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About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Column for December 27, 2015

Demagogues doubling down

With the end of the year fast approaching, I'm devoting this week's column to tying up loose ends and clarifying where I stand on some of the issues swirling around us.

"Reason not the need!" Shakespeare's King Lear thunders when his two oldest daughters question the need for a retired king to retain a hundred knights and squires.

This is essentially the National Rifle Association's response whenever anyone questions the average citizen's need for a military-style assault rifle. The NRA seems to consider the Second Amendment to guarantee an absolute right to own any type of gun. That being the case, why not a howitzer for every home?

I'm engaging in a bit of hyperbole here, of course, to drive home the essential irony of the run on gun sales following the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino. The most popular gun, according to national news reports, has proved to be theAR-15, essentially a civilian version of the military's M16 assault rifle. These buyers are seeking solace in firepower and losing sight of common sense. An AR-15, as with most rifles, does not lend itself to concealed carry. If you subscribe to the view that an armed citizenry is the best proof against a mass shooting, buy a handgun, not a rifle.

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. would certainly agree. Regular readers of this column may recall that I devoted my column of April 21, 2013, to Falwell's initial call to arms ("Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition"). Liberty is a private Christian university, and Falwell had just announced a new policy allowing students, faculty, and staff to carry guns on campus. He bragged that this policy would make Liberty safer than Virginia Tech and other campuses that had suffered mass shootings.

According to recent Inside Higher Ed reports, Falwell has doubled down on the policy. Liberty requires all students to attend weekly convocations, and at the Dec. 4 convocation, Falwell acknowledged that he had a gun in his "back pocket" and encouraged all the students to get their concealed carry permits. If more citizens were armed, he added, we could "end those Muslims" before they could kill anyone. "Let's teach them a lesson if they ever show up here," Falwell said
Way to go, Falwell! Throw down a gauntlet and offer up your university as a test case and a target. That would be my concern were I the parent of a Liberty University student. As I've written before, guns in the hands of trained, seasoned professionals are indeed likely to make us safer. But encouraging young college students — many of whom are feeling overwhelmed with academic and personal pressures — to carry guns is likely to backfire (pardon the pun) on Liberty University.

Questioned later, Falwell denied that he meant to suggest that all Muslims are terrorists who need to be killed. But the seed was planted, and I suspect it will find fertile ground among Liberty's fundamentalist Christian students. Many probably believe we're heading toward a Christian/Muslim Armageddon. And that view seems to have been reinforced by a Liberty professor who, in defending Falwell, reminded students that Christ is not only the "Prince of Peace," but also the "Lion of Judah."
Falwell, I suspect, would find an ally in demagoguery in our leading Republican contender, Donald Trump. Both are exploiting popular fears and prejudices.

On the other hand, the problem with Obama is that he can't seem to allay our fears or counter our prejudices. His recent address to the nation impressed me as just more of the same.

Rhetorically, for instance, I find Obama's linguistic caution to be unnecessary and counterproductive. The phrase "radical Islam" doesn't imply that all Muslims are radical, nor does it disparage Islam in general. Obama's refusal to use the term merely invites criticism and would never change the minds of those who, like Trump, would like to register and discriminate against all Muslims.

Militarily, the linchpin of Obama's strategy remains building a coalition of regional forces. What if that never comes to pass? I wish he had given us some indication of progress on that front. We're only now stepping up our adviser and special-operations-forces commitment to make that happen.
Hence, I stand by my previous position: America has to take the lead in this fight, even if it means committing ground troops.

Two of my critics have called me an alarmist and charged me with echoing the discredited hawkish argument over Vietnam — e.g., that we have to fight them there so that we don't have to fight them here. But it's a false analogy. The NVA and VC had no intention of following us back home. They just wanted us gone. Not so with ISIS. Is there really any doubt that they aspire to attack us here?

Ed Palm is a community columnist for the Kitsap Sun. He is a Marine Corps veteran and former dean at Olympic College. He lives in Silverdale. Contact him at efpalm@centurylink.net. 

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