That’s what people think of me in some circles (they also think I am naive, incredibly stupid and a lunatic). They don’t know me and I certainly don’t know them anymore (if I ever did). Facebook has killed off many longtime family & friend relationships. I have unfollowed and unfriended a large percentage of my Facebook friends over the past few years (and will continue to do so as necessary). I didn’t do it over petty differences of opinion. I did it because of profound differences in our values system (that system of moral & ethical principles & behaviours that govern our lives and conduct).
I can’t change the world. I can’t even change my “friends” perception of the world. All I can do is continue to resist and stay true to my belief system. They would say the same thing I’m sure. Parting company is perhaps the best thing to do. Since 9/11 our country has been on a downhill slide (in my opinion), and that slide is accelerating at an alarming rate. The perception throughout the world is that America has lost its moral compass (its moral high ground). Maybe that high ground was always an illusion, but in the overall scheme of things I think there was a true sense of American values.
Osama bin Laden’s goal was to ignite a Jihad (a holy war against the infidel). He succeeded beyond his wildest imagination. He won (at least for the moment). Fear has once again reared its ugly countenance, and all the violence and hatred that typically goes with it. Fear is its own excuse and justification for violence. Mob mentality and violence is reprehensible; whether it’s perpetrated by Jihadist terrorists, KKK Klansman, or Donald Trump’s rally thugs. To remain silent is to be complicit. To target an entire religion or race for retribution (or discrimination) is to be complicit.
I am an amateur student of history, politics, and religion, and I can tell you confidently (though many of you won’t believe me) that the current road we’re on is the wrong road. And I refuse to be complicit by standing idly by and remaining silent. Germany (and the world at large) stood by as Adolph Hitler ascended to power (through fear mongering and Gestapo tactics), the American people stood by as our politicians allowed slavery, the annihilation of Native Americans, and the internment of Japanese-Americans.
These tactics are not limited to Germany and the United States alone, they occur throughout the world as tyrannies come and go. Do you really think these tactics work? Only in the short-term (if then). The latest victims of discrimination are Muslims of course: all Muslims are terrorists. Bullshit. A Pew Research study conducted in 2010 estimates that there are approximately 1.6 billion Muslims in the world (23% of the global population). How many are terrorists? Thousands not millions. Thousands upon thousands of Muslims are fleeing the very tyranny we’re talking about, and we’re trying to close the door.
Radicalised Muslims (terrorists) are killing more Muslims everyday than Christians (that is an indisputable, verifiable fact). Since the United States declared a Global War on Terror after 9/11 it’s estimated that between 2 – 4 million Muslims have been killed (Global War on Terror). It might surprise you to know that since 9/11 more Americans have been killed by domestic far right-wing violence (48 people) than by violent Jihadist attacks (45 people). Including the 9/11 attack itself (2,996 people, including the hijackers) the total death toll is approximately 3,041 people (Americans killed in the United States by Jihadist terrorists).
I am not minimising these deaths, quite the contrary, I am appalled by them. We solve nothing, however, by demonising an entire religion. There are approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world today (31% of the global population) should we demonise the entire Christian religion for the actions of the KKK, or the 48 people killed by our own homegrown, radicalised far right-wing elements? Of course not. So what’s my point? My point is that these are not specifically religious acts of violence, these are criminal acts of violence.
This is a recent Facebook post by a good friend, a childhood friend of some 66 years (I will not publicly share his name). He’s intelligent, well-educated, a military veteran (U.S. Army Officer), a retired civil servant, and a Christian. I thought I knew him, but obviously I don’t. This post saddens me beyond words. How is this in any way American or Christian? These people are fleeing a tyranny that we helped to create, they are being slaughtered in the thousands by their own radicalised terrorists (ISIS among others), they are not seeking welfare they are seeking freedom, and they don’t want to kill us, they want to escape being killed.
What makes this even more incredible is that this friend’s mother and father escaped Communist Hungary (first generation immigrants) in the 1950s. Why? Because they wanted a better life in America. They didn’t want to live under a despotic regime. If America had not opened up its doors they may have been killed, at the very least their lives would have been drastically different. He would not have received his higher education (through a ROTC scholarship), he would not have had a 20 year career in the U.S. Army (with full retirement benefits), he would not have enjoyed a long, post-military career in civil service (with full retirement benefits), and he would not have been permitted to worship as he wished.
He and his family benefited firsthand from America’s open door policy. His family was not on welfare, they were some of hardest working people I’ve ever known (and so is he). They didn’t want to kill anyone. So why this shift in his thinking? His mother and father were grateful and appreciative of becoming American citizens, so why does he want to deny this opportunity to others? It is completely beyond my understanding. My paternal great-grandfather, Otto Wilhelm Dennstedt, immigrated to the United States from Prussia in 1840 (illegally I might add).
My maternal grandfather, Emil Hans Max Koch, was the son of German immigrants from Munich. Most of us come from immigrant stock. America is built upon the backs of immigrants of all races and religions. It’s our strength. Instead of posting ludicrous Facebook posts like the one I included, we should be working together to solve global problems. Terrorism is real, I get that. And sometimes we have to fight, I get that too. Can’t you understand that when we allow a Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Marco Rubio to denigrate our American values (because they’re pandering to the fearful among us) that we become complicit. Can’t you understand that?
Not all Jews are thieves. Not all Germans are Nazis. Not all Italians are Mafia. Not all Muslims are terrorists (the percentage is minuscule though they get a lot of press because of their dramatic, terrorist activities). To demonise an entire segment of the world’s population, because of the actions of a few (look at the hard numbers), is WRONG. Yes we must fight terrorism on every level (even our own domestic terrorism), but lets not lose our sense of perspective, judgement, justice, and values. If we allow that to happen then we’ve lost everything worth fighting for.
Would you also shut your eyes to slavery today, or the slaughter of Native Americans, or the internment of Japanese-Americans? Will you stand mute as these vicious political attacks on our freedoms continue? Your silence will make you complicit. Fear, silence, and appeasement is what allows the despots of the world to come to power. Can’t you see that for yourself? If you can’t I don’t want you as a friend. Do us both a favour and unfriend me, because I will definitely unfriend you. There is a time to stand up and fight for what you believe in. If you my family & friends persist in this xenophobic, racist, bigoted, hateful, violent, and despicable behaviour I am done with you. Period.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Sergeant USMC 1965 – 1971 (Vietnam 1967 – 1968)