It's depressing to read some of the commentaries about current problems and issues, and the solutions proposed by the knuckle-dragging brigade. I'm sure my readers have seen the same sorts of suggestions that I have:
- Dealing with fundamentalist Islamic terrorism? "Nuke Mecca! That'll show them we mean business!"
- Dealing with riots in Milwaukee and other US cities? "Shoot all the rioters! The survivors won't riot any more!"
- Dealing with illegal immigration in the USA, or the refugee crisis in Europe? "Send them all home - at gunpoint if necessary!"
The trouble is, while these simplistic solutions sound good to those frustrated and outraged by the extent to which our society has deteriorated, they simply don't stand up to scrutiny. Consider:
- If we "nuke Mecca", there is already at least one Islamic state (Pakistan) with its own nuclear weapons. There are very strong indications that it's agreed to sell another Islamic state (Saudi Arabia) nuclear weapons, if and when needed. If Mecca were to be nuked, I guarantee you that within five to ten years, there'd be up to a dozen Islamic states (and possibly a few Islamic terrorist movements as well) with nuclear weapons of their own. How, precisely, would we defend ourselves against them? It's not as if they have to be delivered by military aircraft or missiles. A nuclear device could be concealed in a shipping container, or a yacht, or aboard a commercial flight. Imagine an airliner, making its descent prior to landing at a major airport, but then suddenly blowing up in a thermonuclear fireball a few thousand feet over, say, Chicago, or New York, or Atlanta . . .
- Shooting rioters? Yes, that would work initially . . . until outraged community groups armed themselves, got training in the use of their weapons, and fought back. That's already happened when ex-servicemen nursed a grievance, then used their military training to exact revenge for perceived slights, racism, etc. (Witness Washington DC in 2002, Dallas in 2016, etc.) So far, it's been on a very small scale. However, gangs are known to be sending their members into the military to receive training, then bring that back to the "hood" to teach their "homies" how to do it. Whether we like it or not, the USA is awash with guns. Those who want them will always, repeat, always be able to get their hands on them; and if attempts are made to confiscate firearms to prevent that, huge numbers of law-abiding citizens will resist that just as fiercely as will criminals. It's wishful thinking to try to shut that stable door.
- Illegal immigration? I'm strongly in favor of deporting all illegal aliens who are caught, particularly those who commit crimes. However, there's simply no way we can force those who are not caught, to leave. There are too many sympathizers, too many fellow travelers (including the gangs who smuggle drugs and other contraband into this country, who rely heavily on networks of illegal aliens to do so). We'd have more success going after those who employ illegal aliens, thereby preventing them from entering the job market - but even that isn't a foolproof guarantee of success. There's too much money to be made by unscrupulous employers, willing to hire illegals at much less than the legal minimum wage and with none of the statutory benefits and protections, in order to line their own pockets. Money talks. It always has, and it always will. Finally, there are large sections of our society that are adamantly opposed to expelling illegal aliens (see this list of "sanctuary cities", for a start). They won't obey orders to round them up, and will put all sorts of obstacles in the way of any outside authority that tries to do so on their "turf".
I hope this illustrates the point that there are few, if any, easy solutions to our current problems. I wish there were! It would be wonderful to say, "Press Button A to solve Problem B". Unfortunately, life's not like that. It's not black and white. There's an awful lot of gray around.
There's also the moral dimension. I know some will accuse me of being "wet" or wishy-washy or whatever, even though I don't think I am: but I'm a retired pastor. I try to live my life according to Christian principles. From that perspective, the "Golden Rule" (which some prefer to call the "ethic of reciprocity", to cut out the religious connotation) governs my interaction with others:
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12)
And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31)
If it would be unethical, or immoral, or just plain wrong, for someone to do something to you or your loved ones, that makes it just as unethical or immoral or wrong for you to do it to them or their loved ones. By the same token, if you do something to them, you're implicitly giving them the right to do the same thing to you. It's as simple as that. (And if you don't share my Christian perspective on that, consider that the Golden Rule is a foundational element of many cultures around the world, religious and/or secular. That includes every major religion. It's not limited to Christianity.) Nor is the application of the Golden Rule dependent on reciprocity. It's not valid to say, "I'll treat you as I want to be treated if, and only if, you first treat me as I want to be treated." The Golden Rule - at least for Christians - is not conditional.)
This doesn't mean one has to be soft on crime. If rioters are breaking the law, I have no problem whatsoever in bringing those rioters to justice. That falls under the "render unto Caesar" provision of the Gospels. However, when it comes to taking down entire suburbs, many of whose residents have not been involved in crime or violence, that changes the picture. We are not permitted to treat innocent people like lawbreakers. (That doesn't just apply to rioters, either. Witness the blatantly unconstitutional armed sweeps and no-warrant searches conducted in Boston in the wake of the 2013 bombing there, when police treated ordinary householders and bystanders like criminals.)
In the same way, destroying Islamic terrorists is a no-brainer, but that doesn't justify destroying innocent civilians living near them. Deporting illegal aliens falls under the same heading as dealing with criminals; but that doesn't give us the right to suspect (or treat) anyone and everyone as if they were an illegal alien, merely on the grounds of their name, or the language they speak, or the color of their skin. When it comes to refugees, by all means keep out those who may pose a danger to our society, including on the basis of their religion. However, that doesn't remove from us the moral obligation to help them, if necessary in their own countries or neighboring areas, by providing supplies and assistance there instead of here. (And what if the countries neighboring their own don't want to accept them either? Are we morally or ethically entitled to insist that they do that, while refusing to help them do so, and/or accept at least some of the refugees ourselves?)
I wish - oh, how I wish! - we could wave a magic wand and solve all these problems instanter. Life would be so much simpler if we could . . . but life's not like that. Its issues are complex and many-layered. Any overly simplistic "solution" is more than likely to cause additional problems that may be even more complex and insoluble than the originals.