Category Archives: Terrorism

The Only Thing We Have to Fear … are Fear-Mongers

With all the sad news of terrorist attacks in Lebanon, France and Mali, the multi-faceted wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and refugees fleeing Syria and other nations, I can’t help but think of the people living in the crossfire of war and terrorism.  I can’t help but cringe hearing or reading the words of politicians running for President; fear-mongering for personal and political gain (i.e. the Iowa and New Hampshire polls).

I am reminded of my mother’s side of the family, who came to the U.S. after World War II.  I would not be here otherwise, if my mother, siblings and parents had not come to America in 1946.  They came to the United States after living under Nazi occupation in northern Italy, and living under the Mussolini regime.

Using the logic of some politicians these days, my mother’s family would have been labeled as Nazi’s or Fascists, just because of where they came from, and who was in power at that time.

They were just working people of little means who lived in and survived the crossfire of war.  Their region was bombed by U.S. warplanes.  Nearby Lucca was hit hard, and churches were bombed.

They were sponsored by a relative who came to the U.S. in 1938 before the war.  They left behind many other relatives.  Today, our extended family is spread across two continents and four countries.

While there are many, many good and decent Italian families who came to United States, a few bad apple Mafia families were also let into our country as well.  I’m sure Donald Trump and Chris Christie are aware of them being in their region.  A fictional TV show was made about some of them (The Sopranos).

There are a few bad apples from every country.  We have a few here as well…  I am more afraid of Four-Pinnochio Politicians like Donald Trump than I am of innocent people fleeing the crossfire of war.

We should not fall into the trap of “fear-mongers”, who want to divide and conquer peoples for their own personal or political gain.

By the way, in addition to the Japanese internment camps in World War II, there was also internment of Italian Americans during WWII.  This is a lesser known fact about WWII.  I only recently learned this from the PBS documentary, “The Italian Americans”.  Coincidentally, that documentary aired the same week that Rudy Giuliani made his comments questioning President Obama’s patriotism.  Rudy Giuliani said:

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

I wonder if Rudy Giuliani was aware of how Italians were interned during WWII when he made those comments?

Today, Italy and America are again allies and NATO Partners.  Same thing goes for Germany.  Japan is also an ally and trading partner.  Vietnam is now a trading partner.

The world is a lot more complicated then the simple-minded sound bytes from a few fear-mongering politicians.

Our politicians keep telling us that “entitlement” programs like Social Security is going to go bust.  There are not enough people working today to cover the retirees.  Well, many Syrian people are educated (doctors and engineers), and many are entrepreneurs (merchants).

Let’s properly vet those refugees seeking to come to America, and “welcome” them after they pass successfully through the security screens.  Like other immigrants before, like those in my family, they can more safely raise their families, and help build a better country and economy here in America.


Choice of Targets: Drones and Humor

In theory, the use of drones (UCAV or Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) allows the U.S. Military to better “target” terrorists, without the need for large quantities of ground troops and billions of dollars more of Federal Debt.  Although the use of drones sometimes succeeds, it is fraught with the possibility of “collateral damage”.  In other words, killing innocent people (like the wedding party in Yemen), either by them being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or via faulty military intelligence or targeting.  Collateral damage creates risk for “blowback”, in the form of future terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, a previously little known publication outside of France, known as Charlie Hebdo, takes potshots at terrorists, the Muslim religion, and other “targets”, including French politicians, political parties, and other religious groups or leaders.  I have not been a reader of Charlie Hebdo, so I can’t accurately describe or critique their cartoons.  But apparently, rather than choosing a specific target (a terrorist leader or organization), Charlie Hebdo instead chooses to symbolically target or depict the prophet Mohammed, from whom the Muslim faith emerged.  By doing so, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and editors may have knowingly or unknowingly caused “collateral damage” by targeting the planet’s 1.6 billion Muslims, not to mention subsequent “blowback”.  As there are some so-called “Moderate Muslims”, and some Muslim leaders have condemned the recent murders by terrorists in France, why make the “target” too broad?  That would seem to be like dropping a nuclear joke instead of deploying a properly targeted humor drone.

I happen to enjoy reading editorial cartoons, in English and in U.S. publications.  But I don’t speak French or know much about French humor, so I can’t speak specifically about Charlie Hebdo’s style of humor.  But in reading editorial cartoons, viewing Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, or Stephen Colbert, or reading the quotes of Will Rogers or Samuel Clemens, you become aware of who the “targets” are.  The question is whether a given target was properly chosen or not.

A couple decades ago, I read the book, “Comedy Writing Secrets” by Melvin Helitzer.  I was taking an evening college course at Michigan State University on comedy, and preparing for the final class at Connxtions Comedy Club in Lansing, MI.  I read that book again in 2013, in preparation to be a contestant in the Vermont Comedy Club contest.  I didn’t win, but I am proud to say that I was probably the only contestant on that night’s event that didn’t rely on the use of the F-Bomb “crutch”, as I call it.

In Chapter Three of Helitzer’s book, “The Anatomy of Humor: The THREES Formula”, it lists these six elements of humor: Target, Hostility, Realism, Exaggeration, Emotion and Surprise.  Under the Target heading, Helitzer writes:

“Our instinctive perception is that humor is fun.  It isn’t!  Humor is criticism, cloaked as entertainment, directed at a specific target.”

The author lists four possible targets.  The first is People.  Helitzer opens that section with:

“You can’t target an entire audience any more than you can shame the entire world.”

The suggested “target” categories in Helitzer’s book are People, Places, Things and Ideas.  Under the category of Targeting Ideas, that would include the idea of “terrorism” itself.  Should Charlie Hebdo surgically target the leaders of terrorist organizations and their ideas (ideology), rather then the prophet representing all Muslims?

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