Education – the antidote to terrorism

Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., where I wrote my entrance essay on a desire to understand people.

Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., where I wrote my entrance essay on a desire to understand people.

Once again, there is nothing to say and too much to.

A lone gunman, a massacre among people going about their everyday lives and the usual hand-ringing and finger-pointing.

Although I must say Donald Trump deserves our heartiest “congratulations” for putting a new spin on opportunism – or should that be a new low.

“Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted. “I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” 

And just how is he “right”? In a PBS town hall recently, President Barack Obama responded to an edgy question about refugees by observing that the real terrorist threat to the United States is not from refugees – who are vetted extensively – but from “tourists” and American citizens who are radicalized, like Omar Mateen, who murdered 50 people and injured 53 in an Orlando nightclub – the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

So The Donald wasn’t there first. We all know we must be smart, strong – not tough – and vigilant. But how to accomplish this?

First, it’s time to understand that fundamentalism in any form – be it secular or religious – is going to be the death of culture and in particular Western civilization as we know it. Once we accept this, we can defeat it. But it’s only by accepting the threat fundamentalism poses that we can hope to conquer it. It’s no coincidence that the gunman shot up a gay club. This was a hate crime as terrorism and it was an act waiting to happen. When you have a philosophy that says its OK to beat Afghan grandmothers for showing an ankle, that allows a group of Saudi female students to burn to death in a classroom because rescuing firefighters would be exposed to the sight of young women who might not be wearing their burkas, then there’s certainly no place for gays in that mindset and no hope of it coexisting with rational civilization.

The father of the gunman told police that his son’s anti-gay bloodbath had nothing to do with religion, but whom is he kidding? Surely, himself. Of course, it has to do with religion but not the religion of Islam. Rather, the religion of fundamentalist Islam and, again, make no mistake about this: Fundamentalism in any religion is going to be the death of us, if we let it, because it is based on nothing but ignorance, fear and prejudice.

Education, formal education, is the antidote. When I was young – a child of the ’60s – I thought life would be my greatest teacher. But as I grew, I realized the more educated I was, in actual schools, the greater my chance of developing critical thinking skills and an understanding of people. That’s what I wrote in my college essay. I wanted to go to college to understand people.

For all of us, it’s not too late.