Remembering 9/11 and Rethinking Terrorism.

A commentary on terrorism.

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From Huffington Post

This week is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States. The world changed that day. I distinctly remember feeling that way when I learned of the horrific acts of terror effected that day. Mohammed Adam wrote a column in the Ottawa Citizen entitled, Fearful shadows of 9/11 still haunt Muslims, where he wrote:

Post-9/11, Islam was vilified and many Muslims were attacked and hounded as potential terrorists. Muslim women in particular, easily identifiable by their hijabs, faced verbal abuse, intimidation and even violence. A lot of bad things — the Iraq war, torture, Guantanamo — all happened. Draconian laws that curtailed age-old freedoms were passed, including here in Canada.

There has been a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent months especially since Donald Trump, Republican presidential nominee, has been spouting his rhetoric about a Muslim immigration ban.  The Guardian article, Hate crimes and attacks against Muslims, reports the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) published new data showing that incidents against Muslims in California increased by 58% between 2014 and 2015, and that communities throughout the US are seeing similar trends.

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From National Post

Many French Riviera mayors imposed a ban on full-body bathing suits known as burkinis this summer. France’s top court later ruled that basic freedoms were infringed upon and that mayors had overstepped their powers when they decreed a ban on burkinis at the beach. BBC News reports that French cities, such as Nice, have since lifted the controversial ban to be in line with a national court ruling. French opinion polls suggested most French people backed the burkini bans igniting fierce debate in France and around the world, with Muslims saying they were being unfairly discriminated against. Now I think the court decision was the right decision. It is simply discriminatory for one group with one set of values to tell another group that their set of values is wrong or at the very least unwelcome.

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Even Pope Francis, leader of the world’s Catholics, defends Muslims. In the CBC article, Pope Francis defends Muslims, the pope says,

“I think it is not right to identify Islam with terrorism. It is not right and it is not true. I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent.”

The pope went on to talk about the causes of terrorism. He said,

“I know it is dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made and it, instead of the person, is put at the centre of the world economy. I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in ISIS.”

Now  I certainly don’t agree with everything Pope Francis says but I agree with him on this. I agree that terrorism is related to social problems. Terrorism is defined by Dictionary.com as the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. With that definition one could argue that many if not most acts of violence are acts of terrorism. Let’s look at the city of Chicago, Illinois in the United States as an example. That city has been making news headlines lately because of its high rate of gun violence. CNN reports in its report, 500 homicides. 9 months. 1 American city, that on Labor Day weekend Chicago’s 500th homicide of the year took place.  These are Americans carrying out acts of terror on one another and I suspect the majority of violent acts are not carried out by Muslims. So I asked myself, Why? This article says there are nearly 82 shootings per week. What does that tell me? Guns are too readily available but that is a whole other post. But why would people want to carry out acts of violence? Some Chicagoans blame the violence on economic struggles and lack of jobs. What’s interesting to note is Chicago’s unemployment rate fell from 6.1% in 2015 to 5.5% in 2016. Others say social problems are the root cause of the violence. Regardless of the cause, my point is that there is so much media emphasis on Islamic extremism when really there is much more terrorism being caused by non-Muslims. Most acts of terrorism are carried out by home grown  non-Muslim citizens.

In our local paper recently there was headline titled, Mobile Muslims launch 40-day campaign. The story explained that members of the Muslim community stopped in our little town spreading teachings of peace and love in hopes of changing their religion’s stereotype. One of the Mobile Muslims said, “There are many and false teachings associated with Islam and we need to dispel them.” CBC did a piece on this group called, Muslims go on cross-country tour. Kudos to the Mobile Muslims who are trying to set the record straight. It’s time to stop blaming terrorism on the all Muslims.  The number of radical Muslims who practice terrorism is only a small group.

But let’s not forget that radicalism is not unique to Islam. The news site, AlterNet.org, published an article called, 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About, which talks about six Christian terrorist groups. These are groups like the “Army of God” who openly promote killing abortion providers and who also have a history of promoting violence against the LGBT community. It also talks about “The Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA) who according to Human Rights Watch, has committed thousands of killings and kidnappings. It seems terrorism does not exclusively belong to Muslim extremists. The Christian religion has had its fair share of extremists. Terrorism, no matter who carries it out, is WRONG! Discrimination against any group is WRONG! It’s time we focus on building a world of tolerance and understanding.

Am I Reading a Fiction Novel?

One Canadian’s perspective of the United States election.

As I mentioned in two previous blog posts, Political Bullying and Trump This, I have an interest in politics. This keen interest in politics is what motivates me to check out what is happening south of the border. I frequently tune into CNN to get updates on the United States election campaign despite my wife’s protests.  As I watched some of the Republican and Democratic Party’s national conventions last month, I began to wonder if I was reading a fiction novel. a_novel_by_-_550wFor me a good novel is gripping to read, keeps you interested to the point where you don’t want to put it down and is one that contains a string of bizarre and unpredictable events. Both national conventions had all these elements. What is happening in the US presidential campaign has the makings of a good fiction novel. Allow me to explain what I mean.

