Those who witnessed it live or on TV will never forget that day. It’s one of those events of such magnitude you remember where you were, who you were with, and what you were doing at the time. Some memories fade over time, this is one we should hope won’t, lest we forget what it is we never want to go through again.
Early 2016 saw the presidential race go into full swing. It seems like a lifetime ago, but the year started with Presidential debates, the most interesting being those on the Republican side. 16 men and one woman began their campaigns in earnest. The stage literally was not big enough for all of them, so was created the undercard debate. One candidate, Carly Fiorina, emerged as the only candidate to earn a spot on the big stage with the true contenders. Meanwhile on the Democrat side, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed Socialist caught fire with connecting with of all groups, the far-left leaning youth. Iran became a campaign issue when the extremely dubious nuclear agreement went into effect, coincidently, four American hostages that were held in Iran were freed. Later it would become apparent that their freedom had been purchased in the dark of night with unmarked bills.
The Executive branch was not the only branch to undergo far-reaching change. In February, the country lost one of its greatest jurists, Antonin Scalia, a conservative justice on a split Supreme Court. Before the end of March, three different Republicans had won primaries, including several won by Donald Trump, establishing him as a serious contender for the nomination. Bernie Sanders became the hot ticket on the Democratic side, stringing together early primary victories, showing that there would be no early coronation for Hillary. Meanwhile, terrorism was set to rear its ugly head again in Europe. The attack in Brussels, the capital of the European Union exposed the dangers of letting in millions of lightly vetted migrants and refugees from countries with serious terrorism problems. Further attacks were to come, peaking in the middle months of the year.
It can be difficult sometimes finding a favorite, or best article of the past year. This year one post came immediately to mind. The following is a reblog of an article I wrote back in October. Most of the time I’m writing about broad, abstract ideas like liberty and conservatism. This one was a little different, it was about an ongoing specific problem being faced by a specific group of people. -JP Mac
EGG HARBOR TWP, NJ
During war civilians always suffer, but what happens when neither side has their well-being in mind? In Syria, the Assad government aided by their Russian allies fight a host of rebel factions with little regard to collateral damage done to non-combatants. On the other side are hardline Islamists such as ISIS who have even less compunction against killing civilians and in fact, actively target them. Christians and other religious minorities have been singled out by the Islamic fighters for genocide. This prompted the formation of Christians United for Peace: Syria, a non-profit group dedicated to helping the Syrian Christians and other minorities caught in the crossfire. Recently, the organization held an event to raise awareness of the desperate situation of Syrian Christians in Egg Harbor Township, NJ. Atlantic City Councilman and member of the Pastoral Council at the Parish of Saint Monica Catholic Church. Jesse O. Kurtz was asked to help put the event together.
Jesse O. Kurtz explains why he got involved with the effort and what he believes the event he organized accomplished:
“The genocide in the Middle East of Christians is surreal. I think that is one of the reasons that more people are not speaking out about it. The key of this event was to bring awareness to the reality of Christian genocide in the Middle East. The speakers did an excellent job of sharing personal testimonies, as well as offering top quality talks on the history of Christians in the Middle East, the case for why the current violence is indeed genocide, and what life is like for the Church in Syria and Iraq.”
And indeed, the Syrian people have suffered greatly due to the civil war. According to the IOCC:
- Since 2011, Syria’s violent civil war has claimed the lives of more than 250,000 people and displaced more than 7.6 million.
- More than half of Syria’s population has been displaced from their homes, often multiple times, creating mass instability and uncertainty for its people.
Secretary of State John Kerry:
“We know that in areas under its control, Daesh (ISIS) has made a systematic effort to destroy the cultural heritage of ancient communities – destroying Armenian, Syrian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches; blowing up monasteries and the tombs of prophets; desecrating cemeteries; and in Palmyra, even beheading the 83-year-old scholar who had spent a lifetime preserving antiquities there.”
The event held at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox was attended by approximately 400 persons, including clergy from the Syriac Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, and Roman Catholic Church. Each of these Christian communities has suffered at the hands of ISIS. Other guest speakers ranged from history professors to witnesses to the strife in Syria who gave firsthand accounts of the human tragedy. It is one thing to watch brief glimpses of the war on TV, but it is quite another to hear accounts of people who have seen firsthand the devastation. As an outside observer, one cannot completely understand the experience of the Christians now in Syria, but one can certainly feel for them and understand that this is more than something that we see unfolding on our TV screens each night, but a real catastrophe affecting millions of real people.
