Armageddon? – Not Yet! Why I Think We're Safe

I generally love to fly – it’s great for reading or doing the crossword puzzle with my wife. Thursday morning (08-10-2006) the news was dominated by the early morning arrest in London of over twenty Islamic terrorists who were in the final stages of plans to blow up ten jumbo jets enroute to the U.S. Although they were citizens of England, they had ties to training camps in Pakistan, most likely al Qaeda.

British security had managed to prevent a disaster with a loss of life equal to 9-11. The bombs were going to be assembled on the plane using innocuous looking liquids that could be easily gotten through security. I wondered if American security agencies are doing as well in monitoring extremist activity here.

Earlier in the week I watched news stories predicting a major escalation in terrorist activity of possibly cataclysmic proportions. Your life and mine and all our loved ones are intimately tied to an Islamic faction that sees us as evil. Our destruction is their way of glorifying God. How much do you know about Islamic history?

Unfortunately I had to fly to Tucson, Arizona Thursday afternoon to do a presentation and then fly back Friday morning. Fortunately I didn’t have to check a bag – and I knew there were new restrictions on what could be carried on – no liquids, gels, not even toothpaste. Getting through security and boarding was fairly routine except that every couple of minutes there would be an announcement "no drinks or liquids of any kind can be taken on the plane." So I was surprised that the woman boarding in front of me was carrying a "Big Gulp" soft drink. Surprisingly no one said anything to her as she walked past 3-4 agents and flight attendants and took her seat. I thought, "did I miss something?". So I asked a flight attendant in the back if they reversed the rule already. She said absolutely not and she went down and confiscated the lady’s drink. I felt like a snitch but I also wondered how close are they paying attention – not real reassuring.

I’ve got to admit I don’t have a lot of faith in the security rules. Remember when you had bottled water or coke and you had to take a sip of it? I asked one time why we had to drink the cola but not the shampoo or conditioner. I was told, "I don’t make the rules, Mack." Another time they had me break the mini file off my fingernail clippers; then two agents debated as to whether the 1/8" stub was safe. I said "if you’re thinking that might be a weapon, my ballpoint pen would be better." I asked another time if anyone had ever answered yes to "are you carrying a bag that some stranger asked you to carry for them?" Why not be more direct and ask, "are you stupid?" My wife once remembered that she had a pocket knife in her purse after she got on the plane – it was missed when they searched her purse item by item. As we deplaned, I asked the pilot what is involved in reporting a security violation. I wasn’t interested in a lot of red tape and paper work. He said "don’t worry about it, they’re doing the best they can. But what I worry about is that they took my finger nail clippers, but they want me to carry a gun". I should mention that I always prefaced my comments/questions with "I’m not wanting to cause trouble." Do you get the feeling we don’t have our sharpest minds developing our security rules and then we don’t have the most attentive people enforcing them? It makes me nervous.

Since I wasn’t checking a bag I was able to get on an earlier flight coming back, 5:15 am. But then I started to worry. I have to admit I’m a little superstitious – I like to knock on wood when I comment about good luck. Because of this mild superstition disorder – when you are a psychiatrist you think of all your disorders as mild – I was a little concerned about changing planes. I thought what if I’m changing from a safe flight to one that gets "dry gulched?" I hated to call and wake my wife up so early but I didn’t want her to end up freaking out if on the news they reported a "problem" with my planned flight. I also considered the alternative – her feeling relieved if the news reported that the flight from Tucson that I had changed to was sabotaged. What a mess. Fortunately when I wrote this on the plane I wasn’t feeling anxious – it was more of a theoretical concern – thank God for medication that helps control focus because I have at least one of the worry genes.

An editorial in Saturday’s Dallas Morning News by Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald identified a major problem in America. We don’t like to be inconvenienced. And the powers that be don’t want to offend us (since we vote and all). Security in England is supposedly tighter and the Israeli El Al airline is so unimpressed with the TSA screening in the U.S. that they screen passengers again before they allow them to board. How inconvenient would it be to be blown out of the sky?

I’m an optimist. Deep down I feel blessed and protected. I believe God will probably wait as long as possible to bring me home. I can be a real pain in the butt.

When my wife and I flew to Puerto Rico three days after 9-11-01 the plane was mostly empty. It felt a little spooky. The hotel where I was teaching a seminar on, ironically, stress and insomnia, was virtually deserted. It was mostly us and all the service people. But times have changed. My flights to and from Tucson were full. In this instance a terrorist disaster was averted so people weren’t in a panic.

