In Canada, Trudeau Is Meeting Fear With Progressive Strength

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as President of the land of the theoretically ‘free’, and home of the allegedly ‘brave’, a series of hate crimes broke out throughout the United States.

Young children exposed to hate speech at home, began imitating it in elementary schools throughout the country, bullying children whose skin tones were different from theirs, and insisting that they “go home”.

Any naïve hopes that Trump would change his ways once elected—that a year of bigotry, misogyny, and explicit racist behaviour would change once he became president—came crashing down with the White House’s announcement that Muslims from seven nations would be banned from entering the United States.

The slamming of the door to innocent Muslims created a gust of wind so strong, that it made its way up to Quebec where once again, we saw that hate inspires hate.

Canada, which has experienced very few acts of terror on its home soil, was faced with a devastating one last month.

A young, Trump and Le Pen supporting, Quebecois male decided to open fire on a room filled of innocent Canadians.

While no borders were closed in Canada—no bans were mindlessly ordered—the feelings of exclusion, hatred, and division were undoubtedly felt by Canadian and American Muslims alike.

It was with great pride and relief to watch Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, say in the aftermath of the attack “this was a group of innocents targeted for practicing their faith. Make no mistakes, this was a terrorist act.”

Too long, have acts of violence perpetrated by Muslim individuals been distinctively classified as ‘terrorist acts’.

Justin Trudeau at a 2013 event. Photo Credit: John McCallum/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

But what precisely, distinguishes an act of violence committed by a Muslim individual versus one perpetrated by a non-Muslim individual?

Read More: Rory, Obama, And Me

Why are certain individuals’ acts of violence categorically different?

If every shooting in the US got the same press coverage as a ‘terrorist’ attack—if every white-skinned American murderer was labelled a terrorist—islamophobia may not have seeped its way into the homes of millions of American and Canadians; Racism may not have been so rampantly contagious.

Trudeau stayed quiet after the election of Donald Trump.

But since his inauguration, Trudeau has been subtly standing up to our southern bully by supporting Women March protestors, demanding that FOX NEWS rectify false information victimizing Muslims, and by reminding Trump in his speech last week, that violence against minorities is an act of terrorism.

Justin Trudeau is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As a self-proclaimed feminist, whose socially liberal ideals have defined his leadership, he is faced with the difficult task of navigating relations with a racist President who stands for everything Trudeau ideologically condemns.

Meanwhile, healthy relations with the United States is pivotal for a stable Canadian economy.

Trudeau is faced with a difficult task.

Photo Credit: trumpvstrudeau/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Either he stays quiet, embodying the Canadian stereotype of being polite to a fault or he takes a far scarier path, and refuses to surrender in the face of hatred.

Read More: Here’s How Trump’s Gaslighting Reminds Me A Lot Of My Abusive Ex

Although his future actions are unknown, perhaps Trudeau has already unveiled his plan for the next four years.

Last week he said simply, “we will not meet violence with more violence. We will meet fear and hatred with love and compassion, always.”

Maybe hate—which divides and alienates—can be overcome when met with love and compassion, which unifies.

Perhaps Canadian values of politeness & kindness are not so impotent after all.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: John McCallum/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Re-purposing The Economy Can Help Stem The Tide of Terror

By Christian Felber

In the immediate aftermath of World War II the German state of Bavaria wrote a new  constitution stating that all economic activity should serve the common good.

This was a direct response to the fascism that triggered the war, the Great Depression that gave rise to fascism and the laissez-faire economic and financial system that brought on the Great Depression.

But Bavaria was no pioneer in advocating for the common good: promoting general welfare is one of the bases of the United States constitution, stated in the preamble.

Today, as we contemplate the terror and violence infecting our world from France, Brussels and Bangladesh to Orlando and Dallas, the parallel with the common good cannot be ignored.

Over the last three decades, we have collectively failed to make promoting general welfare a priority, choosing instead to support globalized financial capitalism which aims to maximize opportunities for self-interested speculators eyeing profit, bonuses and privileges for large corporations and the global elite who control them — the same set of elite that’s prepared to wage war in order to the secure natural resources.

It’s no secret that the winners have become more powerful and the losers have become ever more frustrated and disaffected.

To a certain extent, society can handle inequality and the resulting marginalization.  But what about when that threshold is surpassed?