First to have their convention were the Republicans. On the Republican National Convention’s opening night, Melania Trump gave a speech which closely followed a portion of Michelle Obama’s address to the Democratic National Convention in 2008. (see CNN story on Melania Trump speech). Trump’s campaign people initially claimed the speech was not plagiarized and blamed the storm on media bias and on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Then Trump’s people largely blamed staffers and not Melania Trump. When Mr. Trump’s rival, Ted Cruz,spoke he was booed off the stage and his wife had to be protected by security as she was leaving the convention centre. Must be one of those twists in the plot since I doubt any one predicted that.

rtx1gzco (1)The Democrat National Convention was not immune to controversy either. The Atlantic’s article on DNC Hack  says Democratic Party computers were hacked and the culprits released the hacked emails deepening divisions within the party days before the convention began. This resulted in Amy Dacey, the highest-ranking official at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to resign because of the leaked emails. These emails are allegedly between a handful of DNC officials having conversations about Bernie Sanders’ campaign discussing ways of undermining him. As if that was not enough, then it was suggested that Russian intelligence agencies spied on the Democratic Party sharing the hacked documents with WikiLeaks in order to intervene in the U.S. election. Is this for real? Sounds like a fiction novel to me.

Now this seeming fictional story gets better. On July 27, Donald Trump encouraged Russia to commit a cyber crime against Hillary Clinton, saying he hoped they could recover some of Clinton’s deleted emails. (see Trump calls Russia to hack). Trump’s exact words at a press conference in Doral, Florida, were, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Mr. Trump the next day claimed he was using sarcasm. Unbelievable! You can’t make this stuff up.Honestly, I’m not talking about a book I’ve just read. This is reality.

photoHave you ever heard of long time Republicans speaking in support of the rival party’s candidate? Well it happened at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Doug Elmets, a Reagan Speechwriter and longtime Republican says he will vote for a Democrat for the first time and talked about his uneasiness with Republican nominee Donald Trump, saying, “I knew Ronald Reagan. I worked for Ronald Reagan. Donald Trump, you are no Ronald Reagan.” Another Republican, Michael Bloomberg endorsed Hillary Clinton in a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The three-term mayor of New York City called on his fellow independents to vote for Hillary Clinton saying, “I am asking you to join with me not out of party loyalty, but out of love of country,” (see DNC, the final day). Since the convention, other prominent Republicans have said they intend to support the Democratic nominee. See NPR News’ article, See who’s defecting. Another twist in the story?

Clearly there was a huge difference between the two conventions. The tone of the Republican convention seemed to be that America is falling apart and is in grave danger. It had a message of “doom and gloom”. The Democratic convention was starkly opposite in tone from the Republican party’s. The Democrat’s message portrayed an America that is more united than divided, and pushed the message that there is hope for a better future. It seems most Canadians agree with my assessment. (see How Canadians saw conventions). There is no question in my mind that the Democratic Party had (has) a better message and put on a better show during their convention. Could this mean that one party is the villain and the other party is the hero like you have in a fiction novel?

It seems Mr. Trump thought so since he begged people not to watch the last day of the Democratic Convention. According to Politics Today’s article, Trump Begs People Not to Watch Hillary Clinton, Trump’s campaign sent a fund-raising email urging supporters not to tune into Clinton’s acceptance speech on Thursday night. The email read, “Unless you want to be lied to, belittled, and attacked for your beliefs, don’t watch Hillary’s DNC speech tonight. Instead, help Donald Trump hold her accountable, call out her lies and fight back against her nasty attacks.” I didn’t see that one coming either. Talk about strange twists in the world of US politics.

A positive part of this fiction-like story is both parties had openly gay speakers at their national conventions. At the Republican convention an openly gay billionaire and cofounder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, gave a speech. At the Democratic Convention, a retired gay professional basketball player Jason Collins spoke. Sarah McBride made history as the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention. She was introduced by Rep. Sean Maloney, the first openly gay Congress member from the state of New York. I can’t say as I’ve ever seen that in politics. A new storyline?

What particularly makes this evolving story so interesting is that the daughters of the two presidential candidates are friends. Mail Online’s story, ‘She’s a great girl’, reports  Ivanka Trump said she and Chelsea Clinton are still ‘good friends’, despite their parents’ verbal assaults against each other in the media. It also reports that Chelsea Clinton said that she was ‘absolutely’ still friends with Ivanka Trump.

Newsweek’s article, a brief history of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton’s friendship, says Clinton and Trump were once longtime friends. They’ve since distanced themselves from one another now that both men are on opposite sides in the presidential election. How is that for a bizarre twist? This story just keeps getting better and better.

