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Us Against Them, Part Whatever

I posted the following on Facebook yesterday:

Reading some people’s knee-jerk “Bomb ’em all!” responses to various attacks. It got me thinking about the Hunger Games series, and how President Snow responds to Katniss Everdeen’s actions in the 75th Hunger Games by bombing her entire district into oblivion.

Y’all understand Snow was one of the villains, right?

This generated a number of supportive comments, which is no surprise, given the amplification effects of social media. It also triggered arguments about gun control, religious intolerance, idealism vs. reality, and questions about my kid getting shot in the face.

Like most Americans, I don’t have a full understanding of life in the Middle East, the political and religious realities people there are living with. I do know that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. I know many of those Muslims in the Middle East live in regions of instability and war. I know many of them are on the ground fighting back against terror, or simply fighting to survive. Many are trying to escape threats like ISIS/Daesh.

We see innocent people murdered by terrorists, and we feel angry. We feel afraid. We feel powerless, and we want to do something. I get that.

Why are we afraid? What is it we’re afraid of? One American commenter talked about her fear of people who want to kill her for being female and not wearing a veil.

We’ve had a total of 26 people killed in jihadist attacks in the U.S. in the past decade. (Source) The most recent data I could find showed 24 U.S. citizens killed in terrorism incidents overseas in 2014. (Source)

In the meantime, three women are killed in the U.S. by their boyfriends every day. (Source) If we’re going to talk about threats against women, terrorists aren’t anywhere near the top of that list.

Or compare those terrorism numbers to the 11,208 firearms-related assault deaths in the U.S. in 2013, or the 4,913 non-firearms assault deaths. Hell, a U.S. citizen is 74 times more likely to die of the flu than of ISIS-style terrorists, but I don’t see anyone changing their Facebook icons to promote flu vaccines. (Source)

This doesn’t mean we should ignore terrorism. It doesn’t mean we turn our backs on the victims in Paris and Beirut and Baghdad and elsewhere.

What it means to me is that we need to do a better job of recognizing our fears, of assessing what it is we’re so afraid of, what we should be afraid of, and how we choose to respond to various threats. We’re so fired up about our war on terrorism. Where’s our war on domestic violence, which is a far greater threat to the people of the United States? Why are we so quick to fear in one case, but not another?

Some of it is media-fueled, of course. Terrorist attacks against white people get a lot of coverage, and so they take up a lot of real estate in our brains.

There’s also that ongoing Us vs. Them mentality. We see Muslims as “them,” no matter how many speak out against terror, no matter how many Muslims save lives in these attacks, no matter how many Muslims are on the ground fighting and dying in the ongoing battle against ISIS.

Emotions suck when it comes to understanding statistics.

Human beings have to be better than that. We have to be smarter.

I’m all for fighting against terrorism. I want my family and my country to be safe. I want innocent people to stop dying.

“Bomb the Muslims!” isn’t going to accomplish that. Turning our backs on people who need help, leaving them to suffer and die, isn’t going to accomplish that. Fear and hatred of Muslims isn’t going to accomplish that.

In fact, that very fear and hatred and intolerance is exactly what ISIS wants from us.

The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufrī religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffār without hardship, or they perform hijrah to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens. (Source)

These terrorist attacks were committed with the goal of increasing our intolerance and our fear and our violent reactions, and in so doing, driving more people into the arms of ISIS.

I don’t have all the answers. But I know one thing. I have no intention of helping terrorists.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 16th, 2015 07:30 pm (UTC)
Someone's worried about "people who want to kill her for being female and not wearing a veil"? How about being worried about people who want to kill her because she turned them down for a date, or because she wants to make her own medical choices, or because she works for the government or for the company that fired them? All of those have happened right here, and not by people of Middle Eastern extraction either. And all of them are far more likely than for her to be killed by an Islamist.

Nov. 16th, 2015 08:51 pm (UTC)
I was about to say: on my list of things I'm scared of, "willfully inadequate white guys with guns" ranks a lot higher than Muslims.
Nov. 16th, 2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
Humans are crummy about risk assessment. Or about the difference between feeling safe and being safe.

I remember someone talking about fear of flying. They knew flying was safer, but because they lacked the illusion of control that driving had: there were things they could do while driving to reduce their risk, even if the risk was still higher, and that made them feel safer.

(I'm actually the opposite. Knowing that I am part of a scheduled system with professionals in charge of both controlling and maintaining the plane, and in dealing with problems as they come up is a great comfort to me. Having to plan and do everything myself is more stressful.)

