Pivotal Current Events; A Historian's Role


Forum Staff
May 2013
Albuquerque, NM
I don't doubt that the unfolding events in SE Asia is a fundamental and important problem facing the entire world. The nature of that conflict has spilled over into the West intensifying our anxieties and interest.

We in the West have been attacked repeatedly by radical Islamic Terrorist organizations, prompting our military involvement in the region. That involvement doesn't seem to have reduced the threat, though we will probably never know how many attacks have been thwarted and how many of our citizen's lives saved. The radical forms of Jihad are horribly offensive to our Western notions, and demand some response by Western Leaders. Whatever policies are adopted there will be howls of outrage from one group or another.

Western humanitarian values and fashionable PC expects us to welcome the refugees, to feed their hunger and secure their families from the suffering inevitable in any war. Pictures of infants drowned in the desperate attempt to escape destruction and victimization tear our hearts. The Materialistic West has been able to largely contain hunger and sectarian violence. We sleep without being disturbed by fear, and that has a great appeal to folks who have lived in constant fear for years. Our justice system is almost the diametrically opposite of what Middle-Eastern refugees have ever known. Open the doors to victims of the whole violent region, just as we would hope they would receive us if the roles were reversed. Western leaders have reached out a saving hand, but not without significant resistance within their respective countries.

Why the resistance? We are told that a large portion of the refugees are healthy young men, those most likely to survive the transit out of the war zones. Young men unencumbered by family are likely to get into no end of mischief. The risk is compounded when many, if not most, despise Western values, government, and religious diversity. They are drawn to enclaves where their values, their religion, their passion to destroy their enemies are commonly held. They often are seeking sanctuary, but a safe haven only until they can return to the fight with better odds. No women, but Western Women ... "those sluts who show their faces, wear makeup and appear in public with strange men" ... are available, and are only infidels after all." Refugees who take low paying jobs in a sincere effort not to be drag on their hosts, only excite suspicion and prejudice, and so they become more sympathetic to the radicals. Friction and economic conflicts are likely to increase because of the dissonance between our sympathy and our need for defense against a challenge to our way of life.

The effect of large numbers of refugees of different religion, culture, language and even core values on Western nations may be the central problem of our Times. The trend away from regionalism to a fully integrated World is still accelerating. How do we reconcile traditional values and beliefs that may be totally antithetical to World Culture and Economy? There is no answer to the question, but it is fundamental and inescapable.

I believe we need as human beings to think about, discuss the problem from multiple POV in a civil rational way, and analyze various alternatives that might mitigate the problem for all the stakeholders. Overcoming individual agendas isn't easy, but no progress can be made so long as we remain closed minded. This is a History site. If we use this forum for talking about the politics and finding blame, advancing our group's prejudices (whatever they may be) nothing will be accomplished beyond frustration and a hardening of opinions.

As Historians, we are witnesses to an important turning-point(?) in human interaction. As Historians we want to document that is happening by recording honestly and accurately the details. As Historians we should already know that useful insights and judgments come long after the event, not during the emotional heat of conflict.

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