A few months ago, one of my brothers as well as a good friend of mine put forth the idea that Trump ran for president to help Hillary Clinton become the next president. My initial reaction was “No, that can’t be.” It seems there are others out there that think the same thing. CBC News’ article, The complicated relationship between Trump and the Clintons, says, There’s a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is a double agent on a “false flag” mission to ensure Hillary Clinton becomes the next president of the United States. This story just keeps getting stranger by the day.

Since the National Conventions, Donald Trump has insulted Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier who died protecting his unit in Iraq. Trump’s attack was due to Mr. Khan’s address at the Democratic national convention reprimanding Trump as unpatriotic and selfish. (see Trump’s confrontation). Mr. Trump has refused to endorse Paul Ryan, Republican house leader and Senator. John McCain, two high-ranking Republican elected officials in their bids to be reelected. (see Trump refuses to endorse). He did endorse them later on likely due to pressure from his advisors. The latest controversy is regarding President Barack Obama being criticized for shipping cash to Iran. Some Republicans say the US government paid the money as a ransom to free Americans held by Iran. At a rally in Florida Mr. Trump claimed that he had seen a video of people in Iran unloading money from the plane that flew $400 million in cash to Iran. He has since been forced to backtrack. (see Trump admits he didn’t see video). One has to wonder about that conspiracy theory. So, am I reading fiction? At times it seems so. I can’t wait to “read” the next chapter.a_novel_by_-_550w

Climate Change Confusion

A commentary on whether humans are to blame for climate change

Carbonbrief.org, a UK-based website covering the latest developments in climate science, climate policy and energy policy, reports, Study links heatwave deaths in London and Paris to climate change. The study refers to the 2003 tragedy where more than 70 000 people across Europe died in a  heatwave. Climate Change is a reality. I don’t think anyone disputes that and the science community doesn’t either. All a person needs to do is take note of the strange weather the world has experienced in recent years. In June, we saw extremely wet weather in Europe causing flooding in Paris, France and Germany. In the United States there has been sizzling heat in the Southwest causing uncontrollable wildfires in California.  West Virginia has experienced severe flooding. In the province of Alberta, 88 000 people had to be evacuated from Fort McMurray because of wildfires. Also in June, Eastern China saw a tornado and hailstorm that killed at least 98 people when it sped over the city of Yancheng’s outskirts, destroying buildings, smashing trees and flipping vehicles on their roofs. The list of weird weather goes on and on.

There is no question that our weather is changing and becoming extreme. The ongoing debate is: Is it human activity that is causing climate change? Now I’ve taught about this topic in science for many years and there has been no doubt in my mind that it was indeed humans causing global warming which leads to climate change. I would show the graph comparing CO2 levels to average global temperatures and use it as evidence to convince my students. I would show them pictures of the shrinking polar ice cap and melting glaciers. I would show them Al Gore’s movie: Inconvenient Truth (see trailer below) and emphasize Al Gore’s argument that most of the scientists around the world agree that humans are the main reason for the global warming.

The article Scientific consensus: Earth’s climate is warming on NASA’s Global Climate Change website agrees with Al Gore’s conclusions as it says,

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

The Scientific America article: Is Global Warming a Myth? also agrees with Al Gore as it says,

…scientists have not been able to validate any such reasons for the current warming trend, despite exhaustive efforts. And a raft of recent peer reviewed studies—many which take advantage of new satellite data—back up the claim that it is emissions from tailpipes, smokestacks (and now factory farmed food animals, which release methane) that are causing potentially irreparable damage to the environment.

I have always believed that Al Gore must be right. But then I watched a video, on my son’s insistence, called, Climate Change: Fact or Fiction by Dr. Gary Smith (see below). Dr. Smith convincingly argues that humans are not causing global warming.

Global Research.ca, an organization that seems to me to be credible, has an article called Global Warming: Ten Facts and Ten Myths on Climate Change that seems to agree with Dr. Smith’s conclusions. This article agrees with Dr. Smith as it says,

 Climate has always changed, and it always will. The assumption that prior to the industrial revolution the Earth had a “stable” climate is simply wrong. The only sensible thing to do about climate change is to prepare for it.

The reality is that almost every aspect of climate science is the subject of vigorous debate. Further, thousands of qualified scientists worldwide have signed declarations which (i) query the evidence for hypothetical human-caused warming and (ii) support a rational scientific (not emotional) approach to its study within the context of known natural climate change.

So now I’m confused. I thought it was all clear in my mind but now I’m not so sure. The more I learn, the more confused I get. But I guess that is nothing new as Albert Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”  Even Aristotle said, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

So now I’m not sure what to think. Am I convinced that humans are not to blame for climate change? NO I’m not. I suspect that we humans are contributing to the problem, but it could also be, at least in part, to natural changes in climate as the earth has gone through many warming and cooling periods. I suspect climate change is due to both. Having said that, I continue to believe that moving away from our addiction of fossil fuels can only help our planet. It just feels like the right thing to do. I guess we will just have to wait and see who wins the debate.

Are All Muslims Extremists?