As we are now witnessing, those who’ve been or who feel left behind, those who are left without without opportunities or hope, lash out with aggression and violence.

Thus, today, we are paying the price in fear and bloodshed of having forgotten the lessons embedded in the Second World War’s inception.

But it’s not too late.

The growing outcry against inequality, the vociferous calls for fair trade instead of free trade and human rights instead of corporate rights as we’ve seen through the Bernie Sanders movement among others suggests that the tides can — and may well — change.

It won’t happen overnight, but with the right level of commitment to re-purposing our global economy through the following initiatives, we can help it take root:

-A fundamental redefinition of economic success based on an organization’s contribution to the common good.

To this end, the adoption of a “Common Good Balance Sheet“ for transnational corporations as a condition for accessing global markets.

A first attempt at proposing such guidelines was made in the early 2000s by the United Nations, which drafted the “Draft Norms on the Responsibilities of Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Regard to Human Rights.”

This was rejected by business associations and western governments.  Now, a better and already widely used instrument – the Common Good Balance Sheet – is available and with the right backing, could become legislation under international law.

-The shifting of investment finance priorities from profit goals to common good goals drawing on The Common Good Balance Sheet.

-The long-overdue fulfillment of the 0.7 target whereby 0.7% of rich countries respective GNPs would be donated to development assistance through the United Nations.

-The payment by rich countries of their outstanding balances due to the United Nations.

-A cap on the amount of private wealth that can be held by individuals.

-The shifting of priorities from forging international trade deals favoring corporate profit over the welfare of all to taking joint initiatives that support global cooperation, solidarity, sustainability and peace work.

The challenge could not be bigger — or more urgent.  Corporations who view their primary responsibility as serving shareholders are the first who’ll need to step up to the plate and consider what entrepreneurial strategies and forms of cooperation will help those who’ve been excluded from the global economy to find opportunities and their place within it.

Governments will need to look at policy instruments such as the Common Good Balance Sheet to support an agenda of human welfare and development rather than a corporate bill of rights.

In sending a clear message through our actions that we’re serious about focusing on a common good economy, on local development and sustainability, on fair trade and the strengthening of refugee, poverty reduction and peace programs, we will see the preachers of hatred, revenge and divide would lose their arguments and their targets one by one.

 Christian Felber is founder of the The Economy For The Common Good.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: nrkbeta/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Background Checks Don’t Work. Why? Blame The Bureaucracy

In light of the recent terrorist attack in Orlando, one subject has dominated American political discourse: the subject of gun control.

One of the most common arguments made by advocates of gun control is that we need better background checks.

While in some cases that may be true, as loopholes do exist in current federal gun laws that allow criminals to obtain their weapons (such as dealer license exemptions for gun sellers who sell weapons for the purpose of buyers collecting them as hobbies), the goal of reducing gun violence through mandated background checks will be virtually impossible to achieve through legislation alone.

There is a second, much more serious problem that would need to be addressed prior to the passing of any new laws, and that is an incompetent bureaucracy.

Per the Daily Beast:

“…(Omar) Mateen had purchased a Sig Sauer .223 caliber assault rifle at a firearms shop near his Florida home, St. Lucie Gun Sales, on June 4 and then a Glock 17 at the same store on June 5. Mateen had returned to the store a third time on June 9 to buy magazines for his weapons. The store is a federally licensed firearms dealer. Under law, the seller would have had to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation of Mateen’s purchase so that his name could be checked against the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

Mateen was actually listed on two federal watch lists, a U.S. official tells The Daily Beast: The Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which contains classified information, and the Terrorist Screening Database, which is the FBI’s central watchlist. The gun background check would have run Mateen’s name against that second database, but he had been removed from it in 2014. The sales were approved and early Sunday morning he used the weapons to fire round after round after round at defenseless people at the Pulse nightclub. Mateen left a third weapon, a revolver capable of firing only a mere six shots, in his van.

An FBI spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether the gun seller made the required check. However, it’s unlikely it would have raised any red flags.”

Assuming that the gun seller did make the required check, it would have been impossible for him or her to have received any information regarding terrorism-related investigations, as Mateen had been removed from the TSD, and the TIDE would have been inaccessible due to its possession of classified information.

This right here should be a red flag.

According to the National Counterterrorism Center:

“Each day analysts create and enhance TIDE records based on their review of nominations received. Every evening, TIDE analysts export a sensitive but unclassified subset of the data containing the terrorist identifiers to the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) for use in the USG’s consolidated watchlist.”

