An Unrealistic Vision of Reality

by David T. Bruce

911As on the day that al-Qaeda terrorists took over 3,000 lives, my heart today – the day that Osama Bin Laden, the founder and leader of the al-Qaeda was assassinated in response to these attacks – goes out to the family members who mourned the loss of those they were close to.  Maybe today they will find some peace of mind, some peace within.  I truly hope they do.  For the rest of us, I worry.

Those families who lost loved ones sought justice, at least in an honorable sense.  I struggle within myself as to what the rest of us America sought.  Is our pride so easily wounded?  Our response to the successful attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (and the failed attack on the White House) was a knee-jerk reaction.  Up until the terrorist attacks on our country, we lived behind a veil, submersing ourselves in “reality” shows, living a fantasy funded by credit and caprice.  Al-Qaeda opened our eyes to true reality.  This reality, however, is not one that can be turned off or pre-empted.

While we can enjoy a measure of success and comfort in at least incapacitating the Al-Qaeda by permanently removing Bin Laden as the head of the terrorist organization, we are foolish to believe that we have stopped al-Qaeda or any other extremist group.  Like the multi-headed Hydra, a new leader for al-Qaeda will replace Bin Laden, and the cycle of events pitting one ideology against another will begin anew.

We must ask ourselves “what have we gained by assassinating Bin Laden?”  Outside the Capitol, citizens chanted “USA, USA,” reacting to the news they had heard about the death of Bin Laden.  How is this different from the throngs of people in the Middle East who cheered at the collapse of the World Trade Center towers?  Do our different ideologies, religions, skin color, or clothes make us all that different?  We are all still human, and the taking of any life diminishes us as humans.  The celebration of taking a life strips us of our souls.

Hypocritically, to some extent, I do feel a sense of relief that this chapter has come to an end.  Almost ten years to the day that Americans were reminded that they were a part of a larger community, we may enjoy some closure.  At the same time, I feel a sense of apprehension that we will again become complacent, retreating into our “reality.”  Will we learn from this chain of events?

The al-Qaeda will not turn the other cheek, and their convictions will carry them into the future.  We must adapt to this reality, not necessarily fighting a war that we cannot win by conventional means, but instead living cautiously, with our eyes wide open instead of wide shut.  We do not need to remain on the offensive to remain safe; we do have to safeguard our home by adopting a lifestyle and strategy that deters future terrorist attacks.  We have Guard and Reserve units who may best serve their country at home, not in the Middle East.  By conducting ourselves proactively instead of reactively, we stand the best chance of winning the war against terrorism every day.

Our Most Powerful Right

…we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights. We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment. We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.

by David T. Bruce

usa-1327105_1280The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution will soon be the subject of debate again in the U.S. Supreme Court.  The amendment stating that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  Following the decision that prevented Washington D.C. from legislating gun control within that district, the Supreme Court endeavors to determine if individual states can legislate gun control.

The issue of gun control is regularly and hotly contested.  Proponents vehemently uphold the Second Amendment, and opponents catalogue lives lost as a result of a person who lawfully owned a handgun and used that handgun unlawfully.  I argue that we do indeed have a right to own a gun, but we do not have a right to take a life as we see fit or endanger our neighbors and communities.  How do we balance this right with reality, though?

Essentially, Second-Amendment advocates demand that they have the right to own a gun because our forefathers said so.  Yes, the forefathers did state in the amendment that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  However, the amendment also reads that it was and is necessary to have “a well regulated Militia.”  What well regulated indicates is that in all likelihood, the militia should have leadership.  The intent was not for everyone to have a weapon and shoot as they please.  In the twenty-first century, this is precisely what we have.

As well, the intent was to prevent the government from impeding on the individual rights of a citizen by entering the home without just cause and to prevent a foreign militia from detaining United States citizens.  While we can argue that the likelihood of the latter is possible, we can also argue that the lack of the aforementioned well regulated militia would prevent any one person from being reasonably successful at deterring such an attack.  In respect to the likelihood of a government official entering a home without just cause, that too is remote.

Of all the challenges we currently face in the United States, I am often amazed at what comes to the forefront for debate.  We seem to put a great deal of emphasis on these “rights” that were handed down to us over two-hundred years ago, yet we ignore what our local, state, and federal officials are doing to our rights one day at a time.  We seem so worried about what the federal government is doing to trample on our Constitutional rights, but we are oblivious to what the government is doing in terms of promoting corporate rights over individual rights.  We ignore government policies that do little to curb deterioration of the environment.  We ignore the federal government’s lack of response in answer to unemployment, poor health care, and inflation.

The most powerful right we have as citizens of the United States is the right to vote, and maybe . . . maybe . . . one-half of our population exercises that right at any given time.  The rest of us don’t even pick up that weapon, let alone pull the trigger.  We can minimize or eliminate blatantly corrupt officials from the government by paying attention to what these officials are doing, paying attention to how they are voting on pertinent issues, and voting them out of office when their term is due.  In extreme cases, we have the right to remove corrupt officials from office before their term is over.  Yet we dismiss this right every single day. Our voice is as strong as any weapon, if we collectively choose to use our right to vote.

Religion Does Not Equal Morality

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.

by Shadra Bruce

love-1221444_1280Our daughter is a college student and a part-time employee at a fast food restaurant. While at work the other day, she and a co-worker somehow got on the subject of religion. My daughter is an atheist. She does not believe in any god; she does not go to church. When one of her co-workers heard this, he confronted her and told her that her choice was wrong, that one had to be religious in order to be moral.

We have raised our children to have open minds and to be tolerant of others no matter what kind of belief system they have. We have taught them that they need to make good choices, be honest, and treat others kindly—not because their god demands it, but because that is what human beings do. While we have not raised them with a specific religion, we have encouraged them to explore all religions and to choose a path that is most meaningful to them, and we support whatever path they choose to follow as long as they are truthful to themselves and others and treat people with decency.

Kira may not always consider herself an atheist. She is only 19. She has a lot of life experience yet to gain. Luckily, her co-worker is also young. Hopefully he will learn that people are more than their faith.

The hypocrisy of this situation is that the message of Jesus was one of tolerance. My daughter is not immoral. She does not treat people badly or judge them for having a different set of beliefs than her own. She treats people with kindness, making friends easily and helping others in times of need.

I am troubled by that kind of willingness to pass judgment based solely on religious differences.  I believe that this willingness to judge those who are different from ourselves is what has brought us to the point of warring against each other instead of treating each other like global neighbors. Regardless of individual belief, we are all one society of human beings, sharing one small planet.