Some of it is just realizing that this difference exists and pondering how to address it. For something like flying, it is something people can work around if they have to. But for fearing other people, that's something you have to work with in consideration for those other people.
Nov. 16th, 2015 11:28 pm (UTC)
I lived in DC for ten years after 9/11. Muslim terrorists were a lot lower on my concern list than scary guys hanging around the metro late at night.
Nov. 20th, 2015 02:21 am (UTC)
Bingo! There are more terrorists born here than have traveled here.
Nov. 16th, 2015 08:54 pm (UTC)

Jim, have you seen this?

Somewhat relevant.
Nov. 16th, 2015 09:55 pm (UTC)
I hadn't, thank you.
Nov. 16th, 2015 09:05 pm (UTC)
Well said.

I saw on the news that some states in the US are refusing to accept Syrian refugees, on the grounds that a terrorist could sneak in with them. *headdesk* Because, you know, they're all evil and dangerous. Especially the starving children.
Sylvia McIvers
Nov. 19th, 2015 09:05 pm (UTC)
On the other hand, most Arab countries are refusing to accept refugees, because they straight-up don't want the riffraff. What happened to Muslim solidarity and not-all-muslims are bad?

I still think we should take in refugees, because 99.9% of them just want a place to live without getting killed, but context, please.

On the third hand, during World War II there were many, many politicians who didn't want to take in European refugees (ie, white people) because there might be German spies among them. And its perfectly OK for thousands of 'them' to be killed 'over there' as long as no one gets murdered over here.
Nov. 16th, 2015 09:51 pm (UTC)
You've never lived through a bombing campaign, I can tell that or you'd not be so glib about it.
Nov. 16th, 2015 09:55 pm (UTC)
No I haven't.

Who the hell are you accusing of being glib?
Nov. 17th, 2015 05:17 am (UTC)

As if the proper response to the news that gunmen went through a concert killing the disabled is to balance the risk of that happening - not disabled, not liking that type of music, drives a car, therefore much more likely to die in a car crash, so that's what someone should worry about.

I live in a country with gun control, where there are road safety campaigns, where there are domestic violence campaigns, and where the nearest I've been to death in forty years is two IRA bombs, no wait three, and the 7/7 bombings which I missed by half an hour and fifty yards.

You clearly do not know what it is like to live with that, to have warnings about left luggage being destroyed because they might be a bomb, to see armed policemen with sub machine guns patrolling your train stations when your police don't carry guns in general, to know we aren't allowed metal bins in London because they turn to shrapnel when someone puts a bomb in there, to see police checks on vans outside your office because it's a major route into the City and that this means there's an actual report of an actual threat that day, to know when there's a trial of terrorists because the building opposite has armed police on the roof, to be greeted by sniffer dogs at the terminus and not be sure if they're after drugs or explosives but hey you get to pat a friendly Labrador, to have your bags searched when going into art galleries and museums because someone might have a bomb or a gun, to have the security services run trial events to see how we'd cope with another bomb attack, how that would compare with a multisite roving attack like in Paris, to know what it's like to watch a city like London pick itself up and walk home because no trains are running, and then watch it walk back to work next day because the trains are still not running because they're scraping people up with shovels because they're in so many pieces.

That's my journey to work. Every. Sodding. Day. is an accommodation to the risk of being blown up.

My friend works as a headmaster in a heavily Muslim area and they have six children on watch by special branch for being radicalised, where they know where there is a small group of men meeting above a chip shop celebrating jihadism. My parents local cafe in rural Derbyshire got targeted for radicalisation by some bunch distributing jihadist materials.

So yes, it's glib to dismiss living with that as some sort of overreaction.

When I go to stand in Trafalgar Square in solidarity with my fellow Londoners including Muslims I have by God earned that moment.

You? are being glib. The reason you can be handwavy about the risks is because you are safe.

Nov. 17th, 2015 12:56 pm (UTC)
"So yes, it's glib to dismiss living with that as some sort of overreaction."

And if that's what anyone here has been doing, then you go right ahead and call it glib.

Since NOBODY is dismissing that, maybe you need to take a deep breath and re-read.

Saying maybe a knee-jerk "Bomb 'em all!" approach isn't the best sure as hell isn't the same thing as handwaving. Recognizing that our reaction to terrorism in this country is utterly disproportionate to our reaction to other threats isn't a dismissal of the former.

