Not all terrorism has religious motives. Sometimes it's political, sometimes economic, often a combination of all three or more.
But what all terrorism seems to have in common is that it affects the way people think about their own security. Not all people and not all in the same way, but clearly people factor in to their lives in some way the possibility that they might become victims of a terrorist attack.
But what do we know about those responses? That's what this ReportLink survey tried to assess: How has terrorism affected the way Americans live today?
Adjusting for my general skepticism about the accuracy of a lot of polling, I found it a little surprising, to say nothing of disheartening, that 64 percent of those surveyed "say they’re more anxious when congregating in a public area or riding on public transportation."
I'm not exactly sure what it means to be "more anxious," however, because I really don't know the level of their anxiety before the several terrorist attacks in the last year or so. And if "more anxious" simply means being more aware of one's surroundings, more vigilant about things that don't look right, perhaps it's a good thing and not a sign of paranoia.
It's clear that this presidential race has ratcheted up the fear level of many Americans -- often for no reason other than to scare voters into supporting one candidate (Donald Trump) over another. For instance, Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric, including his false assertion that he saw film on TV of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks the day of the attacks, has added to the tension in the country and with no discernible advantage to society.
Some of the reaction of Americans to terrorism simply makes no sense to me. For instance, as the ReportLink story to which I've linked you reports, "In the decade leading up to and including the San Bernardino attack, just 38 Americans had been killed by terrorists on U.S. soil, compared to 280,024 killed by gun violence." And yet much of the political rhetoric seems aimed at stirring up fear about terrorism, not at finding ways to lower gun violence.
Whoever is elected Nov. 8, the reality is that all Americans will continue to live with the reality of terrorism in the world -- and occasionally in the U.S. Whether they can make a few adjustments to keep themselves safe or, by contrast, give into fear and react irrationally remains to be seen.
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A TWIN CITIES DISPLAY ABOUT MARTIN LUTHER
For the first time outside Germany, a number of items related to Martin Luther, who kicked off the Protestant Reformation in 1517, are on display at the Minnesota Institute of Art in Minneapolis. It even includes the pulpit where he preached his final sermon (and from which, probably, he saw certain members of his congregation doze off).
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P.S.: My latest column for Flatland, KCPT's digital magazine, now is online here. It describe efforts to create an interfaith religious literacy center in Kansas City.