Category Archives: Books

Understanding Islam and Charlie Hebdo

As I studied Islam over the past two years, trying to understand the dichotomy between my personal experience with peaceful, thoughtful Muslims and the brutal, hateful violence pursued by radical Islamist terrorists, I learned why silent acquiescence to radical Islam will not lead to peace. Much of what I now know is shocking to those who think of religious figures from a Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist or many other perspectives.

Here’s a few critical points worth contemplating as, through the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, we again live the violent tragedy imposed by those who believe we must live by their rules rather than the principles of freedom used in founding the United States:

  • Muhammad was a national ruler as well as a preacher. Most key religious figures, including Jesus Christ, did not attempt to rule an empire on earth. Christ and others guided followers to behaviors that would earn them a place in eternity. Muhammad sought to and did create a nation ruled by his views, and encouraged its continuous expansion.
  • Muhammad used violence to achieve his territorial objectives. Whether it was leading attacks on Mecca, approving the beheading of hundreds of Jews at Medina, or many other battles described in the Quran and Hadith, violence was part of the life of Muhammad. The Quran can be read as advocating violence or peace, depending on the desires of the interpreter.
  • Lying in the name of Islam is not a sin. Concepts known as taqiyya and kitman allow Muslims to lie to non-believers, particularly when lying advances the cause of Islam. It is even permissible in many branches of Islam for Muslims to deny their own belief in Muhammad and Allah to avoid persecution. Lie detectors track physical changes created when people engage in behavior they know to be wrong. Those changes won’t be found in those who believe their lying is not only acceptable, but encouraged.
  • Death is salvation. Many young Muslims are able to be convinced through interpretations of the Quran and Hadith that death in the name of Islam is a guaranteed pass to salvation. In The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East, author Robert Fisk details the exalted pride of children preparing to ride motorbikes through mine fields during the Iran-Iraq war when Shia Muslims in Iran battled the predominantly Sunni Muslims of Iraq. For many raised in radical Islam, attacks on infidels are a thrilling opportunity, not a source of fear. (As an aside, Shia, Sunni and other branches of Islam often see each other as infidels.)

There’s much more to explore to understand the world as it is, rather than the world as we might hope. I’ll leave you with a quote from murdered Charlie Hebdo editor in chief Stéphane Charbonnier: “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

Trilogy Complete: Doing Unto Others

Interested in challenging your thinking while reading compelling stories of atonement, recovery, retribution and inspirational leadership? After decades of increasing division, America embraces a path toward unity behind the sole principle common to every major faith, as well as those who don’t believe in a higher power. “Doing Unto Others: The Golden Rule Revolution” is now available in paperback only on Amazon and Createspace, completing the trilogy I began writing three years ago. (A formal launch, with e-book version, is still two months away, but I needed to hit the publish button in order to obtain review copies.) This is the most important book in the trilogy and does not require reading the first two to contemplate and enjoy.

Front cover for Doing Unto Others: The Golden Rule Revolution
Front cover for Doing Unto Others: The Golden Rule Revolution

Six Actions We Can Each Take to Build Unity

As a four-year-old in 1968, I sent my mother into sheer panic at a local McDonald’s when I loudly asked the large man next to her why he only washed the inside of his hands. Amidst the race riots of that tumultuous year, the African American gentleman, rather than mistake my naïve question as mean-spirited, kindly explained a fact of life to which I had been only minimally exposed. He was born with dark brown skin.

March forward to 2014. Despite clear progress, some issues facing America remain as they did when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were viciously removed from our leadership landscape. Regardless of one’s view of whether recent widely covered tragedies were driven by race or other factors, few argue that racial bias isn’t an ongoing challenge in our country.

In fact, research has shown that biases, including self-selection preferences, are inherent in the human condition. It has also shown that the vast majority of biases are held and acted on unconsciously. When made aware of biases and encouraged to explicitly consider them in their actions, most people willingly change behavior.

So how can those of us in at least the second half of our lives encourage continued progress toward a color-thoughtful world, even if we aren’t, for various reasons, interested in joining any of the hundreds of post-Ferguson protests or haven’t yet heard about the tragic death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, whose only error appears to have been not understanding how police would react to seeing him with a toy gun.