A commentary on “Islamic or Muslim Extremists”.

On June 21, CBC.ca reported that a Muslim woman was attacked in a shopping mall. The article says a Muslim woman shopping with her four-month-old son was attacked in a London, Ontario supermarket and according to police the fourth reported event against visible minorities in the city in the past eight months. The day before, CBC reported A pig’s head left outside a Quebec City mosque was the latest in a string of incidents pointing to a rising tide of Islamophobia across Quebec. This is just days after the horrific attack in Orlando, Florida when a gunman massacred 49 people in a nightclub.

On June 12, the night of the attack, Donald. Trump, GOP presidential nominee tweeted: What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called rtx1gzco (1)it and asked for the ban. Must be tough. In other words, his view is to ban all Muslims from entering the USA, a position he put forth during the primaries.

On June 13 Donald Trump gave an address on terrorism, immigration and nation security. During that address he said;

The immigration laws of the United States give the President the power to suspend entry into the country of any class of persons that the President deems detrimental to the interests or security of the United States, as he deems appropriate. I will use this power to protect the American people. When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.

It’s no secret that Mr. Trump plans to ban Muslims from entering the United States. So what is happening? Is Mr. Trump, along with many other individuals, stereotyping Muslims, that is, categorizing them as potential “radical Islamists”? So I have to ask the questions: Is it fair to lump all Muslims together and label them potential “radical Islamists”? Should we fear Muslims because they might be terrorists? To answer these questions I did some research.

Globalresearch.ca is a Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). It is an independent research and media organization based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Since the CRG is a registered non-profit organization and was created to do research on global issues, I would then conclude that it is a credible source. This organization has concluded that non-Muslims carried out more than 90% of all terrorist attacks in the United States. (see Non-Muslims…) The article cites a graph that provides statistics from 1980 to 2005 from the FBI Database. According to this data, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism (7%) within the United States than Islamic (6%).  The article also says the U.S. News and World Report noted in February 2013: Of the more than 300 American deaths from political violence and mass shootings since 9/11, only 33 have come at the hands of Muslim-Americans, according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security. 

The Economist’s article, The plague of global terrorism reports:

Last year (2014) 32,700 people were killed in attacks worldwide, nearly twice as many as in 2013… Most of the deaths last year (and every year) are in the Middle East and Africa, not the West. Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan together account for three-quarters of the global total. Western countries suffered under 3% of all deaths in the past 15 years…The Paris attacks and the downing of a Russian airliner in Egypt killed more than 100 people each. Such lethal attacks are rare but are increasing. Last year, there were 26 compared with a handful in 2013. Most were carried out by ISIS, and most occurred in Iraq. And terrorism is spreading. 67 countries saw at least one death last year compared with 59 the year before.

So according to the Economist, less than 3% of all deaths in the West in the past 15 years were due to terrorist attacks. According to globalresearch.ca article, The Terrorism Statistics Every American Needs to Hear, the leading cause of deaths for Americans traveling abroad is not terrorism or murder or even a crime of any sort; it’s car crashes. With the exception of the Philippines, more Americans died from road crashes in all of the 160 countries surveyed than from homicides. The article also claims, you are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack It too says you are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack.

The World Post has an article titled, Muslims Are Not Terrorists: A Factual Look at Terrorism and Islam, which makes some interesting points. One of their points is: Even if all terrorist attacks were carried out by Muslims, you still could not associate terrorism with Islam. It supports that statement with the fact that there have been 140,000 terror attacks committed worldwide since 1970. Even if Muslims carried out all of these attacks, those terrorists would represent less than 0.00009 percent of all Muslims. To put things into perspective, this means that you are more likely to be struck by lightning in your lifetime than a Muslim is likely to commit a terrorist attack during that same time span.

This article also says that if you’re going to claim that all Muslims are terrorists, then  you must also claim all Muslims are peacemakers. The article says that the same statistical assumptions being used to falsely portray Muslims as violent people can be used more accurately to portray Muslims as peaceful people. If all Muslims are terrorists because a single digit percentage of terrorists happen to be Muslim, then all Muslims are peacemakers because 5 out of the past 12 Nobel Peace Prize winners (42%) have been Muslims.

So what are my conclusions? My take on things is that the media has perpetrated the belief that most or even all terrorism is due to “Muslim extremists”. I say this because as typical of the news media, terrorist attacks, especially those carried out by “Muslim extremists”, get sensationalized in the media.. This myth perpetrated by the media is contrary to the evidence I sited earlier. It is blatantly unethical to group all believers of Islam as potential terrorists. That is why Donald Trump’s call for the Untied States to ban all Muslims for entering the States is unmerited and is based on misconceptions. Besides, banning Muslim immigrants does not guarantee a nation’s safety from terrorism since the latest incident in Orlando, Florida was carried out by an American born, non-practicing Muslim. I do not believe all Muslims are potential terrorists. I believe that most Muslims are peaceful, law-abiding people. Mr. Trump has used the phrase “Islamic Extremists” numerous times as have others. To think there is only extremism in Islam is naïve. The Christian religion has had its share as well. One of the latest, according to Wikipedia, was in November of 2015 when Robert Lewis Dear killed three and injured nine at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Christian terrorist voiced on several occasions his support for radical Christian views and interpretations of the Bible, and praised people who attacked abortion providers, saying they were doing “God’s work.” It’s interesting to note that this incident was not talked about for numerous days afterward.

