Category: current events

What is a “Terrorist”?

When I was growing up, “terrorist” seemed like a word that didn’t need a definition. It was self apparent. My first memory of encountering the word was actually through Back to the Future, where Doc Brown buys plutonium off “Libyan nationalists.” I remember not understanding what that meant, and asking for an explanation, which led to me having pictures of evil men going around blowing people up for little to no reason other than to make people afraid. When I found out terrorists would sometimes hijack airplanes or blow them up, that didn’t do wonders for my fears of flying, either.

But the fact was that “terrorists” were people who did terrible acts of violence against civilians, and as I grew older, I understood it was usually for political reasons. But the actual definition of the word appears to be much more complex. Webster’s has a great history of the word’s usage, showing how it has gone back and forth between terrorism originally being acts of the government against its citizens, over to acts of citizens against a government.

Today, Webster’s defines a terrorist as “an advocate or practitioner of terrorism as a means of coercion,” and defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

Why does this matter? To me, it matters because I think many people still equate “terrorist” with suicide vests and planes exploding or crashing into buildings. When someone is called a terrorist, it’s a straightforward accusation of evil. But when I woke up this morning to find news that the US had killed a top ranking Iranian official via a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport, it took some time for me to come to grips with what exactly had happened. Who had been killed. Why. How. And (most importantly) what the fallout from this action would be.

I am not a military expert. I’m far from up to speed on the inner workings of the Middle East. I’m just a person sifting through the stories online, trying to make sense of what happened. You’d think that would be simple, but as with most things these days, it’s more an exercise in trying to read between the lines of political spin to try to get an inkling of the truth. Read the Republican accounts, and a top terrorist was killed, saving the lives of many Americans. Read the more liberal news, and it was a reckless action that has endangered America’s interests abroad.

I don’t know Qassim Suleimani. I wouldn’t have recognized the name if you’d said it to me yesterday. But from what I read now, it appears he was a high figure in Iran, second only to the Supreme Leader, according to some reports. A military leader. And I try to picture what it would be like if I had woken up this morning to discover a top general had been killed by an Iranian air strike at Heathrow. How disturbing and upsetting that would be.

Certainly the word “terrorist” has become politicized in much the same way “socialist” has over the years. When people use the word, it’s meant to make a complicated issue clean cut. Terrorists are bad, and they need to be stopped. But when the word applies not to rogue agents blowing up citizens and airplanes, but rather to governments that are acting counter to a different country’s interests, I think that clean cut nature dissolves in many ways.

Many have accused George W. Bush and Dick Cheney of being terrorists. Depending on how you’re using the word and who’s speaking, I can see that argument being made, especially by governments in Iran or other Middle Eastern nations. Would those nations be justified in killing Bush or Cheney via drone strike if they could?

What I mean to say is that the nature of war seems to only get blurrier with each passing year. Should Suleimani have been killed? I have no idea, honestly. I don’t know what he’s done, and I don’t know what he was planning on doing. I can’t imagine the political fallout that would have occurred if he had been captured and arrested by American forces. That would have been a much more difficult operation to carryout. Killing him with a drone, however, just meant they needed to know where he was at a particular point in time. It was, ironically, much easier to just kill him.

Just because we can do something, does it mean we should? Most of the articles I’m reading about the man say he’s been directly involved in killing American troops. Is that what it means to be a terrorist now? I think we need to be very cautious of how we use the word, because other people can then use that same definition to justify their actions on a global stage.

The more I read about it and think about it, the more unsettled I am with what happened last night. The justifications I read for it today don’t allay my concerns. I’m worried for what might come because of this action, and what the continued blurry definition of “terrorist” might mean in the years ahead. It’s one thing to be accused of something, it’s another to be found guilty. I get that war isn’t the time for courts and accusations, it’s the time for action. But when did we become involved in a war with Iran that justified this sort of action?

Welcome to 2020, I suppose.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

“OK, Boomer” is Not OK

I’ve been following the “OK, Boomer” trend happening online at the moment, and it’s gotten to the point that I feel like I have something to say about it, even at the risk of sounding like an old man shaking his cane at the young whippersnappers.

For those of you who haven’t been following along, allow me to sum up. First, you need to understand the general generational breakdown of America.

  • The Silent Generation (1925-1945)
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
  • Generation X (1965-1980)
  • Millennials (1981-2000)
  • Gen Z (2001-present)

Next, you have to acknowledge that some have done their best to classify the members of these generations by very broad strokes. “Baby Boomers are racist” or “Millennials only care about avocado toast.” And this is where it all breaks down for me.

I fail to understand why it’s frowned on these days to stereotype a person based on their skin, sex, or orientation, but stereotyping based on age (or (some) religions) isn’t just allowed, it’s often humorously encouraged. (Religion is a separate issue which could really derail this conversation, but succinctly put, I think the test should be, “What if I were to make this same comment about a Muslim or a Jew? Would it still be funny/appropriate?” Yes, you can start splitting hairs about which religions you personally think are valid or which you think are harmful, but I think that misses the point. Just because you personally see no value in a thing doesn’t mean it has no value, and doesn’t give you the right to mock it.)