To move toward a more united America, I believe we need to start within our communities and with ourselves. Following are a few options to consider:

  • Take on a mentoring role. We had the opportunity this summer to invite a young man into our home who needed a safe place to train for college sports, as well as gain access to employment. We were aware of this African American young man through a basketball network from our kid’s AAU basketball days, but hadn’t met him until he showed up at our door with luggage in tow. He learned from us. We learned from him. Seeing the value this type of engagement could bring, I’ve signed on as a volunteer mentor for 360 Youth Services in Naperville, Illinois and have since been paired with a fascinating young man from an immigrant family. Male mentors, I’ve been told, are particularly difficult to attract to these programs.
  • Find Ways to Broaden Your Exposure. Geographically, we are re-segregating in the communities in which we live, a shift detailed in books such as The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. If you find yourself in an all-black, all-Hispanic, all-white or other ethnically concentrated communities, look for ways to broaden your exposure to people from different backgrounds. College, working in Congress and global corporate roles contributed to my education. There are many other ways to access diversity, including volunteer work, shared interest groups and military reserve service.
  • Consider Your Biases. The Golden Rule concept of treating others as we want to be treated is the sole unifying principle that covers every major faith along with those who don’t follow a faith. Consistency is a critical component of Golden Rule behavior. When you act or speak, ask yourself if you would make the same decision or statement if you changed the racial or ethnic makeup of everyone involved. (As an added exercise, try applying this concept to the actions of political leaders. Are your expectations consistent, regardless of party?)
  • Create Integration Sundays. Dr. King often remarked that the most segregated hour of the week is 11 a.m. on Sunday. For those involved in a faith community that may be lacking diverse membership, push to create regular Integration Sundays at your place of worship. Integration Sundays (or Fridays or Saturdays) can include attending each other’s house of worship, sharing a meal and/or participating in common charitable activities with worshippers from another ethnic or racial community. Over time, you’ll get to know people from another background on a deeper, human level.
  • Advocate for Interfaith. For a diverse nation, respect for those of different backgrounds must extend to those of different faiths as well. (Interfaith experiences include secular humanists, atheists and agnostics, so you aren’t required to believe in a higher power to participate.) Interfaith weekend events offer enrichment. When I recently asked Dr. Paul Eppinger, Executive Director of the Arizona InterFaith Movement, about interfaith experiences conducted through his organization, his eyes lit up about the hope that comes from giving people an opportunity to discuss and respect their differences, and their similarities. My wife and I were raised in different faiths with different holy days. Our backgrounds created distinct perspectives on many issues. We’ve bridged those differences now for 26 years.
  • Encourage schools to create integration experiences. While court orders drove integration following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, our movements are now re-segregating our schools. According to a UCLA Project on Civil Rights study, by 2011 the percentage of blacks in majority white schools was less than it was in 1968. Latinos attend even more segregated schools than do blacks and Asians, a challenge exacerbated by growing demands to provide language-segregated instruction for Spanish-speaking immigrants. Repeating the court-ordered busing of the past isn’t necessarily the right answer. Small group projects, through athletics, volunteer activities and extra-curricular activities have proven to be more effective at building cross-racial friendships than simply attending the same school. Can our schools alter schedules to allow for regular, full-day small group work or activities that help to build friendships across communities? Can sports activities include a post-buzzer component?

Whatever your take on what really happened in Ferguson and the need for changes in areas such as mandating police body cameras, our best path to respect, understanding and unity starts with the actions we take. Pick one of the above, or identify your own step forward.

Just don’t wait to start. For Tamir Rice, it’s already too late.

MSNBC’s Matthews Frets On U.S. Language Segregation

At the conclusion of his MSNBC Hardball show tonight, host Chris Matthews recognized the problem of America’s growing language segregation. Speaking in context of Scotland’s secession vote today, Matthews said he worries “occasionally where we are headed in the United States as we see the erosion of English as our agreed upon, common language. Nothing is easier than to break apart over language. Nothing is harder than to unite across the barriers of language.”

Well said, Mr. Matthews. If nothing else, the secession vote in Scotland alerts some among us to the dangers of growing divides by race, ethnicity, class, political party and, yes, by language. My first two books tell a story of where this may take us. For the rest of the Hardball commentary:

The FBI Wants to Know What I’m Doing

Anyone else have an on-line profile viewed lately by the Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI?

I suppose it’s inevitable given the research I’ve been doing for my next book, which includes research on Islamic terrorists, drug cartels, nuclear detonation and plastic explosives, all as part of a story on injecting the Golden Rule into how the U.S. is governed. I guess I would rather have a LinkedIn review than an armed assault of my home. Thank you, FBI, for the gentle approach.

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Is U.S. Segregation Leading Us to Being the 2040 Ukraine?

The United States has lessons to learn to avoid being the 2040 Ukraine.

Strong parallels exist between the stories in my first two books and the situation playing out in Ukraine today, so much so that a reader teased me yesterday that I had provided Putin’s playbook. Several parallels are particularly concerning.