Is our world less safe than it once was because of extremism? Yes it is. But should we be fearful of Muslims and Islamic terrorists? No. If we become a culture of fear then terrorists groups, such as ISIS, have succeeded in their mission which is to instill terror. Besides you’re more likely to be killed in a vehicle accident than in a terror attack.

Many Islamic leaders have condemned attacks carried out by “Muslim extremists”. I believe they will continue to do so and I have heard of many Muslims working to change the image people have of their religion. An ad campaign was launched in the United Kingdom to improve the image of Muslims. (see U.K. ad campaign). To quote the late Muhammad Ali, Terrorists are not following Islam. Killing people and blowing up people and dropping bombs in places and all this is not the way to spread the word of Islam. So people realize now that all Muslims are not terrorists. I say it is time to stop the senseless attacks on Muslims. Not all Muslims are a threat!actions do

Orlando: Hate or Terrorism?

A commentary regarding the massacre that occurred in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 12.

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USA Today headlines June 13, 2016

I was horrified to learn that on Sunday, June 12, 2016, a gunman pledging allegiance to the Islamic State opened fire inside a crowded gay bar and dance club in Orlando, Florida, leaving 49 people dead and 53 injured. This sickening event is being called the deadliest mass shooting in the history of United States.

President Obama, once again commenting on a mass shooting, said it was “an act of terror and an act of hate.” So that begs the question: Was the Orlando massacre an act of terrorism or was it a hate crime? Dictionary.com defines a hate crime as a crime, usually violent, motivated by prejudice or intolerance toward an individual’s national origin, ethnicity, colour, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Vocabulary.com defines an act of terrorism as the calculated use of violence against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature. Now if we consider the two definitions, the answer to the question would be it is both an act of terror and a hate crime. Violence in the form of gun shooting was carried out against civilians, specifically the LGBT community, and was motivated or at least inspired by the terrorist group known as ISIS so it is an act of terror. Even more, it was a hate crime. It was a hate crime clearly directed towards the LGBT community. Omar Mateen, a man previously investigated by the FBI, was allegedly motivated when he witnessed two men kissing. Seeing the two men together apparently angered him enough to commit this horrendous act.

To me, this is much more a hate crime as opposed to an act of terrorism. There is no evidence that ISIS or any other terrorist organization directed Mateen to act. I was moved by the words of Tom Walters from Canada’s CTV news station. On the night of the shooting, Tom Walters closed the newscast with these words. I wish I could say these are my words because Mr. Walters captures the essence of the problem so brilliantly.

“In simple terms, the motive for the Orlando massacre is not mystery, it was hate. And finding out what kind will explain little because every reason to hate a stranger is just as senseless. Colour, religion, sexual orientation, these are mere fragments of a human being, not the summation of who a person is or the basis to judge what a person is worth. Consigning people to categories denies them their individuality and robs them of their humanity. This is what makes hate possible…only a handful [of individuals] could do this. Now in the aftermath, some would still put individuals into categories and ask us to fear and reject whole groups. Society will never be perfectly safe from the deranged few, but when they are fed the rhetoric of hate and have access to the tools of murder, common sense would say we are less safe. Now facing the monstrous evil of terrorism, a future with less hate may seem distant…and if hate itself is the poison, that future is out of reach until people everywhere reject the ideas that diminish the individual and enable hate. That could include any doctrine that says I belong here more than you or that my love for someone is more valid than yours or I am among the chosen and you are not…but in a world of individuals we can each make a choice to reject those ideas that would add another drop of poison to the common cup.”

As Tom Walters says, “consigning people to categories denies them their individuality…and makes hate possible”. The Orlando mass shooting is clearly an act of hate directed towards the LGBT community; a community who just want to be treated as equals and live their lives happily.

The mass shooting in Orlando is but a familiar story in the United States. It was the third mass shooting in 2016 that left at least three victims dead, following shootings in Hesston, Kansas. and Kalamazoo, Michigan in February. Six months earlier 14 people were killed in a rage in San Bernardino, California. Time magazine has complied a list of mass shooting since 1984. (see 34 years of mass shootings). Wikipedia lists the United States’ firearm-related death rate as 10.44 per 100,000 people per year. Canada’s firearm-related death rate is 1.97 per 100,000 people per year. That is a significant difference. The article Gun violence by the numbers by Global News lists the USA as having 90 firearms per 100 people whereas Canada’s rate is 30 firearms per 100 people. The American Medical Association called gun violence a “public health crisis” on June 14th and urged Congress to fund research into the problem.The association pleaded that a long-standing ban on federal government research into gun violence must be lifted to better understand and tackle the problem. It astounds me that researching the gun problem is forbidden. Does that make sense?