The event of course was more than just about raising awareness; it was about raising contributions to the four key Christian charities Christians United for Peace: Syria. Those aid organizations are:
- International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC)
- The Knights of Columbus Christian Refugee Relief Fund
- Middle East Council of Churches
- International Christians Outreach
These organizations provide the following critical and essential supplies:
- Basic food supplies
- Clean water
- Cooking equipment
- Baby supplies, including diapers
- Dignity kits for women
- Clothing and shoes
- Mattresses and bedding
When we think of genocide, often think of the holocaust and the mass killing of Jews during WWII, or we think of Rwanda, or the ethnic cleansing inside the former Yugoslavia. As with the liquidation of the ghettos in WWII by the NAZI’s part of genocide against the Christians and Yezidis involves the mass theft of anything of value. Not just valuables, but life’s essentials were taken, like medications and even shoes. The victims of the ISIS genocide in Iraq and Syria that were “lucky” enough to be allowed to escape to Kurdish territories were done so in such a way as to cause maximum hardship if not outright death by sickness and starvation. Imagine the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos combined with the Trail of Tears forced upon the American Indians, and you get some sense of the torment ISIS put Christians and Yezidis through.
This was one comparatively small event, held in a small New Jersey shore town, but Councilman Kurtz thinks that with help, some relief can be brought to this ancient Christian community:
“There is now a group of hundreds of people locally aware and looking to bring relief and hope to our persecuted brethren. We shall see what next steps are directed through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”
Nice, France and Baton Rouge, Louisiana have more in common than the French origins of their names. They were both sites of recent terrorist attacks. In the case of Nice, it was Islamist terror that killed more than eighty people in that resort town. It was done in the name an extreme ideology that does not value human life. It was an act of revenge for real or imagined offenses perpetrated upon innocents that had nothing to do with the terrorists’ grievances. In the case of Baton Rouge, it was an act of anti-police terror that saw the murder of three police. Like the tragedy in France, the attack in Baton Rouge was done in the name of an extreme world-vision so distorted it negated the value human life. It too was an act of revenge. Neither attack will do anything to further the supposed cause of the attacker.
Terrorism: the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal
Source: Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary
In the case of Nice, Paris, Istanbul, Orlando, etc., the brand of terrorism was an all-too familiar one– Islamic extremism. These fit the definition of terror because they were acts of violence in support of a religious/political cause, that of violent jihad. In short, these extremists want to impose their vision of Islam on everyone. With virtually every attack, vengeance is cited as a motive. The perpetrators cloak their actions in religion, or in the righting some alleged wrong. Never does the Islamic extremist make an introspective assessment of their negative situation, it is always someone else, Jews, Westerners, apostates, etc. who are to blame for the societal problems they face.
Like the Islamic extremist, the anti-cop extremist engages in acts of extreme violence against innocents in order to further a political goal. Also like the jihadist, the anti-cop terrorist acts from a misguided notion of justice. Unlike the vast majority who share their stated cause, the violent extremist has no compunction against killing people who may have no association with the perceived injustice they lash out against. Though their base grievance might have some aire of legitimacy– that the deaths of blacks at the hands of police in several cases may have been unnecessary and avoidable, the extremest has little interest in true justice, but perceives vengeance as justice. No introspection here either, in the absolutist mind of extremist, the source of their problems has to be due to the actions of others, and those others are always in the wrong. Killing anyone even resembling the ‘other’, in this case cops, helps solve the problem in the twisted logic of the terrorist.
Innocents have died recently in tragic attacks by extremists in the name of what they see as see as a worthy cause. In one case, the cause is a long-standing animosity against all things and persons not a part of their perverted version of Islam. Over eighty people were killed without regard to whether or not they actually had any connection to the government or society they hold at fault for their situation. In a city thousands of miles away, three police were murdered in an apparent act of vengeance for the actions of their fellow officers. These murders follow the recent killings of police in Dallas, ostensibly for the same reason, and act of vengeance for a perceived injustice. The bitter irony in the case of Dallas is that the vast majority of protestors actually had no qualm with the police that were targeted, but police in other cities in America. On top of that, the police that were killed in that incident died protecting the very people who were protesting others of their profession they accused of wrongly killing blacks.
The other bitter irony is that in neither Nice nor Baton Rouge, will the acts of terror do any thing to further the stated or assumed causes of the attackers. Both attacks qualify as terrorism by definition, though only one has popularly been described as such. Terrorists believe that the ends justify the means. They claim for themselves the status of freedom fighter or enforcer of justice, but there is no justice in their actions, only vengeance and hatred. Whatever their stated cause or grievance, they have twisted that cause beyond all semblance of legitimacy to the point that those who they purport to serve must disown their actions. The individuals who committed these acts on two continents in pursuit of different goals both confused evil for good, vengeance for justice, and wrong for right. For that we can and should describe both as terrorists.