In other words, there are two possibilities explaining the fact that the FBI did not keep investigating Mateen after 2014: either it ignored unclassified subsets of data regarding him that was forwarded by TIDE, or TIDE kept Mateen’s files as classified information. Either one of those possibilities reflects poorly on the state of our bureaucracy, and are problems that need to be remedied as soon as possible.

I’m not a government insider, so I have no proof as to why this breakdown in communication between different federal agencies has occurred, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it was just another instance of agency rivalry, which has been a defining factor in relations between federal agencies (particularly the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA) for decades.

This factor is perhaps best summed up in Mark Riebling’s book Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA, which highlights examples of national traumas that could have turned out differently if cooperation had existed, from Pearl Harbor to the McCarthy investigations to the mishandling of Soviet spies and defectors to the JFK assassination to Watergate to 9/11.

This book was first published in 1994 (an extended edition was later published in 2002), but if the events of the last few days have proven anything, perhaps little, if anything at all, has changed regarding this matter over the last 22 years.

I have one question to ask: How many more people must die before we take action to reform our bureaucracy?

If we are to have gun laws, or any laws for that matter, we must make sure they are enforced properly before we take action to create new legislation.

It is not enough that the legislative branch works to keep us safe.

The executive branch must do its part as well.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: mrwynd/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Donald Trump, Your Idea For People To Come To Clubs With Guns Is The Dumbest Damn Thing Ever

By Nate Nkumbu

On early Sunday morning at 2 a.m., the deadliest mass shooting in American history and the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in decades happened at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 49 people were killed and 53 others were injured.

Current presidential candidate Donald Trump said to CNN that If some people in the club had some guns, this would of never happened.


As a person that has gone out with large groups of people, the last thing that you want to do is bring a gun into a club or an event.

This isn’t exactly rocket science.

Club are supposed to be places of enjoyment, where one goes to relax and have fun.

Not everybody is going to be thinking in the right state of mind.

Alcohol, drugs, hormones, etc.

Adding guns into that equation is recipe for disaster waiting to happen.

What could go wrong? Photo Credit: njaminjami/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What could go wrong? Photo Credit: njaminjami/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Clubs by nature are going to tightly pack places with bodies next to another. Often conflict will happen because of some perceived slight such as stepping on someone’s shoes, grabbing or dancing with the wrong person.

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Now add several guns into the picture.

That same situation occurs and next thing you know, you’re waking up in a hospital gown with a few bullets logged in you and your name and face on local news.

Pro-gun rights organisations like the National Rifle Association (NRA) will argue that arming the “good guys” will help to save lives in a mass shooting, but a study done by Mother Jones found that in 62 cases of mass shootings prior to the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, none were stopped by the “good guys”.

The study even went as far as saying “Attempts by armed citizens to stop shooters are rare. At least two such attempts in recent years ended badly, with the would-be good guys gravely wounded or killed,”

All of that exist even with laws making it easier for people to carry firearms in public places and the largest influx of guns in the marketplace.

What happened in Orlando is indeed sad and has continued a heated debate about gun control, LGBT rights and terrorism.

But with the call to arm our citizens to protect themselves coming from multiple sources, I think adding guns to already over saturated market full of them and handing them out without discretion doesn’t fix the problem.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Ted Van Pelt/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

With ISIS, The West Is At War With Brazen Thuggery And Not Islam

Look at the coverage of most mainstream news outlets in the wake of the recent Brussels terrorist attacks and you’ll hear the words “Islamic extremists” or “radical Islam” multiple times.

The importance of terminology to define ISIS has been critically analyzed by professionals since the group eclipsed al-Qaeda as the foremost terror threat to the West in 2013.

The mainstream media has made ISIS synonymous with Islam without further investigation into who exactly is deemed a prime candidate for ISIS recruitment.

The brothers linked to the Brussels attacks were well known to the Belgian police for their long rap sheets of organized crime, not only because of their religious beliefs.

Seasoned criminals, the brothers were never linked to any terrorist cell or vocalized Islamic aggression prior to the Paris attacks.

Multiple media reports depict the attackers as young criminals initially looking for an illegal outlet that eventually found them emerged to deep in the terror cell, much like previous attackers whose criminal history has been recently brought to light.