Now this information raises a second question: Why haven’t Americans realized that there is a connection between mass shootings and the amount of guns. Canada has always had tighter controls on guns. I am convinced that is why Canada’s firearm-related death rate is much lower than USA’s. The Global News article sited earlier says you’re more likely to be shot to death in the United States than you are to die in a car accident in Canada. It seems obvious to me that the more guns a society has the more gun related deaths there will be. Americans always cite the second amendment to the United States Constitution, adopted on December 15, 1791, as a defence to owning guns. This amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  An amendment is a change or addition to a legal or statutory document so if Americans wanted to change their relationship with guns they could change (amend) their Constitution.

Donald Trump, GOP presidential nominee tweeted on the night of the shooting, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” He later tweeted, “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning. Our leadership is weak and ineffective. I called it and asked for the ban. Must be tough.” In other words, his view is that radical Islamic terrorists are to blame and so his answer is to ban all Muslims from entering the USA. Now that leads to a third question: Should we fear all Muslims because they might be terrorists? My answer to that is a resounding NO. To use the words of Tom Walters, what Mr. Trump is doing is putting “individuals into categories and ask[ing] us to fear and reject” Muslims.

Slate, an online magazine, has an article called, The Truth About Islam. The article says Muslim societies are among the least violent in the world. It goes on to say,

The reality is that Islam—like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and other major world religions—is neither inherently violent nor inherently peaceful. Like every other great religion, the history of Islam is darkened by periods of violent bloodletting. And the holy texts of all religions can be mined for quotes to legitimize terrorism—or indeed principled nonviolence.

The Christian and Jewish religions have had their share of “darkened periods of violent bloodletting”. In 1095 the Christian crusades began. This was when armies responded to Pope Urban II’s plea to go to war against Muslim forces in the Holy Land. The inquisition was the Catholic churches attempt to remove heresy. Both were filled with bloodletting. Judaism has a history of radical Zionism, a movement for the re-establishment of a Jewish nation. Zionism promoted aggressive war justified with biblical texts.

To categorize all Muslims as terrorists is stereotyping and that makes it wrong. There are many peaceful Muslims just as there are Christians and Jews. The Islamic Society of Wichita condemned the attack, as did many Islamic leaders. The group issued the following statement Sunday.

“Along with our fellow Americans, the Islamic Society of Wichita condemns the hateful act of violence in Orlando, Florida. In this holy month of Ramadan, we will be offering special prayers for the victims and their families. As people of faith, we stand unified against acts of terrorism and violence and will continue our work to defend all people against hatred and brutality. We urge local Muslims…to donate blood for the victims of this heinous act.” 

I would like to reiterate Tom Walters’ words to reject “any doctrine that says I belong here more than you or that my love for someone is more valid than yours or I am among the chosen and you are not.” Mr. Trump is saying that Muslims do not belong in America because they are potential terrorists. Trump is stereotyping. That is why he is calling for a ban on Muslims entering the United States. “Consigning people to categories” such as all Muslims are potential terrorists, “is what makes hate possible”. It is time to stop the labelling of groups because it “makes hate possible”. Not all Muslims are radical Islamic terrorists! The lifestyle of the LGBT community is not sinful!  Is a heterosexual’s love for another more valid than homosexual’s love? Who are we to judge? Guns kill when they fall into the hands of people who stereotype and hate. America, it’s time to decrease gun availability so they don’t fall into the hands of those who hate. After all, authorities tell us that the Orlando killer purchased guns a few days before he went on his rampage. So long as a person doesn’t have a criminal record or has no history of mental illness they can purchase a gun. Guns were created for one purpose only and that is to kill. Guns are just too plentiful and much too easy to obtain in the USA.

“Trump This”

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, Political Bullying, I have always had an interest in politics. I taught social studies in high school for many years and I would passionately discuss politics with my students and give projects to them when election campaigns were on. It is because of this keen interest in politics that I watch the election campaign in the United States whereby the Republican and Democrat Parties select their presidential nominees. What I find both “mind blowing” and perplexing is the fact that Republicans have selected Donald Trump as their nominee. Granted it makes for good entertainment for us Canadians, I  just can’t wrap my head around the psyche of the people who think he is a good choice. Trump has been referred to as a modern-day Hitler and according to the article, 9 times Donald Trump has been compared to Hitler, in the Jerusalem Post he has been compared to Hitler on nine different occasions.

