Letter To The Editor: ISIS, Terrorism, And Fear

Los Alamos

I’m sure any terrorist will site some reason to validate their belief that their nihilistic violence is a good means to whatever end they seek. ISIS is no exception. They have been successful through their propaganda in recruiting young, marginalized men from all over the world.

I think it’s important to recognize they are attracting young men (not old), men of an age in which the prefrontal cortex has yet to fully develop and who thus lack an important requirement for accurate long-term decision-making. Consciously or not, ISIS takes advantage of this in their recruitment tactics.

ISIS wants to create terror, and they seem to have an excellent plan for doing so. They have taken advantage of the power vacuum created by Syria’s civil war to gain strength and territory. They terrorize those Syrians who don’t convert to their fanaticism (as a Catholic who has Muslims as friends, I could never call ISIS’s ideology Islam) and send them fleeing as refugees. As those refugees overwhelm neighboring countries, ISIS executes terrorist acts within those countries knowing they will receive wide media coverage.

Then they wait, knowing that the people of those countries who they have succeeded in terrorizing will react from their fear in a unwelcoming manner to those refugees ISIS had created. The resulting alienation felt by the refugees will, within a short time, increase the numbers of those who are vulnerable to the terrorists’ lies and propaganda. Whether intentionally or not, ISIS has created a positive feedbackrecruitment plan.

So what can you and I do? The first step is not to fall into the terrorists’ trap of fear. We really have nothing to fear but fear itself. When we act from fear, we make decisions at the level of rats –young rats with no prefrontal cortex. When we act from fear, we turn our back to refugees fleeing for their lives from ISIS. When we act from fear, we let the terrorists win.

We can help defeat ISIS by supporting those who have risked their lives and those of their families when they opposed ISIS in Syria. We need to do our share and welcome them into our country. The benefits of supporting them and showing them who Americans are and what America is all about will pay dividends by creating allies, not terrorists, and will exponentially outweigh the small risk of letting a terrorist cross our boarder.

As I tell my grandchildren, it’s OK to fear something. Fear tells us to be careful. But we should never let fear dictate how we act. We must let our fear pass and find the courage to do what is right.