Thus, the question being posed is if Islamic extremists or radical criminals accurately depict ISIS’ target recruit.

Examining ISIS methodology, one will find that Western society is directly targeted as being the reason the Middle East has endured suffering in the past.

To combat the years of self-described oppression they will commit brutal mass killings under the “convert or die” mentality in an attempt to create a worldwide Islamic State.

In juxtaposition to the religious backings behind the gruesome terrorist attacks, many Islamic leaders and followers alike have urgently condemned ISIS.

To understand that ISIS represents the Islamization of radicalism and not the radicalization of Islam, is to gain a greater understanding of whom ISIS is and why terminology matters.

The Obama administration has taken a definitive stand against defining ISIS as religious warriors for Islam.

“The notion that the West is at war with Islam is an ugly lie,” President Obama said last year when urging countries to view the terrorist group as rampant militants and to reject the idea this is a clash of civilizations.

ISIS is a youth revolt that attracts criminals and thugs the world over, and not just very religious Muslims. Photo Credit: rachaelvoorhees/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

ISIS is a youth revolt that attracts criminals and thugs the world over, and not just very religious Muslims. Photo Credit: rachaelvoorhees/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

To further these sentiments CIA director, John Brennan talks about ISIS members in a interesting way:

“Most — many — of them are psychopathic thugs, murderers who use a religious concept and masquerade and mask themselves in that religious construct.”

Falsely personifying ISIS members not only does a disservice to Muslims but it also feeds into the doctrine of the terrorist organization.

The more the West ostracizes Islam as a whole, the more power ISIS gains in recruiting young people in need of a purpose, and who want to watch the world burn.

Lately, waves of young Muslims have joined ISIS in search of a place of refuge in what analysts call a youth revolution.

The characterization of ISIS members as Islamic extremists walks a dangerous line between stigmatizing Islam as a religion and fueling the recruiting tactics of the terrorists.

Shifting the terminology widens the public’s knowledge on ISIS as an organization and demeans the terrorist organization’s underlining schemes of correlating Islam with their gruesome acts of violence.

We should consider it.

RISE NEWS  is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: marc cornelis/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Apple Has Learned The Lessons Of Eisenhower In Their Fight Against The FBI

Apple and the FBI have captured the public’s attention by battling over unlocking the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, but this is about more than one terrorist attack. This is a power struggle over the future of digital communication.

Encryption seems opaque and impossibly complex, and that’s the point. Even though it has only recently entered the popular lexicon, humans have been using encryption to keep secrets hidden since ancient Greece.

Now it’s an essential component to everyone’s electronic communication, and the United States security apparatus is essentially demanding unilateral power over its on/off switch.

A judge ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to help the FBI unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c, which seems like a reasonable request.

After all, it has the word reasonable in it.

But like many vague government directives, its request is far from the definition of the word it uses. What the FBI really wants Apple to do can best be explained by the world’s most notorious hacker.

Granted, there are so many layers to the Snowden story that you have to take everything he says with infinite grains of salt, but the man clearly knows his tech.

He’s pretty much stuck where he is for the rest of his life, so it’s hard to see how criticizing the FBI benefits him in any way (unless you believe that he’s a Russian operative, but that’s a discussion for another day).

This isn’t just about hacking into this one phone. The FBI wants Apple to build them a cyber weapon that bypasses encryption on iPhones around the world.

Encryption has been a central debate in the intelligence community for quite some time, and lines have clearly been drawn between civil cabinets and law enforcement, as the Obama administration has offered conflicting messages on this topic.

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Leslie Cald­well, the head of the Justice De­part­ment’s Crim­in­al Di­vi­sion alluded to the need to bypass encryption at a technology policy conference earlier this year:

“The De­part­ment of Justice is completely com­mit­ted to seek­ing and ob­tain­ing ju­di­cial au­thor­iz­a­tion for elec­tron­ic evid­ence col­lec­tion in all ap­pro­pri­ate cir­cum­stances. But once that au­thor­iz­a­tion is ob­tained, we need to be able to act on it if we are to keep our com­munit­ies safe and our coun­try se­cure.”

Ironically enough, the very next person to speak at that conference was another top Obama official at the Federal Trade Commission, Terrell McSweeny, and he offered a diametrically opposite opinion:

“As a per­son charged with think­ing about con­sumer pro­tec­tion, I deeply worry about things like man­dat­ory back­doors. We need to be very mind­ful of con­sumer data se­cur­ity, and we should be very, very care­ful about any­thing that un­der­mines that data se­cur­ity.”

