at least that’s how I felt. He tagged me in his post that included a video where somebody on a panel was going on at length about it being irrelevant that the majority of muslims were peace loving, because it only takes a few to do a lot of damage. There was also a handy Nazi Germany analogy thrown in for good measure (as in the majority of Germans were peaceful, but still went along with the Nazi plan). While those kinds of statements are red meat for people of his political persuasion, analogies are always dubious, at best. That includes when I use them.

I responded very tersely and coldly by telling him not to tag me in his posts like that. He responded by indicating that I could dish it out but not take it. I replied back that I already knew his opinion and that that wasn’t the first time somebody tagged me with that video.

A couple hours later, I cooled off and began typing a fuller response. Only when I was about to post it to his thread did I discover that he had unfriended me. And that did bum me out, although I wonder if that’s simply for the best because going on about it simply makes everyone mad. I did send him private message apologizing for my terseness. We’ll have to see how things are the next time I run into him in person.

But below is the full original response I had typed up that I’m going to go ahead and share, because it does reflect my response to the same sentiment I’m currently seeing on social media, which goes beyond being uncomfortable with letting any Syrian refugees into our country and onto the larger issue of how a lot of Americans view muslims in general:

I apologize that my initial response was terse. I’ve had this argument many times before, and wasn’t in any mood revisit, because it almost always immediately goes in circles. Also, calling me out like that on your wall doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve voiced my opinion on my wall many times, but as far as I can remember I’ve rarely if ever called someone out by name like that.

As far as that video, I am compelled to say something, because not responding plays into what I think is your position that I can dish it out but not take it. So…as much as I can make out from the video, that woman’s point is that it doesn’t matter if the majority of muslims are peace loving because it only takes a few to wreak havoc? Something about a comparison to Nazis in there, too?

And that argument justifies…what? That we have to view all muslims as potential fifth columnists? And what does that mean? Where does the next logical step take us from there? I don’t really get it. But you know what? You are, in fact, correct. It doesn’t take a lot of people to wreak havoc. Like how it only took 1 white guy to kill 9 black people at that church in Columbia, South Carolina this summer…or how it took only one white guy to kill 12 people and injure 70 people in the Aurora movie theater…or how it only took one other white guy to shoot up all of those sorority girls in California…or how yet another white guy all by himself murdered 20 children at Sandy Hook…and let’s not forget how it only took three white guys to conspire to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured 600. I mean, really! Fucking white guys, right?

And, btw, that Nazi Germany comparison is specious because that was a homogenous country whose people spoke the same language under the control of a single government, while the Muslim world comprises dozens of nations with peoples of various ethnicities speaking several languages, and are not under one single government, but are indeed often oppressed to the point that they’re simply not able to speak out. But what’s the use of going on? I’m not going to change your mind and you’re not going to change mine.

But you should be content knowing that it seems that public opinion is swinging more towards your side as a result of Paris and that the prospect of a “President-elect Trump” a year from now just increased exponentially. Though, you should also realize that pursuing a policy of suspicion and hostility towards all muslims plays right into ISIS’ hands, because that’s really what they’re after when they attack western cities and civilians; they want the backlash against all muslims to drive them all into their protection and control.

That was the end of my response to him, that I wasn’t able to post because I had been unfriended. But I do have one more thing to say on the issue: For everybody out there who’s suggesting that it doesn’t matter that the majority of muslims are peaceful because of a few assholes who ruin it for all of them…try switching out the word “black” for “muslim”.

Unfriended

I just got unfriended by somebody who evidently took offense to my terse response to being called out, as I saw it, over a political debate tonight. I’m actually bummed out, because he’s a good guy, and we just have different opinions. I admit, I’ve probably tended to make it personal. Maybe it’s time to cool off on the political stuff for a while…

This blog site

So far, my posts on this blog have been political in nature, mainly because the Paris attacks are what precipitated its creation in the first place. But it’s actually been a long time coming, as I stated in my initial post. But I expect at some point my posts will begin to vary in nature as time goes along. In particular I am planning on posting about my grandfather and my dad’s experiences in the Philippines during World War II. I did in fact post a couple of excerpts from my grandfather’s memoirs to FB, so those will eventually come here, too (assuming I have the patience to go back that far on FB, heh). Stay tuned.

