Humanity First

We started podcasting in November 2015. That month brought bombings in Beirut and the Paris attacks.  In December, we had the San Bernadino shooting.  In March, Brussels; June, Orlando and Istanbul.  On July 1, Bangladesh.  This list excludes 18 other incidents either executed or inspired by ISIL in Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Syria.  

When we spoke about the Paris attack, I lamented the social media response. The French flag Facebook filters and #JeSuisParis felt like the definition of privilege and opportunism to me. I was wrong.  I don't pretend to have any answers to the growing conflict with ISIL.  I do know that we need more collective outrage and grief, not less. Especially as ISIL-inspired attacks occur--attacks carried out by people feeling disenfranchised and marginalized--we need to embrace our humanness.  

We have the most powerful military in the world.  We have sophisticated weapons that can kill from the air.  And we're using those resources. We learned today that between 2009 and 2015, the U.S. conducted 473 drone strikes, killing over 2,500 suspected terrorists and between 64 and 116 civilians. Think of that. Yet, here we are.  I'm not sure ISIL can be defeated militarily.  If we could have bombed an ideology into oblivion, we would have.  

Donald Trump has talked about how we need to match the force of our opponent. I agree with him in this respect: ISIL's real power is not in any tool or technique.  It is in giving people something to believe in and belong to. We need to fight this ideology with a countervailing sincere, powerful belief in our shared humanity.

That's not to say that we should abandon the actual battle; our intelligence and military resources should be wisely deployed.  We should also demonstrate that we value the lives in Turkey and Bangladesh as much as the lives in Orlando and San Bernadino. When an American citizen asks a presidential candidate why we would allow a woman wearing a hijab to work at TSA, we should answer, "Because she's an American and because we are all working together to keep each other safe."

And recognizing how war-weary we are as a country, we should resist isolationism and nationalism. We should recognize that perhaps our hashtags and filters do send a message that we can see past religious and ethnic differences, that there is a place in the West for people of all backgrounds, that even small indicators of belonging can matter. "America First" might work if this were the early 19th century, and we were fighting with canons on hills.  In this new struggle all over the world to eat, dance, shop, and see movies safely, Humanity First is the better policy.