James Comey, the director of the FBI, is one of the chief architects of the case against encryption, as he laid out in his famous 2014 “going dark” speech:

And if the challenges of real-time interception threaten to leave us in the dark, encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place.

You can see this schism in on the campaign trail too. Here’s the child of the former head of the CIA Jeb Bush’s take:

“If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job — while protecting civil liberties — to make sure that evildoers aren’t in our midst. We need to find a new arrangement with Silicon Valley in this regard because I think this is a very dangerous kind of situation.” 

Compare that to former HP CEO/former Presidential candidate/future Fox News analyst Carly Fiorina:

“I certainly support that we need to tear down cyber walls, not on a mass basis, but on a targeted basis. I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or are already a problem. But yes, there is more collaboration required.”

So why is the private sector so concerned with protecting encryption? Apple’s stance doesn’t seem to be based on firm principle since they have unlocked iPhones for the feds at least 70 times before.

This is a high-profile case, so what Apple does or does not do will be scrutinized infinitely more than those 70 instances combined, and the public has never been more sensitive to the security state than it is right now.

Apple doesn’t want to hurt their brand. Plus, what the FBI is demanding is unprecedented. They’re ordering Apple to build a backdoor into its seminal product.

That’s not something that can only be controlled by one party; once a backdoor exists, anyone with the wherewithal can access it.

The second the FBI uses this new software to bypass encryption, the race will be on to reverse engineer it, and if/when this type of technology falls into the wrong hands, a huge chunk of mankind’s digital infrastructure would be compromised (not to mention the horrors authoritarian regimes around the world would inflict on their people with this weapon).

Given that our security state already looks like a Orwellian fever dream, we should heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient warning from his farewell address and support Apple in this fight:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Is Indonesia About To Enter A New Era Of Domestic Terrorism?

Last Thursday, Jakarta was rocked by its first major attack by religiously inspired Islamic militants since the Ritz Carlton bombings of 2009. Lasting more than three hours, the grim attacks – in which seven people, including five assailants, died – may not have been as devastating as the previous bombings that hit the capital in the… Read More

Hyperbole Abounds in Coverage of Oregon “Militia” Takeover


That’s the word that every media outlet under the sun is emphasizing in their coverage of a small group of ranchers and extremists who have decided that knowingly entering and remaining upon a Federal facility (the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge) while it’s closed is a good idea. By the way, that amounts to a “petty misdemeanor” under Federal law.

Sure there is a lot of banter, and they have guns. Okay. But even if these ‘militiamen’ broke in to the building, or entered through an unlocked door, under Federal Statutes, it’s still just a burglary. Yes, it’s also unlawful to carry weapons on Federal property. Still not a violent act in and of itself.

So while it may not be a wise career move for me to dispute our Opinion Editor’s position, I’m going to, simply on the basis that what’s unfolding in the high plains desert of Oregon is in to no way terrorism.

Could it reach the threshold of terrorism? Yes. But at this point in time, this is a group of folks who perceive a long history of grievances against the Federal government, some based on the historical events within their own family – and some who simply align with the Mormon / LDS religious beliefs of the ideological leaders of this undertaking, the Bundy family.

As I’ve spoken to before, terrorism involves violent acts, or acts dangerous to human life. That again is based in Federal statutes. So where has it been reported that a single shot has been fired in this ‘armed takeover’ of this Fish and Wildlife Service facility? It hasn’t. Because it hasn’t happened.

These are dangerous people, with dangerous ideology, a grudge against the Federal Government of the United States,

The facility is in an area with a lesser population density than Wyoming, or Alaska. Even if there was a shot fired, there’s no one around for miles. How does this present an act dangerous to human life, if there’s nobody to get shot?

Yes, when Law Enforcement enters the area, the likelihood for an armed conflict rises exponentially. This is a group with which Federal law enforcement has some experience, and though these folks profess to be ‘ready to die for the cause’, the much more attended events at the Bundy Ranch were resolved peacefully.

Then again, they also weren’t occupying and refusing to leave a Federal facility in that case.

Brass tax – I am not delusional.

These are dangerous people, with dangerous ideology, a grudge against the Federal Government of the United States, and who have displayed a willingness to use violence, or the threat of violence to achieve the outcome that they desire.