Some things never change

Some things never change. Look at this text from a handbill about the President that’s made the rounds:

WANTED FOR TREASON

THIS MAN is wanted for treasonous activities against the United States:

1. Betraying the Constitution (which he swore to uphold): He is turning the sovereignty of the U.S. over to the socialist-controlled United Nations. He is betraying our friends and befriending our enemies.

2. He has been WRONG on innumerable issues affecting the security of the U.S.

3. He has been lax in enforcing laws.

4. He has given support and encouragement to racial riots.

5. He has illegally invaded a sovereign American State with federal troops.

6. He has consistently appointed Anti-Christians to Federal office: Upholds the Supreme Court in its Anti-Christian rulings. Aliens and known Socialists abound in Federal offices.

7. He has been caught in fantastic LIES to the American people (including personal ones like his religion)

Man, they really do NOT like President Obama, huh?

Only, that’s not a bill directed at President Obama: that was from a handbill circulated in Dallas just days before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated:

JFK_WantedPoster

Yes, I did a bait and switch! It is incredible just how little the language has changed in the 50-plus years since JFK was president, and how visceral it was even then. I admittedly altered some of the details in my initial text above to reflect contemporary realities today, but it didn’t require very much to make it easily apply to Obama. I had been thinking about how different it is today, and how the level of hatred towards the President is more visceral and worse than ever before, but then I remembered this handbill from 52 years ago, and how eerily similar it is to some of the things that are alleged today about President Obama.

What to make of it? Opposition to the President has obviously carried the same apocalyptic language in years past as it does today. And the Right (in this example, since both Presidents here are Democrats) definitely goes to the same well over and over. I’m sure there’s similar examples about Bill Clinton. And honestly, I think the Left has their own well that they mine whenever there’s a Republican in office; substituting words like “fascist” for “socialist”, for example. I remember having a liberal friend who was convinced George W. Bush was going to declare himself emperor just like Palpatine did in the Star Wars prequels!

I do think the age of social media and the internet has polarized people even more, unfortunately. Everybody is able to access and isolate themselves among newsgroups or websites that reflect and confirm their worldview, and be able to live in an echo chamber where everybody is saying shouting the same things to each other to such a degree that anybody that doesn’t agree with them is the “other”, and againsttheir the American way of life. I have to admit, I worry that I’m guilty of that myself, especially as a result of online debates/arguments in recent months in response to current events. I sense that’s frayed some of my friendships, especially in the days after Paris, and yet it’s been hard to disengage; even this post is an example me baiting people on the Right. But I like to believe I’m trying to make people stop and think.

 

New Blog Site and FB Post Repository

As great as FB can be for posting your thoughts and engaging people, it’s timestamp nature makes it very difficult to reference something you posted even just a couple weeks ago. And I began to realize that a proper blog would be more effective in cataloguing my thoughts. That, and more than one person has indicated I do something to better coalesce my writing. Chances are, what you’ll find here will mostly be copy-and-paste posts lifted directly from FB. In fact, that’s what the first one will be. Or maybe I’ll end up writing my thoughts on this blog and then posting the link to FB.

I also desperately needed something I can keep separated from my photography and freelance endeavors. Even in the midst of posting some of my political rants, I’ve been quite aware that I am potentially alienating future clients. Which sucks, and admittedly of my own doing. I’m reminded of how Jay Leno was always the most popular late night talk show host for so long, and it was said part of the reason for that was because he was so apolitical and that nobody could figure out his politics. Being a person who needs to express himself the way I do, that’s a huge challenge.

As always, you can visit my current photography/freelance site at www.studio-bpr.com to catch up with my photography endeavors. From now on, this blog will the repository of my general thoughts that aren’t necessarily related to photography. Namely, a more easily accessible place for my very lengthy Facebook “rants”.