But back to my point.

Every “Ok, Boomer,” and “Millennials are killing” statement made does nothing to contribute to a constructive conversation. It only isolates us by putting us into silos. Ageism is not okay, and that’s what this whole trend is all about on both sides of the argument. You’ve got generations of people dismissing other generations of people based on nothing more than preconceived notions about how that generation thinks and behaves. There’s a cognitive dissonance there, and I think it’s wrong not to acknowledge it and try to correct it.

“But the Boomers were here first, and they messed up our country and elected Donald Trump.”

“But the Millennials have a terrible work ethic and need to be taught how the real world works.”

Those objections? They might apply to individuals, but they’re far from 100% fact. And when someone you’ve painted with that oh-so-broad brush objects to the coating you gave them? They get hurt, and another little wedge is driven between us.

Of course, as I write this, I begin to wonder if this isn’t just the ageist equivalent of me saying “All ages matter.” I understand the anxiety and fear many Millennials and Gen Z-ers are feeling. The lack of real jobs, the bleak future, the feeling that they’re underrepresented in the halls of power, where decisions are made that have very real impacts on them. I don’t mean to dismiss those feelings. But instead of using a misguided ageist approach, why not band together with the people who agree with the things you’re trying to get done?

There’s as many Millennials as there are Boomers this year in America. Next year, there will be more. Get out and vote and start doing what you can to change the country for the better, as opposed to posting witty memes that exacerbate the problem.

Sigh. This came out much preachier than I wanted it to. All I wanted to do was explain why I haven’t been posting or liking any of the “OK, Boomer” comments that I’ve been seeing everywhere. I’m not a Boomer, and I’m not a Millennial, so maybe it’s not on me to try and solve the problem.

Doesn’t make this Gen Xer not want to try, though . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Simpsons Have Outdisneyed Disney

Disney+ launched Tuesday, and I subscribed on the first day. (A pretty easy decision, since I have a Verizon Unlimited plan, and they offered a free year of Disney+ for free to me.) I would have subscribed anyway, because I’m a self-confessed Disney junkie. I grew up on all the old Disney movies, and I’ve gone about buying them up on Blu-ray over the years as well.

I sat down with Tomas for a while yesterday and we looked over everything the service has to offer. We watched a few things: the first episode of the X-Men cartoon, the first episode of the old Ducktales show, and the first episode of The Simpsons. (Verdict? Ducktales and the Simpsons stood up marvelously well. X-Men? That was . . . pretty bad. Disappointing, since in my memory it was completely awesome. A highlight of Saturday mornings. The writing, the character introductions, the plot . . . all very weak now. Not sure I even want to give it a second shot, honestly. And that’s sad.)

But one thing I wasn’t expecting (though I really should have) was the content disclaimers they attached to some of the shows. The original Mickey Mouse Club, Dumbo, Aristocats. (No sign of Song of the South anywhere on the service, which should surprise absolutely no one.) The disclaimer wasn’t for language or sexuality. Instead, it reads “This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.”

“Outdated cultural depictions” is a very tame way of saying “things that are blatantly, offensively racist,” but it’s still interesting they put in the disclaimer. (They didn’t go as far as old Tom and Jerry shows, which have a disclaimer admitting that such depictions were wrong then and are wrong now, but . . . I’m not really surprised by that, either.)

Of course, to a family-friendly studio like Disney, they’re in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. You’ve got a ton of Disney-philes who demand their Dumbos and their Peter Pans unaltered, but then you have to admit that those movies are flagrantly racist. As soon as you admit that, however, you’ve got people who will clamor that they *weren’t* racist “for their time,” or rather that “Everyone was racist back then,” which is a weak claim at best, and an outright lie at its heart. People weren’t all racist, but racism was much more acceptable by the mainstream back then.

But to make a long story short, I don’t know of a way Disney could have handled those shows without upsetting someone. So they chose this route, which is better than no disclaimer at all.

What really caught my eye, however, was the lack of any such disclaimer for The Simpsons. Yes, you could definitely have a conversation about Apu and other depictions of race on The Simpsons, but let’s be real: the way race is handled (or mis-handled) on that show pales in the face of the way it’s handled in the Siamese Cat song.

The thing is, growing up, I remember Bart Simpson being produced as Exhibit A for everything that was wrong about current media trends. The Simpsons was verboten for many families. Families who no doubt would have preferred their kids to watch something wholesome like Peter Pan or Lady and the Tramp.

So it was surprising to see we have come to a point where the wholesome and unwholesome have switched places. I know there are those who will object to this. Who will say that the Simpsons remains rude and irreverent, and people decrying Disney are being “too PC.” But I watched the Simpsons last night. It’s TV-PG for a reason. There was nothing there I was worried about. Not in the same way I’d want to have a conversation with my kids about racial stereotypes after they watch “Why Is the Red Man Red?”

