Until our leaders and education system catch up, we need to have more community conversations about the challenges we face around the globe relative to how others perceive America and the Western World. While the U.S. has certainly made mistakes when it comes to foreign policy, we have rather unfairly inherited the image of being a colonialist or even imperialistic “Super Power,” or the “Big, Bad Bully” of the world – as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea all portray us – whether there is a Clinton, Bush or Obama in the White House. We need to get a better grasp of this image problem – as well as a much better handle on Islam vs. Islamism.
As a nation built upon fairness, justice, collaboration and compassion, we must find a way to set political correctness and “victimology” aside, and effectively identify and work with the majority of Muslims who are arguably more threatened by those who have hijacked their faith – than we non-Muslims of the world. Whether through interfaith or cultural outreach, town hall meetings or other gatherings, we should seek out opportunities to constructively dialogue about the issues of the day that are increasingly dividing us.
Internally and externally, we find ourselves faced with a new version of a global conflict that could well be dubbed World War III – noting that as we strive to effectively deal with today’s “asymmetric warfare,” we are concurrently dealing with a version of “Cold War II” relevant not only to the ambitions of Putin and Russia, but to these other players noted above who are similarly determined to weaken the U.S.
As we are seeing today, the ISIS/ISIL propaganda machine is far more effective than anything a free and critically-scrutinized society might generate. In fact, our enemies are regularly aided and abetted by the fact that, as a liberty and free speech country that is self-loathing like no other, criticism of nearly every aspect of our government and culture knows no limits – whether in the news, alleged documentaries, or “entertainment.” On a daily basis, ISIS/ISIL and other groups, whatever their ideology or agenda, can easily grab sound bites and visuals from the Internet to rally new recruits to their “just cause.” Hollywood is arguably our primary “propaganda” machine, often portraying action heroes fighting against a corrupt government, evil corporations, or both.
Alas, we remain a sleeping giant that seems to be narcissistically stuck in an ignorant bliss, taking so many of our essentials and comforts for granted and generally disengaged from so much of the world around us. Whether this is due to the complexities of the many challenges, or an overwhelming political correctness that is impeding constructive conversation and effective problem-solving, the result is the same: Our foreign policies too often do more harm than good, even in those instances where we have the very best of intentions. We are our own worst enemy – and will remain so until our educational system provides greater global history and perspective (including “World Religions & Cultures”), and our media consciously shifts their priorities away from seeking out, and even perpetuating conflict.
Whenever and wherever you meet in groups of perhaps six or more, break with American upbringing and tradition and agree to have a civil conversation about religion and politics. Strive to watch or listen to a true variety of news sources, domestic and foreign, and see if that does not prompt more insightful and meaningful dialogue. As you identify your shared values and common interests, see if you do not start recognizing more commonalities than differences – regardless of how diverse the gathering might be.