I have quickly become addicted to the Glenn Beck show on CNN Headline News at 9:00 pm eastern time. I love this guy! He’s definately one of us. I believe God put ADD people on this earth to stir things up and challenge the system. Earlier this week he had some expert on his show that said there are 1.1 billion Muslims in the world, most of whom are "normal" people. But 100 million of them hate our guts and want to destroy us (non Muslim infidels), especially Americans, and they are willing to die in the process. I feel sorry for the Muslims, especially in America who don’t have this radical mindset. It’s a lot like being Japanese post December 1941. But I also feel that as a group the Muslims have been way too passive in confronting their extremist factions. Case in point is the Lebanese citizens who embrace Hezbollah even though they celebrate the murder of Israeli women and children.

One of the things I like about Glenn Beck is that he says a lot of the things that I feel – sometimes exaggerated to make a point. The other night he started with "I hate politics. No, I hate politicians". My response was, amen! He also talks about how useless the UN is, amen! He refers to the extremist Muslims as "nut jobs". I wish they were crazy – insanity can be treated. Theirs is a fundamental ideology more powerful than ours. Our soldiers risk their lives in defense of democracy. The extremist Muslims are willing, even excited about blowing themselves up in defense of their beliefs. How scary is that? Beck has said repeatedly that we are already in WWIII and the Iranians (and their partners, especially Syrians) are even worse than the Nazis – because among other things they don’t care about their own survival. In fact the most extreme group believes that the return of their Messiah will be preceded by a time of great chaos and destruction. I believe in the power of self-fulfilling prophecy, so that makes me nervous.

But are the radical Muslim terrorists and suicide bombers, etc. really crazy? Unfortunately, mostly no. How can we understand their mind set? How can we be empathic – i.e., able to see things from their point of view? We are admittedly only beginning to understand the science of mind. Notice I didn’t say the mind because it’s not one thing – it is the most complex entity that we have yet found in the universe. If you’re not caught up in the outdated pseudo dichotomy of, science or religion you know that living things have been adapting, evolving for millions of years. Most people accept that there is competition in nature, especially when resources are scarce – the survival of the fittest and all that. But there is an equally powerful adaptive force in nature, cooperation.

Years ago a psychology teacher wanted to demonstrate how prejudice develops. He divided his class into two groups and they were to role play either being a prisoner or a guard over the next few days. He had to stop the experiment early because of the cruelty shown by the guards and mental distress that was rapidly developing in the prisoners. It turns out that part of our genetic hard wiring is the capacity, force that pressures us to identify with our peer group. It’s easy to say "but I would never do that" – be like a Nazi soldier or a Ku Klux Klan member or suicide bomber. But the forces of nature are powerful. I feel confident that I wouldn’t – but I’m also one of the ADD people put in this world to challenge the system.

For years I’ve been telling my patients "we weren’t made for this world." We were made for a world where we were outside all day, physically active. Life was hard but simple. Hundreds of years ago they thought the world was flat. Now according to one of my favorite writers and political analysts, Thomas Friedman, the world is flat again. We are all intimately connected. My security while flying from Tucson to Dallas was tied to the faith and feeling of well being of Muslim terrorists all over the world. I, we are hated and our destruction is their loftiest aspiration and connected to their "nirvana". It’s scary.

But I don’t think the world will end yet. If God is ADD and we’re all entertainment (a theory I’ve had for years that’s never been effectively challenged) then why would everything stop now? It’s just getting interesting. Besides there’s no way the world can end before the Cubs win a world series, and there’s no chance this year. God has to be a Cub’s fan.

You may notice I’m talking a lot about God. When we feel in danger and especially when we feel helpless that’s the time more than any other that our faith can get us through. Unfortunately our enemies feel righteously the same way.

Let me know how you feel.

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10 Responses to “Armageddon? – Not Yet! Why I Think We're Safe”

  • Jon says:

    You are a (pleasant) piece of work !! Very creative blogs here….jonB

  • Nicole says:

    I completely agree that it is the moderate Muslim community
    who is going to have to attack this “mindset” head on! I
    don’t know why we don’t have a talk show going right now
    with Muslims and non-Muslim Americans….. That said, I
    also found this little answer to the fear of flying madness
    that is going on right now:

    Subject: Memo to the FAA

    TO: Federal Aviation Administration

    Our airline industry is in real trouble, and it’s time to start fixing this before it’s too late.

    To that end, here are some modest suggestions:

    Dump the male flight attendants. No one wanted them in the first place. Replace all the female flight attendants with good-looking strippers! What the hell? The attendants have gotten old and haggard-looking. They don’t even serve food anymore, so what’s the loss? The strippers would at least triple the alcohol sales and get a “party atmosphere” going in the cabin. And, of course, every heterosexual businessman in this country would start flying again, hoping to see naked women. Because of all the tips, the female flight attendants wouldn’t need a salary, thus saving even more money. Hell, I suspect tips would be so good that we could charge the women for working and have them kick back 20 percent of the tips, including lap dances and “special services.”
    Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing naked women. Hijackings would come to a screeching halt and the airline industry would see record revenues.
    This is definitely a win-win situation if we handle it right. A golden opportunity to turn a liability into an asset.
    Why the hell didn’t Bush think of this?