Russia seeks to expand its territory to include more ethnic Russians ✔

In my books, Mexico is part of a coalition working to annex Southwest U.S. territory heavily populated by Mexican Americans and Mexicans. (The book is not an anti-immigrant or anti-Mexican rant, so you’ll need to read to understand the full context.)

Speakers of minority Russian language considered “oppressed” ✔

Schools in the Southwest and other parts of the country are increasingly teaching in all-day Spanish, including at the community college level. Not expecting immigrants to learn English is increasingly being advocated as a civil rights issue, when it is instead a path to another layer of societal segregation on top of our existing segregation issues.  Segregated societies are historically ripe for secession and annexation efforts.

Geographic concentration of Russian speakers provides clear starting point for invasion ✔

There are already several U.S. areas where speaking Spanish is critical to finding employment and fluency in English is not necessary. The scope of these territories is expanding.

Several internal political leaders in Crimea welcome invasion ✔

Too many political leaders focus on their own self-interest. For many in Crimea, the opportunities for political and economic gains may be greater under Russia than under Ukraine. It is certainly conceivable that we will have U.S. politicians who think they’ll have more power if the nation divides.

Weakened, indebted economy in Ukraine undermines border protection resolve and economic response options ✔

My distaste for our high and growing debt levels is driven, in part, by my belief that it substantially restricts our crisis response options. Ukraine’s response options are highly restricted by both Russia’s military superiority and Ukraine’s tenuous economic circumstances.

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Suicide Escape Released on Amazon

suicidecoversmallKnow someone dealing with depression? In my newly released “Suicide Escape”, an older hiker spots 15-year-old Clarissa on a remote mountain as she prepares to take her life. The hiker does everything he can to convince the despondent young woman to give life another chance, sharing stories of what he learned about life after he battled through his own severe depression as a young teen. A unique combination of novella and memoir, “Suicide Escape” is a must read for anyone facing or around depression.

Available on Kindle for just 99 cents. Borrow free with Amazon Prime. Foreword written by terrific friend who is a suicide survivor and founder of The C.A.R.L. Project. I am donating $1 for every review posted on Amazon to The C.A.R.L. Project and 50% of profits to mental health charities, including C.A.R.L. No Kindle? Read on your computer using Amazon’s Kindle Cloud Reader.

Buy on Amazon

Does Coca Cola Ad Celebrate Diversity or Segregation?

The Super Bowl failed to generate much conflict, but Coca Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” advertisement is stirring generous gulps of internet angst. At the heart of the controversy is this complex question: 1) Was Coca Cola celebrating diversity by having “America the Beautiful” sung in a multitude of languages or is the iconic brand instead suggesting that we should become a nation segregated by language?

Coca Cola could easily have sent a powerful message of unity by having all of the singers come together at the end of the commercial and sing the last few phrases together in English. Such a commercial would have sent a powerful message that America celebrates diversity, honors multilingual citizens and welcomes immigrants from all over the world to join in becoming part of a nation that shares important common bonds.

I suspect that most but not all of today’s trauma could have been avoided had the producers not worried about offending people who believe it’s good to create new communities segregated by race, religion and language. Suggesting that people who move to the United States should learn English over time is racist to some academic elites and particularly to self-interested politicians who see personal gain in dividing America along language lines. It’s possible that the ad’s producers worried that having everyone sing in English at the end would have been taken as a slap against those in the United States illegally, because legal immigrants are required to learn English as a condition of citizenship. Whatever the reason, Coca Cola missed an opportunity to create a point of unity. If their intent was to generate controversy, they have succeeded.

My first two novels — Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041 — tell stories of what awaits if we allow ourselves to be re-segregated by race, religion, class or language. We should welcome voices in every language to America. But we should also want to welcome immigrants into a nation where we can speak together and develop a united direction, rather than further segregation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=443Vy3I0gJs#action=share

 

 

DHS Admits U.S. Losing War on Border Tunnels

In an Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released this week, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that the United States is ill-prepared to locate and deter the rapid expansion in drug cartel tunnels, a capability gap with dire consequences as explored in my first two novels. The OIG report states:

Illicit cross-border tunnels along the southwest border are primarily used by criminals to transport illegal drugs into the United States, and they are a significant and growing threat to border security. In an effort to counter this threat, CBP (Customs and Border Protection) has modified its operations through patrols, intelligence gathering, and closing of illicit cross-border tunnels, but it does not yet have the technological capability to detect the tunnels routinely and accurately. To best address this capability gap, CBP needs to develop and acquire tunnel detection technology, but it has not been able to identify existing technology that functions effectively in its operating environment.

Read the full OIG report here to read more about CBP’s plans to create a Tunnel Detection and Technology Program. Hopefully, such a program will also be able to prevent the type of tunnel-based attacks predicted in Melting Point 2040 and Secession 2041.