Sunday, December 6, 2015


Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik murdered fourteen people and injured dozens more on Wednesday, December 2, 2015. The site was an assembly room at the Inland Regional Center, in San Bernardino, California. The victims were gathered, as the media has reported, for a ‘holiday’ party, which included the appearance of Santa Claus.

The occasion being celebrated was Christmas, a legal holiday in the United States of America, commemorating the birth, 2016 years ago, of Jesus Christ, an itinerant Jewish preacher who claimed to be the Son of God, and whose followers, known as Christians, have established successful civilizations in Europe, North and South America, and Australia as well as parts of Asia and Africa.

The predominant measure of time on the planet earth dates from the first Christmas, and the years are described as “AD” meaning Anno Domine or Year of Our Lord.

Mr. Farook and Ms. Malik were Muslims, as attested by relatives and friends as well as the presence of the Quran and other other Muslim readings in their home. Ms. Malik is reported to have pledged allegiance to the radical Islamic movement known as ISIS.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has now apparently concluded that the killings constituted the crime of terrorism. Broadly, terrorism is defined as the random killing of human beings as a means of influencing the government or achieving any political objective.

On June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a young white man entered a prayer service at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and murdered nine people, including the pastor. Dylan Storm Roof, who has confessed to the crime, is now held for trial by both state and federal officials.

The state prosecutor has charged him with nine counts of murder. The federal authorities have classified his actions as a ‘hate crime’ for which the penalty of death may be imposed.

At eight PM this evening, President Obama took to the air to urge Americans not to panic in the face of domestic terrorism. He reminded us that millions of our neighbors are adherents of the Islamic faith; that they are law abiding, patriotic citizens, who should not be identified with the criminal acts of radical Islamic terrorists.

That’s easy enough to say, and it’s not really debatable. Still, we are human. During breakfast this morning at Muer’s Kitchen in Harbor Springs, I noticed a young man at the next table. There was nothing African about his features, but his skin was darker than mine. For just an instant I wondered if he was Arabic, and in that instant he looked my way.

I looked away, embarrassed, as though somehow he could know what I was thinking. It reminded me of the nervous days in Detroit after the riots of 1967 when you stopped for a red light on Livernois and consciously looked straight ahead. Not right. Not left. Just straight ahead.

We are entering the holy and happy season of Christmas. Somewhere between the shopping and the decorating and the visiting and the eating and the drinking there will be time to ask ourselves what we should do about the madness in the world. The hating and the killing. The murder and the madness.

About 32,000 people die of of gun shots in America every year; 35,000 die in auto accidents. Life is too short and too precious to live in fear of dying.

I am no fan of federal laws against hate crimes or terrorism. Murder is murder, and should be prosecuted vigorously. When the feds stick their noses into law enforcement, they politicize it. If Nidal Hasan had been prosecuted by the Texas authorities, he would have been executed years ago.

The beautifully Christian people of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal who prayed for forgiveness and redemption of the man who murdered their pastor set a powerful example. All of us who recite the Lord’s Prayer ask to be forgiven as we forgive others.

Still, the law is the law and murder is murder. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice…

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