The Bundy Ranch standoff is fresh in many people’s minds. But let’s not blow things out of proportion either. Yes, the headlines are flashy, and it gets people all worked up, which generates click-throughs and ratings – but at the end of the day – we have not reached the point of terrorism.

Cover Photo Credit: Cacophony/ Wikimedia commons (CC By 2.0) 

Make No Mistake, There is Terrorism Happening in Oregon Right Now

A group of upwards of 150 armed men have taken over a building on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns Oregon.

But don’t let CNN or other parts of the “mainstream” media fool you. This is not an act of “protest” by concerned “patriots”. This is terrorism by anti-government vigilantes.

This is the culmination of a long trail of events leading back to 2001. You can look here for a name-by-name breakdown of events, but I’ll give you the CliffsNotes version.

Over the New Year holiday, a group of about 300 protesters marched through Burns, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, best known for refusing to pay about $1 million in taxes and engaging in an armed stand-off with the Bureau of Land Management back in 2014.

They were marching in protest to the sentencing of Dwight and Steven Hammond, who were found guilty of arson of federal and public lands.

By Friday, Ammon had led his group to take control of the refuge, claiming that they would control the building for years if they had to.

Do those sound like the words and actions of protesters to you?

If you said yes, congratulations, you’re part of the problem.

You see, this is being handled very differently than say when there were protests and riots in Ferguson, MO or Baltimore.

In both those cases, the entire 24/7 news cycle covered the events. With every major TV news station talking about nothing else for weeks.

For this story? Well, CNN had it on the front of their website, while ABC used the term “peaceful protest”.

Oh, and another thing that occurred in both the above cases that hasn’t happened yet in Oregon. The National Guard was called in.

“Here’s the problem: what the terrorists will ask for is something the federal government can’t give them.”

In Ferguson, there were armored vehicles patrolling the streets. And that was against (primarily black) people armed with stones, bricks, and foul language.

A federal building is being held by (white) people carrying semi-automatic weapons. They are being negotiated with.

Let’s just call this what it is and get it over with. This is terrorism. Plain and simple.

I won’t go into a long spiel about why it is because I’ve already done that. Different names, different places, different reasons, same conclusion.

There is no argument. As I see it, the more interesting questions are how will the federal government respond.

In a situation such as this, only two options are readily apparent. You either attempt to settle this peacefully, or you send in the military.

To me, the correct choice is the latter.

Historically, law enforcement and the government have preferred peaceful settlement. It is not only cheaper, but it saves lives. No reason to put soldier’s lives at risk if it isn’t necessary.

Here’s the problem: what the terrorists will ask for is something the federal government can’t give them. They will ask for the release of the (rightly) imprisoned Hammond men. This is impossible as it would be a slap in the face of the justice system.

Also, these terrorists, or at least the leaders, can’t walk away scot-free. Even though the building they are holding was empty and they have not brought injury or death to anyone, they still perpetrated an armed take-over of a federal building. Doesn’t matter if it’s on a small wildlife refuge or the White House, same rules apply.

The final problem with this arrangement is that it could open the doors for other like-minded people to take similar actions. They will feel emboldened by the fact that “those guys in Oregon got away with it, why not me?” Who’s to say in that scenario that such a thing couldn’t then happen in Texas, or Florida, or Minnesota?

So how would I suggest they bring this act of terrorism on US soil to an end? Well, I’m not a military man by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have an idea.

All the Oregon National Guard (and whomever else the government decides to send out) has to do is create a perimeter around the building and wait. They know exactly where the building is, and they know that it is solely occupied by terrorists. What they have is the makings of a good old-fashioned siege.

The terrorist leaders have called on others to join them, and to bring guns and supplies. You nip that in the bud by closing off the roads and paths. One guy in a truck will probably turn back at the sight of 20 guys with guns in his way.

As for how long this will take, Bundy has said that they plan to stay for years. I give it to the end of the week. They will realize that they are surrounded, out-gunned, and haven’t eaten well. Morale will be low and the “patriotic” gusto which started this ordeal will be nonexistent.

Then the final question is what to do after the terrorists’ surrender? That boils down to whether or not this action constitutes treason. According to US law, treason is defined as:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

The phrase “levies war” is the kicker. It’ll be up to the Justice Department to determine that one.