Now one might ask, why should we Canadians care about what is happening politically in the United States? The reality is that because the Americans are our largest trading partners and our closest neighbour, everything they do influences us. Former prime minster and father of our present prime minister, Pierre Trudeau once said,

“Living next to you [the United States] is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”

In September Donald Trump spoke these words about Carly Fiorina, then a 09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xpresidential candidate. “Look at that face. Would anybody vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? ! I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious? ” Now Dictionary.com defines sexism as, The belief that one gender is superior to the other, especially that men are superior to women. Trump’s words, “she’a a woman” sounds to me that he thinks women are lesser than men. That sounds like  sexism to me. In fact, the Telegraph has a Donald Trump sexism tracker listing many of the sexist remarks he has made and trust me, there are many.

Donald Trump, during his presidential announcement speech, June 16, 2015 said “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They’re sending people who have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” Dictiionary.com defines a racist as a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like racism to me. The fact that Trump has said he intends to build a wall along the US-Mexican border to keep Mexicans out of the United States, plus he wants to ban all Muslims from entering that country insinuates to me that he thinks Muslims and Mexicans are lesser races or groups. And then there is the fact that Mr. Trump claimed not to “know enough” about the KKK to distance him self from a David Duke endorsement. David Duke is an American white nationalist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust denier and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Is Mr. Trump a white supremacist too? (see 10 Examples Of Donald Trump Being Racist)

Judge Gonzalo Curiel, is the judge presiding over the case against Trump University. A federal judge unsealed court documents in a fraud lawsuit against Donald Trump’s now defunct real estate school, known as Trump University LLC. Mr. Trump said,

“The judge should have thrown the case out on summary judgment. But because it was me and because there’s a hostility toward me by the judge, tremendous hostility, beyond belief––I believe he happens to be Spanish, which is fine, he’s Hispanic, which is fine, and we haven’t asked for a recusal, which we may do, but we have a judge who’s very hostile.”

rtx1gzco (1)On a CNN program, speaking with Jake Tapper, Mr. Trump specifically attacked the “Mexican heritage” of the judge. Mr. Curiel is a man who was born in Indiana, who battled Mexican drug cartels as a federal prosecutor and was appointed to the bench by a Republican. “This judge is of Mexican heritage,” Trump said in the interview. He went on to say, “I’m building a wall, OK? I’m building a wall. … He’s a member of a society where, you know, very pro-Mexico. And that’s fine. But I think he should recuse himself.” When asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” if a Muslim judge would treat him unfairly because he has vowed to ban Muslims from entering America, the potential president said: “It’s possible, yes. That would be possible, absolutely.” (see Donald Trump amplifies racist attacks). Dictionary.com defines a bigot as a person who is utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s  own. Now that sounds like bigotry to me. It certainly is racism.

On May 31st, Trump called a Press Conference to bash the press. During the press conference he rambled saying, “Instead of being like, ‘Thank you very much, Mr. Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job…you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing such a good job.” Trump even called a reporter for ABC News, Tom Llamas, a “sleaze”. Essentially, Mr. Trump’s pattern is to insult people who disagrees with him. The NY Times has article, The 224 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter outlining many of those insults. According to oxforddictionaries.com, a bully uses superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something. Mr. Trump’s antics sound an awfully lot like bullying tactics to me.

In an exchange with former presidential rival Jeb Bush back in February, Trump insisted that he’d never gone bankrupt, and that claims to the contrary are a lie.  According to the National Review’s article, Trump, Lies, and Bankruptcy, Trump has gone bankrupt at least four times. Not only that, he has had numerous business failures. Time.com lists Top 10 Donald Trump Failures. Oxford Dictionary defines a lie as an intentionally false statement. It sounds to me like Trump is a liar as well.

So what should a person conclude from this information? My conclusion is that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully. I think I am pretty safe in saying that most Canadians do not want the leader of their closest neighbour to be a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully. I can’t imagine that the American people would either. I just cannot comprehend how Mr. Trump has secured the GOP nomination. I’ve heard it said that the American voters are angry. Now I understand voter unrest and anger. We’ve experienced this in Canada recently when the New Democratic Party was elected in the province of Alberta after a 40-year reign of the Progressive Conservative Party. No one in the country thought such an event could ever happen yet it did. We also saw the Federal Conservative Party lose to the Liberal Party of Canada. This can only be explained by voter dissatisfaction. But what is happening with our neighbour to the south makes no logical sense. Why would the people of the United States (I realize it isn’t all Americans) want to elect a president who is a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully? Has there has ever been a president in the past who was sexist,  racist,  bigot, a liar, and/or a bully? Probably not but to my knowledge there has never been a potential president who was so blatantly a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully.  That is a recipe for disaster; a disaster for the United States and potentially a disaster for the world. I just hope the American electorate will eventually see the Republican candidate for who he truly is; a sexist, a racist, a bigot, a liar, and a bully.

Legalized Discrimination

I’ve always held the belief that at least in the developed world human rights were considered sacred. I wanted to believe that because we live in the 21st century we had moved beyond discriminatory practices and racism. I thought the human race was evolving for the better. It seems I’m naive and that my assumptions were wrong.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a document listing universal rights entitled to all human beings. A human right is a right that is believed to belong justifiably to every person. Article 6 of UDHR states, everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Article 7 of that document states, all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

So why am I bringing up the UDHR? Well it appears that even in this modern era where we have an international declaration enshrining our human rights, that there are still people hell-bent on denying certain groups of people their rights.

