Sunday, January 30, 2005

train wrecks and elections

Well the Iraqi election was today. Those that view me as a "liberal" may think that this has been a blow to the legitimacy of my anti-Bush stance. I don't think so. I still think that the war was launched impatiently under false intelligence, that it was mishandled in so many ways, and that this particular vote should have happened long ago, earlier in our occupation. I think that if we were to go to war, there was a better way to do it, even if it took much longer to get the go-ahead. Because what kind of precedent has been set? That it is OK to invade a country just in order to set up a democracy there? How many other states that are run by dictators are going to be dealt with in this way? What if Russia (just as a random example) unilaterally decides to invade Iran in order to overthrow their government? Or to invade Cuba? If it's OK for the US to do it, then would it be OK for any other country to do so? What gives us the divine right?

Also, in the past few days, one news story that really struck me was the California train wreck story. After a crazed and suicidal fella parked his Jeep on the tracks, the first fear the police had was that this was a terrorist attack. And yet it was merely a distraught father with a restraining order away from his kids -- a guy whose estranged wife had known he was suicidal yet did nothing about it.

Isn't it ironic that we're at a greater risk from failed social structures than the very "war" we're supposedly in? By failed social structures, I simply mean the system that permitted a suicidal Mr. Alvarez to wander in his unhealthy state to the extent that he felt this would be a good recourse. When a man is having trouble with life and drugs, surely there's a better solution than denying him access to those he loves and sending him back out into the cold.

For that matter, what makes Mr. Alvarez much different from a suicidal "terrorist"? A lot, obviously -- mainly that the terrorist is supposedly driven by some political/religious ideology while the "lone crazy" is dismissable as being "insane" or having mental or drug problems.

But are there similar factors that drive both the terrorist and those like Alvarez to commit a heinous act? In what ways has the Western system failed those who are now bent on committing terrorist acts? How have we failed Alvarez, as well as others who have lashed out in destructive and violent ways? We responded to 9/11 by increasing our military presence in the Muslim world, even though, in fact, that very military presence is seen by many as having been the root cause of 9/11, which was a forceful reaction against American activities in that region. And the acts of Alvarez are likely, if anything, to further lead people to the belief that druggy fathers are extremely dangerous and should be further alienated from society, which will inevitably lead to more people like Mr. Alvarez walking the streets.

Thank God, though, that it WASN'T a terrorist attack, because even though the damage would've been the same, the official reaction to it would have been far worse. Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer $$$ would have been spent on task forces and event centers set up to bureaucratize the situation. Then, inevitably, some overkill security system would have been mandated for all train crossings in the U.S. The already ailing passenger rail industry would have taken huge losses from a downturn in ticket sales, and the rail shipment industry would also have been badly damaged (to the probable benefit of truckers everywhere).

Indeed, as Dr. Nabib, and Iraqi dentist, was quoted as saying (NY Times 1/27/05), "The Americans are part of the terrorism. THey're so frightened, anything that happens to them, they start shooting right away." So even if the same number of people died and the same number of trains crashed, if the guy was a "terrorist" then we would have reacted fearfully in kind, as if almost on que, on command. Does this propensity to react fearfully only to terrorism (but not to exactly similar domestic threats) not put us that much more at the terrorists' mercy, at least, if they can be considered as having any?

Haven't the terrorists already won, to a certain extent, if, upon learning that the train wreck was NOT and act of terrorism, then NO task force is established to find a way to prevent future such "attacks"? To try to solve the underlying social causes behind the mental state of Mr. Alvarez? I'm no expert on Mr. Alverez' situation, but I'm guessing that there was probably a better way for our legal system to have dealt with him to hopefully placate his dangerous state of mind rather than enrage it -- just as I'm guessing that there is probably a better way for us to deal with the Middle East than we have been in the past 20-30 years, since Iran Contra and before.

Maybe if our nation and its citizens actually followed Christian (or Jewish, or Islamic, or Buddhist) values (instead of just hypocritically claiming to be Christian while being the most warlike and secular major country in the world), then we would neither be in a "war" on "terrorism", nor would we leave the Mr. Alvarez's of the world to their own devices (and to public transportation devices).


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