You want to have a conversation? Fine. You want to argue with me? Go for it.

Accuse me of being glib? Sorry, I'm not in a space for that kind of willful misreading.
Nov. 17th, 2015 01:50 pm (UTC)
I'm in London; I've been through the same as you, including being close enough to the Canary Wharf bomb to bring down the plaster from my kitchen ceiling, and a bomb exploding right up against the front wall of my mother's office, and being taught as a child never to get in a car unless the driver checked underneath it for car bombs first (because her job was military even though she herself is a civilian). Heck, I've had my bins raided by men who the military police are pretty sure were IRA, and they're also pretty sure my mother had them sit in a car watching her house for a while. And I know that I'm still more likely to die crossing the street, or of swine flu (which I've had) or in an assault by someone I trusted (which I've survived three times). It's not glib to want evidence-based, risk-proportionate responses to these dangers. All of them.
Nov. 17th, 2015 03:03 pm (UTC)
*snorts* Well, as someone who lives and works in London, and has several friends working in Tower Hamlets schools - he's still right. He's not being glib I think, and even if he was, certainly domestic violence kills many more people in the UK than terrorists do. And that was true at the height of the Troubles.
Nov. 17th, 2015 03:03 pm (UTC)
It's also worth noting that Jim's talking about the US, where a) our instance of terrorist attacks* is significantly lower than the UK's, b) our response tends to be decapitated-chicken-style panic and racism, and c) we have Fox News.

From an outside perspective, the UK's responses seem generally more proportionate and, er, realism-based.

It's reasonable to be worried about terrorism in the situation you describe. What we've got here is OMG MUSLIMS GONNA BLOW UP THE DUNKIES IN DUNSTABLE, which: no.

*Or at least of foreign terrorist attacks: we've got plenty of homegrown white Christian assbags fucking shit up.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 17th, 2015 02:27 am (UTC)
Possibly useful in this context: another LJ-friend posted a link to this Boston Globe opinion piece, suggesting the use of a different naming convention to refer to the presently identified enemies.

I like this idea; I agree with the writer's premise that words matter, and I've been annoyed all along at the use of an acronym which co-opts the name of a perfectly respectable ancient Egyptian deity for mythologically inaccurate purposes. I want the historical Isis back, darnit -- and also her Saturday-morning-TV descendant, thank you very much.

ETA: And on closer re-reading, I see you've gotten partway there already via an NBC story...but only partway. I've already emailed my preferred local TV news station asking them to change their vocabulary.

Edited at 2015-11-17 02:53 am (UTC)
Nov. 17th, 2015 07:20 am (UTC)
I live in Austria. All refugee shelters in my country are overflowing. My parents took a syrian family in their house as did many many many other people in Austria because the capacities are at a total limit.

The people coming from Syria tell the most horrific tales. What's happening there is a second holocaust. For Kurds, for Jesidis, for gay people, for women, for everybody who does not agree, with an Islam that sets people on fire for fun.

I am not one of the "bomb them all" people and I strongly opposed the Iraq war, but this? It calls for a military intervention or we are bystanders of a genocide.

And by military intervention I mean ground troups not bombs. We need a UN lead forc of international ground troups. Bombs don't discriminate between victims and perpetrators. Soldiers can. This is the only way, the refugees can ever return to their land and their lives.

Terrorism may not be high among the causes of death, but it still treatens our societies here. With every attac, the refugees are met with mor distrust and our own nazi parties are gaining steam.

And with the right wingers puring out hate against all of Islam, it becomes easier for young european born muslims (like the Paris attackers) to become radicalized. Hate mongers on both sides fuel each other.

The ISIS controlled terretories need to be taken back and currently most European nations and the US are acting half heartetly and cowardly. Bombing is easy, drones are easy. but they kill innocent people en masse and they cannot establish a working government in the area, they can only destroy, not rebuild, as soldiers could.

Another easy way we are currently taking, is backing Erdogan. Who let the IS fighters travel freely through Turkey and who is now bombing the kurds, the only real force standing up gainst ISIS.

I don't think standing by is an option in this conflict, no more than it was one for England and the US in WW2, but half hearted actions like bombings are even worse than doing nothing.
Dec. 2nd, 2015 03:24 pm (UTC)
Kind of hard for me to see the "Muslims=ISIS" mentality. One of my close coworkers is Muslim and he is one of the nicest people I know.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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