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As “terrorism” creeps closer to America's shores once again, those ever-popular thoughts and prayers now go out to the dead and dying in some other place that looks a lot like us. We have done a lot of thoughts and prayers right here in the homeland, so we have quite a bit of practice at this. However, maybe it is time that we start honoring the dead and dying with fewer prayers and some actual thinking about how we might change the dynamic of so much of what is at the heart of all this death and dying.

Wake up folks – it is organized religion and an overwrought notion that pandering to religion and religious causes will somehow get somebody’s god to work this out for us. It doesn’t matter whether it is Christians, Jews, Muslims, or Hindus doing the killing. They are all the same. The faiths they serve act as heavenly blinders to the overall human condition. And, by the way, “democracy” has nothing to do with the solution.

Human beings have been killing each other since the beginning of time, so today’s carnage is nothing new. The only thing new is that we get to see it up close and personal on our televisions, computers, and cellphones. Since we can see the carnage, we get closer to feeling it. Somehow if the dead and dying look a bit like us, we get to feel it even worse.

So let’s try to turn the page to a better world. If nothing else, trying to do something different can be no worse than continuing to do what we are presently doing. As long as each side and the gods they serve are focused on degrading and defeating the other side, armed conflict and killing humans will be the natural consequence. This seems to be the human default position over the centuries, most often spurred on by regular doses of religious zealotry that somehow allow even massacres to take on a godly countenance.

Putting aside the material cost, the human and moral toll of the present collective jihad is carrying both believers and non-believers to a baser place. In America, and I am sure elsewhere as well, the citizenry is anesthetized to its country’s role in the death and dying by notions of some greater good or perceived moral high ground. In America, we routinely excuse our deadly excesses by the oft-repeated assurance, “that is not who we are.”

Unfortunately, “who we are” is defined by “what we do.” What America has become is directly linked to what America has done. Until we confront this equation, we will never be able to alter what we do. In the context of this discussion, America has tried to kill its way to a better world for quite some time now, with more of the world’s recent blood on its hands than those of all the “terrorists” combined.

Add to the “who we are” equation America’s willingness to embrace its arms merchants who shamelessly profit from dealing death and destruction at home and abroad. Then to round out the picture, America is the country that leads the way in production and distribution of the encrypted devices that now seem to shield potential killers from detection and facilitate their devastating plans, delivering America’s message that the security of our precious toys is more important than the safety of the humans who use them.

It would be nice if this equation of who we are as a nation could be balanced by national good deeds, but it isn’t even close. We can’t even stop gun violence, homelessness and hungry children at home, so how are we going to do it elsewhere without changing what we do? Those thoughts and prayers can only cover up so much.

Maybe, just maybe, if we start really thinking about the hungry and homeless, the under-educated, the sick, and the poor in the world, and leave praying out of the equation, we can begin to better understand the ways in which our collective conscience has lost its way. If each of us could step back from self-indulgence for a small part of each day and take that time to think of the ways in which each of us could make the world a better place, the world might actually become a better place.

We must each come to know that when our governments kill in our name, they kill real people. Bombs dropped from American warplanes do not know the gender, age, brilliance or beauty of those they kill in our name. Is it any wonder that that lethal dose of America will forever sear itself into the minds and hearts of those who survive the killing fields? They will find us in our cities and towns, our restaurants, airports and subways to provide their response.

Try for a moment to look to the night sky and see warplanes blotting out the stars. And then think for a moment what you would do to try to protect those you cherish from the lethal load that drops to earth. In that moment, maybe it becomes a little easier to understand those who wish us harm. This is a cycle that we can break; this is a cultural stain that need not be our primary legacy.

Until we stop praying and start thinking, the cycle will be renewed, the stain will stay blood red, and our legacy of violence will be ensured. America long ago squandered the moral high ground. Seeking nothing more than a morally neutral path might be a significant first step toward a safer and better world.

PHOTO CREDIT: Newsweek Photo from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after US bombing raid destroyed the clinic, killing at least 30 people and injuring many more, October 2015.

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