How Stupid are We?

This past week in Iowa, Donald Trump asked his audience how stupid the Iowa voters were to believe Ben Carson’s stories about his violent childhood.

Sunday morning, as I read the usual ‘kill the terrorist’ and ‘pray for Paris’ responses to the attacks in France, I found myself asking the same question of all Americans, but particularly white Americans and those at the levers of power:  How stupid are we?  Sometimes even The Donald can ask the right question.

How stupid are we that we believed Bush, Chaney and company that in two months we would wipe out ‘the terrorists’ and be safe?  How stupid are we that we don’t understand by now that we created Al Qaeda to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, that Bin Laden was on our payroll until he was set loose to attack us?  How stupid are we that we don’t understand that we created ISIS by destroying Iraq for no good reason and then installing a leader who alienated and criminalized half the population such that they decided to fight for their own cause?  How stupid are we to not be able to differentiate between fanatics who use religious language for their own cause and the vast majority of people who, no matter what their religion, are just trying to get by and do the best for themselves and their family?  How stupid are we to not understand that when you spend trillions on weapons and war you are going to have less money to care for your own population and make friends around the world?

It seems that the answer, time and again, is: pretty stupid.  Because from the pundits on TV to the Editorial Boards of newspapers, from the blogs on the internet to the letters to the editor, we again are hearing the rattling of sabers, the cry for war and destruction.  How stupid are we?

Sadly, many of the those who seem most intent on pursuing this line of suicidal reasoning claim that they are Christians.  These are the same folks who are ready to ‘kick ass’ when a nativity scene is removed from the town square, or degrade students who march against racism, or threaten to ship every immigrant home.  And yet not only will these folks not listen to reason or facts, they won’t even listen to Jesus, who told his disciples not to fight back with violence because those who live by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52).  How stupid are we?

The world now has 7 billion people on it.  That number is climbing to 9 or 10 billion within the next hundred years.  There is nowhere else to go.  We have long past the point where we can burn down a village or a city or a country and not feel any repercussions.  When we destroy places, and impoverish whole societies, making large swaths of the world unlivable and filled with misery and death, we will feel the results of these actions; and the response isn’t going to be pretty, or positive, or something we desire.  We cannot want to both make the Middle East uniThe hatred that we visit on another will come back to us and the lag time between cause and effect is going to continue to shrink.

It is said that Nero fiddled while Rome burned.  He and his courtiers were pretty stupid.  And yet is seems that in two thousand years we haven’t gotten a whole lot smarter.  Violence begets violence.  How stupid are we that we don’t understand that yet?