But regardless of how this plays out, the men holed up in that building in Oregon should be considered terrorists by both the media and the law.

To do any less is an indictment upon the character of the media and an indication of what stories we can expect in 2016.

Cover Photo Credit: Ken Lund/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

On American Violence: Is It Guns, Terrorism Or Our Culture?

America. Opening a history book about the United States will take you on a journey through violence. Period paintings, drawings, and certainly texts of many varieties from the mid to late 1700’s all speak to the core belief that the colonists had in using firearms and violence to get themselves out from under the control of the British Crown.

And they did. The visceral effect of the Declaration of Independence on the people and the codifying force of the subsequent Constitution on this new republic had an affect on people who had no desire to be oppressed, unfairly taxed, abused or maligned.

In fact, the Constitution was amended to reflect the deeply held belief that guns belonged in the hands of every person – to be ready to repel invaders, keep the peace and protect themselves from anything that might try to intrude upon the basic freedoms that these visionaries embedded in to these lawful constructs.

Could it be that our fascination with guns is so deeply rooted in our psyche as Americans, because of the anti-colonial and refugee mindset of our founding fathers; through today, where (as the Constitution implies), we must always be at the ready to defend ourselves, and our nation?

For the aforementioned reasons, but also as history has unfolded, to help us protect our national interests, or impose them on others for our own gain? The Civil War. The Mexican – American War. The expansion of western settlement through the slaughter, forced relocation and internment of Native Americans. Those events are from our earliest history, and depict our collective dependence on firearms to both maintain our thirst for freedom, and to simultaneously fuel our growing thirst for territory and power.

The ‘carry forward’ from this long and storied history is that our reliance upon guns is now permanently rooted into our culture. Throughout the world, the US has always had a reputation for being unnecessarily violent, particularly where guns are concerned. But are these perceptions grounded in reality, or is this belief based solely on cultural differences?

It is literally inarguable that a firearm by itself is not the causation of our more recent mass shooting epidemic. ‘Guns don’t kill people – people kill people’. Much like a knife, stick, brick or rock by itself is not usually responsible for the death of a person, guns by themselves are incapable of killing or causing grievous bodily harm.

Someone must take that implement or weapon and pull the trigger. The access to weapons for those who would endeavor to harm others is at the core of the argument of so called ‘gun control’ efforts. That however requires deeper exploration.

There are studies, statistics and opinions all over the map, but suffice to say, there is no clear benefit to gun bans, or stricter gun control measures in modern society, as is plainly visible in these statistics. So what gives? Why the argument that banning guns, or enacting even tougher gun control measures like a ban on certain magazine capacities, or styles of weapons would have any significant impact on curbing mass shootings?

Waiting lists and months long processes to obtain even the most basic of services, such as initial and even secondary evaluations to facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment; leaves a great many people falling through the very large cracks.

The truth is – it wouldn’t. Those bent on destruction or murder will get guns by other means than legally purchasing them. There is in fact sufficient evidence to demonstrate that many of the violent gun related crimes that have us persistently discussing ‘gun control’ are in fact committed with stolen guns.

To even suggest a ban on guns would facilitate an instrument by which the government would then be compelled to confiscate them. Outside of the obvious constitutional implications, that in and of itself would undoubtedly lead to legal challenges, mass protests, and perhaps even armed insurrection (or as some would say ‘a revolution’).

The fact is that the 2nd Amendment was constructed by the “Founding Fathers” as an instrument to facilitate not only the protection and defense of one’s self against attack or tyranny, but also to enable the Country as a whole to protect itself from potential invaders.

Photo Credit: Valerie Everett/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Valerie Everett/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

According to historical documents examined by the author (and widely available in the public domain), the Constitution -and specifically the 2nd Amendment; was articulated in this way to give “We The People” the ability to ward off an overreaching government with designs on the degradation or eradication of basic civil liberties. We are who and what we are as a Nation because of the wisdom of these documents and founding principles.

I would go so far as to speculate that any would be foreign invaders would have to take in to account the might of not only our military prowess, but also the plain fact that Americans are armed to the teeth as they draw up their battle plans. It’s also worthy mentioning that the Supreme Court has routinely upheld the right of the individual to ‘keep and bear arms’.

Are guns really the problem here?