Thoughts?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Mistrust of Authority

I’ve been watching some of the impeachment hearings when I’ve had time (which, admittedly, has been not often today). And of course they’ve devolved into the political turf war we all expected, but I was able to watch the opening statements of the two witnesses, and I found them to be quite credible, particularly the second–the US Ambassador to Ukraine for the last while. When you look at his resume and see who he’s worked with and for how long, it becomes difficult to attack him as a political beast. He worked under Republicans and Democrats. He seems like an excellent expert on this topic.

And so of course he’s viewed with mistrust.

I find it discouraging that more and more, people are choosing which facts to believe. Which experts to listen to. As if the truth is nothing more than a round of voting on American Idol. Sure, the “experts” can weigh in, but what really matters is how many people believe your side is right.

I was speaking to a colleague the other day, and they’d been teaching a class on campus. As part of the class, the issue of climate change had come up. The class agreed that the vast majority of experts have concluded climate change is real and man-made, but the class also said it was important to have both sides represented in any public debate on the matter.

Typically, I’m all for informed debate and decision making. However, I’d like to think that there are some areas where we can acknowledge debate is over. For example, there’s a group of people out there dedicated to the concept that the earth is flat. There are also people who still believe immunizations cause autism. This is in the face of all medical and scientific evidence. Out of 1,000 experts on a topic, 999 can say one thing, and as long as there’s 1 saying something else, people would argue we need to give a platform to that 1 person.

I don’t think that’s how it works. If 1 person believes something no one else believes, they don’t have a right to equal representation on a national debate. To earn that right, they need to go about convincing others of their findings. In science, this doesn’t come down to opinions. It comes down to verifiable facts. Experiments. Studies.

Take vaccines and autism. One study found a connection between the two. The study had a sample size of 12. It has since been completely debunked by multiple studies with samples sizes in the tens of thousands. And yet, ironically, because that original now-debunked study appeared in a prestigious journal, deniers use that to dismiss other studies in prestigious journals.

That’s just not how science works. It’s not how facts work. But there’s been a huge backlash in some circles against facts and science and experts in general. I find that incredibly disappointing and disheartening. If we can’t even agree on the same fundamental truths . . .

I don’t know how we can hope to ever solve anything.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Need to Be Important

I can’t be the only person who used to really admire Rudy Giuliani. In the days immediately following 9/11, I really liked him. I was impressed by his response to the events and how he stepped up to take a leading role to get the country through that. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense at the time (he was the Mayor of New York City, but a mayor is still . . . just a mayor), but he definitely jumped from being a locally important person to becoming a nationally important person. I’d known who he was before because I’d worked in NYC and my parents still did, but now everyone I knew in Utah knew who he was too.

It must have been a very heady experience for the guy. One where suddenly people were asking him his opinion. Where he was being consulted for lots of important decisions. I’ve had a feeling for that on a micro-level. On a Latter-day Saint mission, missionaries are often tapped for leadership roles. We’re arranged into companionships, with each companionship having a senior and a junior companion. Three or four companionships are arranged into a district, with a district leader. Four to six districts are arranged into a zone, with an appointed zone leader. And then eight or so zones make up the mission, with two missionaries called as Assistants to the President.

True, those appointments are supposed to be done through inspiration, but there are plenty of missionaries who would love to serve in those positions. To feel important. And speaking from experience, you never typically feel important when you’re in those positions. You always feel like the person higher up is where the actual really important decisions are made. (That includes being an Assistant. I can’t speak for how the Mission President feels, and I hope I never can.)

The same is true in local congregations. There are many leadership roles in the church for men and women. Elders Quorum President. Relief Society President. Primary President. Stake President. I think I would be happiest being the Gospel Doctrine teacher, personally. Leave the leadership to the others, but you do what you’re asked to do.

In any case, I’m just saying I can relate a bit to what Giuliani must have felt. To vault several orders of importance all at once. He tried to use that newfound importance to get him into the White House. Ultimately, that failed. (And in hind sight, seeing him now, I for one am very grateful that it did . . . )

But the desire for importance never left him, it seems. He still wants to be listened to, and he became addicted to the feeling. So much so that the Giuliani I see now on television is nothing but a shadow of the person I used to admire. (He reminds me of a Ringwraith, actually. Obsessed and consumed by the thing he used to crave so dearly.) In order to stay important and relevant, he latched onto Trump and has continually shown himself ready to do or say anything he needs to do or say to continue to be Important.

This morning, as I was reading the zany theories and things he’s been spouting off on national news shows, that’s the thought that came to me. Never let your innate desire to be Important overwhelm who you are. Don’t be a Giuliani. There are so many different ways to be important in this world. To make a difference. I would rather make a difference in my family than anywhere else. Rather be the father who helped his kids achieve their dreams than be the person who clawed his way into a room where people would tell me how Important I was. (It’s why I’ve turned down different opportunities over the years. Family comes first for me.)

Anyway. It’s time for me to head down to my conference, but I wanted to get this out before I did. Have a lovely Monday, everyone. Say hi to me if I see you at Sunday River!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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