I never thought I’d write a great big post about ISIS-related things, but here it goes. I don’t even quite know where it’s going to go until it’s written. I’ve just had a simmering thought soup on this topic, and every now and then it bubbles up and throws a thought to the surface.
Ever since the Paris attacks in November, the behaviour that it has brought out of people has reminded me of this really old episode of Star Trek called “Day of the Dove”. I watched that episode as a kid and thought it was just a weird episode and another reason to have fight scenes with old weapons. But as I watch things unfold, I really think that episode was brilliant.
Look at how it seems like ISIS is trying to almost feed off our rage at each attack. Every time our suspicions spread to not just extremists, but ordinary Muslims and other people who live in that area, ISIS hoovers up more recruits. Every time civilians are wounded in target areas, ISIS convinces more people we’re the real enemies. The attacks take normally rational people and turn them irrational on both sides, which only feeds the fire.
I really started to get weirded out when I noticed myself having irrational thoughts. One day, I was in a cab, and the driver answered his cell phone, and started to speak another language that sounded like something Middle-Eastern. After being annoyed that he was yammering on a cellphone, I next noticed that he was getting agitated, which made me nervous. I never like angry speech I can’t understand. Then I thought I heard him say something that sounded like “inshallah”, and then I got irrationally nervous, thinking all kinds of stupid things that I don’t usually think, things like “Are they plotting something?” I had to notice the stupid thoughts and push them away, but they were alarmingly close to the surface.
Then, one day I was at the Christkindl market buying yummy apple fritters when I started to hear some loud bangs. Without much provocation, I heard myself think “Wow, if there was ever an opportunity for a terrorist attack, this would be it,” followed up by “Why did I stand in a massive crowd like a sitting duck? How important are some apple fritters? What would I do if chaos erupted around me?” I had to violently shake my head and tell myself off for even thinking these thoughts. But they were there, as if put there by someone outside of my mind.
I feel sorry for anyone named Isis, apparently this is a thing. According to several news articles, there are a ton of women and girls named Isis, after the Egyptian goddess, who are now being picked on because people stupidly assume they have something to do with terrorism. There are people with three-year-old girls who are being asked if they’re going to change the kid’s name. Steve had a weird dream that there was a world-famous golfer named Isis who, as long as he kept his name secret, was a popular guy. But as soon as the organizers knew his name was Isis, they shut down this huge tournament. Although ridiculous, there’s a weird believable element in that dream. We’ve all become so emotional over a word that we would do stupid things simply because it was mentioned.
What I’m trying to say is with a few pushes of the right buttons, any one of us can turn irrational and think, say or do stupid things. I don’t consider myself a racist or a xenophobe, but even I have had thoughts I would not expect. Now, imagine someone who already has some of those feelings and has for some time. Just imagine what ISIS could awaken in either direction.
I wish I had an easy way to end this, but I don’t. What I do hope is that we can avoid reacting with our gut. It’s hard, especially in the wake of an attack, but reacting with our gut is exactly what the extremists want. There was a cartoon someone mentioned on the radio. It showed a Neo-Nazi saying thank you to the extremists. That pretty much summed up what my brain had been desperately trying to articulate, but couldn’t. We can’t lose sight of who the real enemy is, or the real enemy will win. Is that really how we want this chapter of our history to end?