More thoughts on Paris and the state of the world

I’m not sure if this is the post I had in mind when I mentioned it last night, but we’ll see how it goes…(sorry, Sander, still no TLDR for you)

I’ve been struck by how many people on FB are reacting to Paris, as if this is the first time they’ve been exposed to terrorism. There’s a level of panic and fear that I haven’t seen since September 11th…yet it’s almost as if everybody has forgotten September 11th itself in the way they’re reacting. The lamentations for the future, the desire to bomb everybody in the Middle East, fear that hordes of muslims are about to descend on us (false claims of them washing ashore in New Orleans notwithstanding). The thing is, Paris is a continuation of attacks that have been happening since before September 11th itself. This really is a generational war, and one that’s unlike anything we’ve ever had to deal with. And we’ve been dealing with it to some degree for decades now. Surprised? You just haven’t been paying attention. In all the angst over Eric Snowden and government surveillance, everybody kind of forgot just WHY the government spies on people. To try to identify potential terrorists and root them out. (And here, I KNOW there are specific people just stomping their feet and gnashing their teeth to argue with me on that point, but for the purposes of my rant, please don’t, because I’m saving you the trouble of debating me by saying I disagree with you, and just leave it at that.)

But what I realized is that this may very well be the first major attack on a western city during the social media age: September 11th was obviously years before the advent of social media, and the Madrid subway bombings and the London bus bombings also happened before social media took off. Mumbai—the template for the Paris attacks—was in 2008; but since it wasn’t a western city, not a lot of people noticed in America. So maybe that’s why the reaction now is so extreme. (It’s the nature of social media that I immediately feel the need to issue disclaimers that I’m not insensitive to what happened, nor do I think people shouldn’t be upset and hurt over it. So…chill. I’m just trying to give a sense of perspective.) I’ve seen some indignant posts condemning people for ignoring attacks in Beirut and Africa and only reacting when it’s a western city…but that’s just human nature. A lot of Americans have travelled to Europe and Paris in particular, and for many Americans, Europe is part of our heritage, so there’s more of a direct connection. It’s like when you hear about crime in a bad neighborhood, it feels removed, but when something happens on your street you freak out. It’s nothing to point fingers over.

My point being, don’t let yourself live in fear. Sadly, this is nothing new. Now, I’m not suggesting even remotely that what happened wasn’t a big deal, or to bury your heads in the sand. I am saying that this is part of our world, and it’s been part of our world for a long time. Paris itself was the target of the first mass terrorist attack on innocent civilians…in 1894. Yes, read that year again: 1894. There was an anarchist movement in the late 19th/early 20th centuries who’s motives and tactics were not unlike the terrorists of today, and in 1894 a French anarchist set off a bomb at a cafe in a railway station in Paris that killed one person and injured 20. That same anarchist movement later set off a bomb on Wall Street—yes, THAT Wall Street—in 1920 that killed 38 people and injured 143. You didn’t know this? Look it up. Innocent people have long been targeted by assholes trying to impose their bullshit views on the world.

I mention this not to make you feel even worse about humanity, but to try instill a sense of faith that we can endure, because we’ve been enduring. Throughout all of the violence in our world, we’ve persevered and we have prospered. And if you’re scared to go holiday shopping or see a concert, just remember that you are far more likely to die in a CAR ACCIDENT than to be a victim of a terrorist attack. Seriously. That’s a factual statement. I mean, if you’re afraid you or a loved one are going to be the random victim of a terrorist attack, then you should be absolutely PETRIFIED every time you get behind the wheel of a car. But you don’t get scared when you’re driving in your car, do you? I mean, you SHOULD be wearing your seatbelt, and you SHOULD be using your turn signals, and you SHOULD be looking both ways at intersections, and you most definitely SHOULD NOT be texting while driving. But chances are, even if you’re not adhering to any of those things, you are never scared at the idea of driving your car. So don’t be scared about living your lives. Live your lives to the fullest, and take solace in the fact that, no matter what happens, you did your best. And have faith. I don’t necessarily mean religious faith, but if that’s your thing then by all means. Myself, I’m a humanist, and I have faith in humankind’s ability to overcome most challenges it faces. Bad things happen, but so do good things. Peace.