On March 30 of this year, the State of Mississippi in the United States passed an Anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) Bill. Some of the law in Mississippi states, so long as individuals are motivated by “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” any of the following behaviours would be considered legal by the government:

  • Religious organizations can decline to honour any same-sex marriage or provide any services related to recognizing that marriage.
  • Religious organizations can refuse to hire, fire, and discipline employees for violating the organization’s religious beliefs, basically protecting those who carry out above mentioned actions towards the LGBT community.
  • Religious organizations can choose not to sell, rent, or otherwise provide shelter to namely the LGBT community.
  • Religious organizations that provide foster or adoptive services can decline service without risking their state subsidies.
  • Any person can choose not to provide treatment, counselling, or surgery related to gender transition or same-sex parenting.

On March 23, North Carolina passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act that states, All public schools, government agencies and public college campuses to require that multiple-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities, such as locker rooms, be designated for use only by people based on their “biological sex” stated on their birth certificate.

half-vic-lgbt
from nohatespeechmovement.org

Clearly the laws passed in North Carolina and Mississippi are in violation of UDHR, namely article 6 and 7. In essence these states have legalized discrimination.  Now this is not without consequences. The Guardian says President Barack Obama has called for North Carolina and Mississippi to overturn state laws that affect gay and transgender residents. The United Kingdom Foreign Office issued to its citizens a statement warning LGBT tourists of the dangers of visiting North Carolina and Mississippi after both introduced “anti-LGBT” laws.

According to BuzzFeedNews entertainers such as Pearl Jam, Cirque du Soleil, Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams have cancelled plans to perform in those states. The Corporation PayPal cancelled its plans to open a new global operations centre in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. The German Deutsche Bank announced that it was freezing plans to create 250 new jobs in North Carolina due to the state’s anti-LGBT law. At least 13 conventions in Charlotte were cancelled over concerns over the bill. Actress Sharon Stone, scheduled to film a movie in Mississippi, decided to change the location after the passage of the controversial law.

NewNowNext reported the corporation holding the rights of the musicals West Side Story and Footloose have withdrawn permission for their musicals to be done in the states of North Carolina and Mississippi, because of the anti-LGBT laws. The Blue Man Group tour was also withdrawn.

These anti-LGBT laws were passed despite the fact that the Supreme Court of the United States, the highest court of the land, ruled that same-sex marriages  were legal throughout the entire country.

Now the justification for these laws is based on religious beliefs; the beliefs of Christianity. Yes you can find passages in the Christian scriptures supporting the belief that homosexuality is sinful. Having said that you can also find numerous passages in scripture justifying slavery as well. Does that mean that we should also pass laws legalizing slavery? I think there would be a huge public outcry if we did. Slavery was a socially acceptable practice in biblical times but now it isn’t. Perhaps the beliefs about homosexuality shown in scripture are also reflecting the social norms of day. From what I’ve learned about LGBT, it is not a choice. Their sexual orientation is a part of their genetic and/or spiritual makeup. They can’t help who they are.

First Nations or aboriginal people use the umbrella term “two-spirited” to describe same-sex attraction and gender variance. The term refers to a person who has both a masculine and a feminine spirit. I first heard of this term many years ago when I was teaching a scripture course to a group of aboriginal people. From what I was told, the LGBT community is much more accepted by the First Nations people.

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from joshuanhook.com

Moreover, if Christianity is going to be used as justification for these laws, then all of scripture must be considered. Christians are called to follow and emulate Jesus. In John 8:1-11 is a story about Jesus who sat down in the temple to address a group of scribes and Pharisees who confronted Jesus. They brought up the issue of an adulteress woman, and invited Jesus to pass judgment upon her when they asked the question, should she be stoned, which is what the Law of Moses instructed. Jesus responded by stating that the one who is without sin is the one who should cast the first stone. The religious leaders then departed, leaving Jesus and the woman alone. Jesus then asked the woman if anyone had condemned her. When she answers no, Jesus said that he did not condemn her either, and told her to go and sin no more. This story clearly shows that Jesus did not judge or condemn others for their lifestyles. NOR SHOULD WE.

No one should be denied their human rights no matter what their sexual orientation is or what the colour of their skin is or for any other reason for that matter. If the makers of these laws truly proclaim their actions are rooted in Christian belief, then they should take heed to Luke 6:35 (NRSV) where it says, But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting in any way that the LGBT community is wicked. I am only trying to get across the point that God treats everyone with kindness, even the wicked. As far as I’m concerned, LGBT individuals are like you and me. They are merely trying to happily live their lives like everyone else. No matter what our beliefs are, we must still learn to be tolerant and understanding of all people.