While our understanding of the human mind, and the ability to more effectively treat mental health issues has vastly expanded in the last 30 years, the trend in access to effective mental health treatment, particularly where the poor, homeless and our military veterans are concerned has left huge gaps in the effective delivery of those services. There aren’t enough qualified practitioners to treat the vast numbers of people who require access to those services.

Waiting lists and months long processes to obtain even the most basic of services, such as initial and even secondary evaluations to facilitate accurate diagnosis and treatment; leaves a great many people falling through the very large cracks.

Struggling to navigate the already arduous landscape that is their daily life. And yet, while over 60% of those who have carried out “mass shootings” since 1970 have had significant mental health diagnoses and presentation, there is also no clear means by which to associate mental health with mass shootings.

Why? Because those with pronounced mental health issues are already supposed to be incapable of purchasing firearms legally. It’s the law. Yet these killers still obtained access to weapons and killed a great many people.

‘Mass shootings’ has become a household term, but why? Why at this point in time? Perhaps these are symptoms of a society that has fallen into a moral slump. A society that’s obsessed with instant gratification via fast food, lightning fast information, electronic pacification and communications tools. Are these things responsible for an overall decay in the fabric of the principles upon which our great nation was built? Do we suffer from a fog of what reality is and was up until this latest technological revolution began?

But looking at the numbers from these sources alone – of 330 terrorist attacks in the United States, since our founding – only 34 are attributed to Islamic terrorism.

The disconnection between our ability to effectively interact with each other, particularly for those who are disenfranchised, maligned, bullied, teased or are otherwise already mentally unstable – could very well be fueling this epidemic. Life has become so virtual – so cold and distant from our humanity, in comparison to the childhood of Gen X’ers for example.

There is no clear answer or solution to the ‘gun problem’. Accordingly, the solution to mass shootings is not nearly so clear as the likes of the New York Times or New York Daily News would surmise in their recent opinion pieces. We don’t have a gun problem, we have a people problem.

This brings us to the topic of terrorism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” See also Title 22 of the United States Code. Based on those definitions, it is hard to imagine that 102 terrorist acts have been committed on US soil since 9/11. 9/11 itself was three separate acts, at three locations – the Twin Towers (or World Trade Center), the Pentagon, and the plane crash in Somerset County, PA.

225 terror attacks took place, again using this definition, prior to 9/11. While some may be familiar, like the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, I’d never heard of bombings at the LA Times Building, Morgan Bank in NYC, or Chicago’s Haymarket square – which cumulatively killed 71 and injured 380 people. These attacks occurred between 1886 and 1920.

Digging further down in to these numbers, I wanted to examine how many of these attacks were related to “Islamic terrorism”. Those two words are played over and over again on TV, radio, and seen in print and social media all day, every day. The inference is that if we don’t call a possible radical Islamist, or jihad related attack “Islamic terrorism”, then we’re somehow lacking in patriotism, or un-American.

But looking at the numbers from these sources alone – of 330 terrorist attacks in the United States, since our founding – only 34 are attributed to Islamic terrorism.

About 10%, this is true both before, and after 9/11. There are other numbers on this, but drawing off this data set, there is a bigger picture here, both as it relates to our terrorism problem, but also the political maneuvering going in to convincing us who we should fear.

Okay, so what can you do? Care about each other. Pay attention to each other. If you see that someone is in distress – say something. If you see the warning signs of a person who is unraveling before your eyes – do something about it, vs. ignoring the raw humanity of the person is crisis in front of you. The American Psychological Association published a list of things the any of us can do to help prevent violence from occurring. In fact, there are violence prevention experts in many major cities that teach companies, schools and organizations how to empower their HR, security and even ‘rank and file’ personnel to help interdict and prevent violence in those environments. (Felix Nater of Nater Associates comes to mind).

Basic takeaways? Guns aren’t going away. Violence is human nature. Terrorism is violence and weapons combined. The whole ‘if you see something, say something’ campaign really works. There’s a list I saw recently that scared the hell out of me. A list of terror plots that have been disrupted, since 9/11. Again, many of these weren’t familiar to me.

What if someone had called and reported the unstable behavior of any of a number of the mass shooters in our recent times? Could these atrocities have been avoided? I’d suggest that the answer to that question is yes.

Scrutiny, law enforcement investigation and even something as simple as accessing advanced mental health or counseling services could have served to prevent at least some of this violence. If you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem.

Cover Photo: Peretz Partensky/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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