There are a lot of really stupid people in this world. Some I believe I’ve met personally, others I’ve witnessed in the various media. I’d even be willing to bet Vegas money that there are people that I’ve met in my 32 trips around the sun thus far who have considered me stupid, or at least certain things that I’ve done. And still others, pop up every once in a while and when they do, it never ceases to amaze me. I just find it unfortunate that this particular demonstration of ineptitude and a scorching lack of common sense was given in the context of perhaps the most sensitive social issues of our day – terrorism.

This week, a man from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, was arrested by federal law enforcement officials for allegedly threatening to attack seven NFL stadiums this weekend with dirty bombs. The threats were apparently the result of a writing contest between the 21-year-old and a companion trying to outdo each other in conjuring up different types of threats. Ah, there’s nothing quite like exploiting the already fragile psyche of the American public in the name of good ol’ one-ups-manship.

This case hits particularly close to home for me since I currently live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, of which Wauwatosa is a suburb. Over the last few weeks our country has seen some especially disturbing behavior, not the least of which has been the plague of school shootings and other types of threats against what truly is the world’s most precious resource – our children. The difference however, on a surface level at least, might be that those types of crimes, as senseless and tragic as they are, can be attributed to severe mental illness if not just plain stupidity. A perusal of the offenders’ respective backgrounds and upbringings typically will turn up a history of some type of abuse and/or neglect which in many cases comes to a head in the form of school shootings, murder-suicides (or botched ones), and hostage situations.

Our friend in Wauwatosa is of a different breed. There was something that blocked his sense of what is common. That voice in the mind that tells the rest of us “such-and-such probably isn’t a good idea. Let’s make sock puppets instead” was somehow muted. The switch in the human spirit that turns on the light of repulsion at the first sign of unthinkable thoughts had either malfunctioned or functioned perfectly well only to be completely ignored by this particular end-user. I’m inclined to point my finger at the latter but it may not even be relevant at this point. Or perhaps better stated, in pointing at ignorance I am pointing to a much larger painting with two possible interpretations.

The first is that behavior like that of this young man is unacceptable at best and life-threatening at worst. People like this should be removed from the general public and made an example of by allowing the judicial system prosecute him beyond the extent of the law. His parents must have severely dropped the childrearing ball to cause their offspring to do something so reprehensibly irresponsible since he obviously doesn’t know or doesn’t care about what society expects of him. He’s a threat to himself and to anyone he comes in contact with. His freedom is too risky and needs to be taken from him as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.

The second, regretfully, is that when compared with the way the world is today in 2006, behavior like this is more or less par for the course. What really causes someone to carry out a Columbine or a 9/11 or any one of the atrocities that man has carried out upon fellow man? What is really at the root of a decision to follow through with something so destructive and polarizing, or as in this case, to create the deception thereof? Make no mistake, the young man in Wauwatosa is indeed responsible for what he has done and should be held to account. But he doesn’t exist in a vacuum. He is a product of his upbringing which is a product of not only his immediate and extended family (although they are primary) but of the world that surrounds him, the world he has had no choice but to interact with, and allow to interact with him, since his earliest memory, i.e. the rest of humanity, i.e. you and me.

Permit me, if you will, to be a bit of a wet blanket for just a moment. Consider our portrayal as a species in popular culture and in the news media. The sensational images that we are bombarded with everyday: nuclear testing, wars and rumors of wars, the nonstop threat of terrorism in all its conceived and yet-to-be-conceived forms, pedophilic clergymen, pedophilic congressman, identity theft, corporate and judicial corruption, white collar crime, kids killing kids in schools, kids killing grown-ups in schools, kids killing…period, physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse of children, divorce, shaken baby syndrome, abortion, and…well I could go on almost indefinitely couldn’t I? But what is going on “out there” can all be traced back to what goes on “in here”, that is, in the one place over which we should have the most control – our individual homes.

And so now, in drawing this article to its conclusion, we are required to look beyond what is tangible. We are required to look for the source of our problems in places beyond what we can lay our eyes and hands upon. We are required to do the same in regards to the solutions to those problems as well. We are required to look at the Eternal. The root of all good and of all evil is not in anything seen but in things unseen. There is an order that was once established. A plan. A way things were supposed to have been.

That plan has clearly been perverted.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. My laundry list above is not who we are, it is only a portrayal of what we do. People can be the products of better surroundings. The silver lining on this cloud is that we have a choice. And once we’ve made a choice, we have the power to carry it out – good or bad. We have the power to understand that the choices we make affect so much more than just ourselves or even just the people who are alive when the choice is made. Generation Future is affected by Generation Now and Generation Now is dealing with the decisions of Generation Past. So when we see someone like this young man in Wauwatosa who threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, we must ask ourselves “how do we affect change in order to keep this from happening?” Do we keep doing what we’ve been doing and looking to what and who is seen to implement real change? Or do we close our collective eyes and take a leap of faith by looking to what and Who is unseen? Whatever we do, we need to do it right now, if not sooner. Maybe our homes would be a good place to start.

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