After the tragic shooting in Orlando, the issue of gun control has come to the fore of American politics. Unfortunately, one popular solution is the proposed ‘no fly, no buy’ law whereby if you can’t fly due to the fact you’re on the government’s no fly list, you would not be able to purchase a firearm. It sounds completely rational, it even has some Republican support. The problem is, many of the people on the no fly or terrorist watch lists are not terrorists. If the gun control lobby were to have their way, anyone on that list would have to prove their innocence before they could be taken off the list and purchase a gun. There’s just one problem with that plan, it’s called the fifth amendment.
Congressman Trey Gowdy, (R, SC) more than aptly defined the problem with ‘no fly, no buy’ during Congressional hearings last year on Capitol Hill when he took DHS official Kelli Ann Burriesci to school on the topic of due process. You cannot deprive a citizen of their rights without a fair hearing. Here apparent ignorance regarding the idea of due process unfortunately is representative of that of the general populace. The anti-gun Left counts on this ignorance to get measures like the proposed gun legislation though. The average person on the street knows no more about civics that the hapless DHS official in that hearing.
The problem still remains: How do you keep guns out of the hands of would-be terrorists? If there is an active FBI investigation, and the subject attempts to buy a gun and is denied because he or she is flagged, does that not alert the subject to the fact they are being investigated? What if the person is innocent? Would they have to prove their innocence in order to regain their second amendment rights? That’s not how our system works. In out system, you are innocent until proven guilty.
One way, aside from rescinding the fifth and or second amendments, would be to insist that the government either bring charges, or close the case any individual denied sale of a firearm as a result of being on the watch list. After a brief waiting period, the person would be allowed to complete the sale of their firearm or be in police custody. Law enforcement would in some cases be made to show their hand, so it’s probably not a solution that the FBI would put forth. It would though force the burden of proof be placed upon the accuser as it should be.
Better for our rights would be to deal with the root cause of the problem, in this case terrorism. If we could show that ISIS as the inevitable loser in this war, destroy their capital, their mystique would fade, recruitment numbers would dry up. They would be forced into deciding whether to be a state, or just another terror group with a cool acronym . At any rate, they would be too busy defending their territory to cause much mischief elsewhere. Fewer terrorists here mean fewer shootings, bombings, and stabbings to contend with, less call for sacrificing our Constitutional rights by those who don’t even know what they are.
Once again we are faced with a tragedy born of hate perpetrated by an Islamic extremist terrorist. Many have said that since the shooting early Sunday morning took place at a gay club it was a hate crime. It was, but then every single act committed in the name of ISIS and their like is a hate crime, be it against gays, Christians, Jews, heavy metal fans, or soccer fans, or anybody else not exactly like them. The fact that the terrorist’s targets were gay in this instance is irrelevant in the big picture. This particular murderer just picked the group he hated the most to massacre, as if picking from some twisted, macabre menu.
It is not who he decided to massacre that should disturb or enrage us, it is that there is an entire self-proclaimed nation of extremists out there that has convinced themselves and their followers that the value of human life is negotiable, worth much in the case of some, worth nothing at all in the case of others, many others. Like the NAZI’s before them, they revel in having enemies that all their woes can be blamed on. Scapegoats to blame for their failures and those of their bankrupt ideology. They lie to themselves that their deeds serve a higher purpose. They dehumanize others in order to kill them without remorse. What eventually ended the NAZI’s reign of terror against the weak and the defenseless was a sustained and coordinated effort by the strong– not to reach an accommodation or accord with them, but to destroy them in detail on every battlefront. What’s more, we and others who shared the means to do so made an irreversible decision to defeat the enemy and never give anything less than our utmost to do so.
We have heard a lot of strong talk after Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino, and the rest. Each time we resolved not to be cowed or give in to terror. We vowed to take the fight to the enemy, attack them with every means at our disposal. Indeed, we have taken action, we’ve killed them, captured them, taken away their money. We’ve done so for years, but for all of those things we’ve done, there is still one thing that remains to do before we can end the terror. We have to make that same public, non-negotiable, irrevocable pact with ourselves and our allies to win this war as we did the one three-quarters of a century ago against a similar foe.
With the military victory, we must strive for the moral victory. We have to win this fight staying true to our values. We have to do it while preserving the rights to free speech, religion and peaceful assembly, the right to be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, the right to bear arms. We have to respect and morn all who have been lost in this struggle, be they gay, straight, Christian, Jew, cop, soldier, or innocent bystander. We have to understand what our enemy does not– that every human life is sacred, not just those we approve of, or those we can relate to, but all lives. The reason is simple, because all of what we call civilization is hateful to them and thus a potential target for their militant extremism. Every act of terror by definition is a hate crime, it’s not them victims that determines this, it is the terrorist.