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Paris: A Very Special Orion/Maiello Q and A

A note - Blogging isn't free. Right now I provide gifts to my writers as a way of thanking people for writing. I would like to be able to afford to give them some sort of renumeration, even if it is small, for making this blog what it is. I'm in talks with a friend who may be able to help connect this blog, which has been in existence for one year now, with more religious communities dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Your donation will do a lot toward making that happen.



I got Michael Maiello to respond to the Paris attacks in an unscheduled Q and A and as something different, I will be answering the same question I posed to him. 

For Maiello: My mom was in France when this Paris attack occurred. I was worried. Conflict is part of human history as far as there was such a thing but a conflict involving several world powers all meeting in venues with so many stakes. I think Pope Francis is right that we're seeing a third world war. What do you think?

I'm going to go with "this is not World War III."  ISIS is a non-state actor.  It is, really, a giant criminal cartel.  That doesn't mean it isn't serious or dangerous, but I think that major powers like the U.S. can keep a sense of perspective and avoid allowing ISIS to create situations that make us butt heads with other powers.  Syria is a prime example.  Russian wants to keep Assad in power and will help us against ISIS to the extent that it can further those goals.  The U.S. wants to remove Assad from power and is acting to help certain parts of the rebellion that it thinks are not ISIS and so is basically waging a two front proxy war against ISIS and Assad.

I think we need to work this out with Russia.  Russia's a far more important global partner than Syria anyway.  U.S. policy could easily become agnostic on the issue of Assad, at least temporarily.  ISIS is just the bigger threat, right?  Assad will probably learn to behave if it keeps him in his palace and his head on his shoulders. He can be contained as easily as Hussein was contained.  It's not a big deal.  ISIS, as a criminal organization, can't be contained the same way.  It has no container.  Rob it of some of the territories it has claimed and it falls apart.  This is not like Hydra from Marvel comics.

The bigger question is what we do about a nihilistic, death cult ideology that appeals to very few young people in the West but that seems to lead to terrible things once it infects somebody.  This is like an Ebola situation -- you're not likely to contract it but it's awful if you do.  This makes me wonder... what are we doing to counter the propaganda that infects disaffected youths in Europe and the U.S.?  What message are we equipped to send that would stop this kind of thing before it happened.

Glad to know, of course, that your mom is safe.


For Orion: Conflict is part of human history as far as there was such a thing but a conflict involving several world powers all meeting in venues with so many stakes. I think Pope Francis is right that we're seeing a third world war. What do you think?

I am almost thirty years old. I was born in 1986. I have seen alot of political strife and seen that human beings are all capable of genius, love and beauty and serious insanity, hate and ugliness. We see it all crystal clear now but history shows humans have always been like this.

Nevertheless, even in the insanity there have been consistencies in our strange and crazy world. There have been two types of extremism that have been popular since I was a kid and tend to reflect the sort of people who become terrorists.

One is neo-Nazis/skinheads. You know these fascists when you see them even if their ideology is loose. Timothy McVeigh was one, Dyllan Rouff was one and the Feds have prevented many cases of guys like this attacking black churches and synagogues. These groups are on the upswing and you see them in Ukraine and Greece. There are also elements of neo-Nazis in Donald Trump's support.

Another is Islamic extremism. These fanatics have gotten more and more hardcore since the 1990s, when they started bombing embassies in Kenya. It's up to your POV if the war on terror enhanced them or curtailed them - I go with the former.

These groups are just criminals until they have a state of their own. Fascists had their own state in the 1930s. Islamists now have their own states. They aren't non-state actors, like you said, they actually control entire cities and towns. I read somewhere that ISIS defies how nation states usually act but I don't think so - their attacks on Christians reflect the Nazis toward Jews, their taking over towns and enslaving women reflects the likes of Ghengis Khan or Mohammed himself. Most of the attacks we've seen in the US or in Europe now have reflected one of these two extreme ideologies.

One big factor of this that people have been discussing, of course, is whether or not we'll let in Syrian refugees. I wrote on Dagblog about my Canadian border experience, which was the worst law enforcement experience I'd ever had. The Canadian website said an ID and passport would be adequate and something about me - my beard, my olive skin, whatever - got me flagged before I ever even said a word. I read about others with Middle Eastern ancestry having a similar experience. I have been shaving my beard, even though I look way better with one, because the longer it is the more questions I get about where I am from.

Nevertheless, if I were in the position of those letting people in to this country, I would understand the caution. Radical Islamism is as real as neo-Nazis and skinheads. We need to be careful, as always, to not feed in to racism but we should be cautious about who we let in. I think if we let refugees in, we should emphasize on Christians, who are the minority ISIS seeks to eradicate.

I think you need to protect yourself. We should shut down the mosques that preach hate and shut down websites that preach hate. We should take their weapons. Evil is a real thing. Civilization was set up to protect against evil and if we do not protect it, it falls. It's either our world or theirs. I think France's response is really good.

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Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

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Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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