Lone Wolf

So what makes them do it? What makes an ordinary, quiet, seemingly normal teenager fire an automatic at his school friends and teachers? What makes a man drive his car into innocent pedestrians on a sidewalk? What justification is there for these lone wolf attacks?

Wolves are pack animals, just as humans are by nature socialised beings. Lone wolves on the other hand, prefer their own company. They live and hunt on their own. They are outcasts by temperament, by circumstance and sometimes of their own volition.

Nearly always after another chilling attack, emerge the clues that led to it. A social misfit, a dysfunctional background, a lack of love, a propensity for violence, vulnerability to ideological brainwashing. Taken alone, each of these qualities may perhaps lead a person to a solitary existence, a criminal career or even a mental institution. Together, however, they become so much more dangerous.

Can we, as responsible citizens; parents, neighbours, co workers, pick up on any of these clues, and report them to the relevant authorities? Do we, as a society, have a duty towards these social outcasts? Is it possible in any way to intervene and diffuse a potentially fatal situation from developing?

These are amongst the many questions that lie at the heart of the modern dilemma of home grown attackers. Are killers born or made? Are terrorists just victims of circumstance and conditioning?

Reflection and responsibility. Two things that might lead us to answers. Uncomfortable truths of the part we play in marginalising these peripheral pariahs, whose only moments of recognition and glory lie in death, terror and destruction.

Then, and only then, will we vanquish this multi headed Hydra.

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Patriotism and Prejudice

What, or who, is a patriot?

The dictionary definition is: a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion.

Most of us believe that we are patriots. Whether it is the country of our birth, or the country we have adopted, we normally owe our allegiance to it. Would we support and defend it? Of course. Would we look after its interests with devotion? Absolutely. Would we blindly follow all laws and regulations, even if they went against our moral fibre? Ah.

Trump claimed in his inaugural speech today, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice”.

Respectfully, Mr President, I must disagree. The heart can house a great many things, and patriotism and prejudice seem to make very fine bed fellows. Your own campaign proved that magnificently. In fact, the brand of patriotism that you are selling is of a very prejudiced variety. Anyone who does not fit the mould of a Bible thumping, misogynistic, homophobic believer is ‘the other’, and therefore cannot possibly participate in the Make America Great Again project, and consequently cannot be a ‘Patriot’.

If all brown, black and white people bleed the same red blood, why are you in such a hurry to deport a load of them back, and build a wall? Why is immigrant a dirty word? Why are you claiming to speak for the common people, while surrounding yourself with your billionaire cronies?

The next four years will ask a lot of questions of you. The next four years will also display whether in your book, being a patriot means shutting up and putting up, or whether you will see questioning, doubting, investigating and inquiring as a part of being patriotic too.

Most Americans I know love their country. They wait on the threshold of this new era, with bated breath. They hope that all your rhetoric and jingoism was merely a means to get into office. They hope that you will lead this nation forward and in doing so, not destroy the tenets it was built upon. Those of the rule of law, human dignity, personal freedom, civil liberties, and the cause of the common good.

Respectfully, Mr President, do not disappoint them.

Listen

Meryl Streep nailed it. Her acceptance speech at the Golden Globes was dignified, on point and demonstrated just how shocked us ‘liberal lefties’ still are by the shenanigans of the President Elect, and the coterie that promoted, and now defends him. As she said, these words and actions will undoubtedly have a trickle down effect. The general populace takes their cues from those in the limelight, be it in the political arena or in the entertainment one.

Yes, we remain appalled. We shudder collectively at what may follow. We see reason, common sense, tolerance and free speech becoming casualties in the path of this juggernaut of self aggrandisement and insular politics.

However.

Perhaps it is time for some introspection as well. Why has this come to pass? What signs and signals did we miss? Did we become so cocooned in our liberal bubbles that we refused to recognise the disaffected and the disenfranchised?

On WordPress a while ago, I began following a writer simply because a particular post of his appealed to me. Over time though, I realised that his political ideology was so different from mine, so far right that it seemed almost alien. A number of times I nearly unfollowed him, but something stopped me. This man’s posts made me uncomfortable. They made me cringe, get annoyed, even want to throw something at the computer. But it was important that I listened to what else was out there. It was important that I realised that my way of thinking wasn’t the only way of thinking.

It’s easy to surround oneself with like minded people. That’s what we do. That’s what we did. We read what we wanted to. We agreed with each others’ opinions. We believed that everyone around us wanted the same things as us. How wrong we were proven!

To believe that everyone who voted Trump did so because they were misguided, misogynistic racists would be equivalent to believing that everyone who voted out in Brexit was an old fogey who wanted to make Britain ‘great again’. There were valid concerns on both sides of the pond. People were fed up of elitist, out of touch governments that imposed laws and regulations that hit the pockets of the common man. People were fed up of mass immigration, of terrorist attacks, and of treading softly in arenas where they wanted hard payback. More than anything else, people were fed up of not being listened to. So, they spoke the only way they knew how. Through their votes.

Am I condoning or endorsing the results? Most certainly not. But I am cautioning that we need to start listening. Listening to those with opposing, even abhorrent views. Fight them, debate them, scoff and mock them, if you will. Just don’t be that proverbial ostrich that buries its head in the sand, and hopes the problem goes away.

There is no doubt in my mind that the times ahead will be tumultuous. We are bound to see a lot of ugliness, a lot of upheaval and chaos. In times like these, it will be important to engage, to challenge and to resist, without losing sight of one’s own moral compass.

People like Meryl Streep are doing this already. Take your cue from her. Alongside however, don’t forget to look, listen and learn.

‘Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored’ – Aldous Huxley