    Why do I still have to do everything myself?

    Sincerely,
    Bill Clinton

  • Susan says:

    There IS intelligent life down here!!! I LOVE YOU, MAN! (I mean Doc…) I laughed out loud at some of your comments relative to airport security…many a time, I’ve gotten onboard with some kind of contraband or another…airport security regulations/enforcement/employees are stooooopid! (Well, shouldn’t say the employees – they’re people just doing their jobs…besides if I could count the times I opened my mouth and stuck my foot in, well, you know…)

    Yes, ADD people definitely have been put here to challenge the system – I know I’m probably considered a nuisance and I AM a self-proclaimed “nut job” – but heck, at least I’m not a dumb sheep that believes EVERYTHING the media says – It’s my personal policy to believe very little of what I see and NONE OF WHAT I HEAR OR READ IN THE NEWS … mediocrity is the tendency of the masses …and conspiracy is my middle name…

    ANYWAY, DOC…GLAD YOU’RE ON MY TEAM and PROUD TO BE YOUR PATIENT !!! Susan

  • Nicole says:

    Your End might be our Beginning!
    Current mood: annoyed
    Category: Goals, Plans, Hopes

    Okay, already! I’ll see your End Times and I’ll call you on it!

    I have gotten so many posts lately raving that Id better repent because the time is very close. I saw it on the news tonight as well: pastors telling the congregations that it’s about 7 years away!

    God knows how busy you people are with all us heathens! So many to save, so little time to do it. Well, first you have to convince us!

    I’ve thought about this a lot and I think I may have an answer.

    Since you will be so busy at your respective churches—you can set up phone lines and computer rooms and put cots all around the dining hall, and this will save you needed time in driving in all this traffic every day.

    So, heres the deal: You turn over the deeds to your homes, boats, planes, businesses, etc. because you want to convince us, and because if it is the end times, wouldn’t it be silly to go about life as if you were planning for the future or something?

    How about stocks and bonds? Surely you won’t need them, and jewelry and art and silver and furs. Show me the money! You

    cant take this stuff with you when the big “scoop” comes and all the saved are lifted up into the heavens. This is what we will do; heathens that we are. We will turn your homes, lakehouses, beachfront properties, extra automobiles into charities and put in hospice care for the needy. We will start boarding homes for the pregnant teens, and we will turn your apartment buildings into half-way houses and treatment centers for addicts and mentally disturbed people. We will sell your jewels and art and pay the unemployed to work these new charity jobs.

    We will give your clothing to the poor and set up scholarships with your pensions and savings. Im sure the government would allow you to sign over your health insurance and life insurance for this cause (there are a lot of non-believers in politics.) So, let us unburden you as the time is descending upon us and let us help you to earn your extra credit that you need to get those tickets aboard the big scooper! Noah gave all of his worldly goods away, packed up and split– look how well it paid off for him? Time’s a tick’n and we really need to get right on this. Here is your chance to show us what you’re made of—and maybe just maybe you will win a few of us over in the meantime. If not, well—we will just go on our wicked ways trying to make this earth a better place until the wrath of God swats us down for our evilness and self-centeredness. You will get your reward, and we will get what ever is coming to us. Deal???????

    Oh, and if some of you are wavering as I know many saved Chritians do, here is a promise to you which may comfort you just a little. If by chance, you are wrong and this world continues on say another 10 years or so, we will rent you rooms at half price
    because we want to be able to catch the next

    “End Times” in about 20 years without bad business reputations. A kind of “good faith effort!” Let’s talk business!

  • paula says:

    When I heard the news Thursday, it made me a little paranoid since we are planning a trip to vegas this fall. I thought I just can’t handle all of this. I thought I really hate people at the airport picking people at random and serching their things. This happened right after 911 to a friend of mine who was searched not once but 3 times before we got on the plane I was furious I totally freaked out I said can’t you do your job right, it takes 3 times that’s scary. and the worst point is that the person that is going to hijack or blowup the plane gets on and is not checked. thats my fear. I thought god, we have to go thru this again! My parents are going on vacation in a few weeks and have to board a plane 5 times. I just can’t handle it. I know they are trying to do their jobs. I am already trying to start to just accept what will happend at the airport that I cant control what happens and it is for our safety. I plan not to carry on a bag and pray no one stills my medication in my suitcase. it is pretty sad when it has come down to this people cant even enjoy their vacations because of those people the terroists. and they hate americans. I truly believe if they could just blow us all up they would. thats the mindset they have their god told them to do it. Don’t you just love the crap we have to go thu!