Editor’s Note: Last year was a mess. We can hope 2016 will be better, but there is no reason to expect any improvement. It’s an election year, and the none of the candidates from either party is entirely a positive figure. 

Riddle Me This


What can you say about 2015? It was violent, confusing and murderous — from two Islamic mass killings in Paris and the genocide in Syria to multiple shootings in South Carolina, Colorado and California by racist, pro-life and Muslim-American terrorists, respectively. The past year has raised a lot of questions, the answers to which seem to depend largely on one’s political leanings.

The gun control debate raged throughout the year. I’ve never owned a firearm myself, because I’d be more likely to shoot my wife or my dog than a burglar, but would gun ownership make me more or less safe? The U.S. has 320 million guns, and we’re one of the most murderous countries in the developed world, but would we be safer if we had even more weapons, and everyone carried them openly, as if it were the Wild West?

And what about our military budget? The U.S. currently spends more than the world’s next 10 nations combined. However, it’s an election year, so Donald Trump is claiming we need an even larger military. What level of spending would be enough? And how would we even pretend to be interested in balancing the budget while increasing our outlay in the country’s single-largest area of discretionary spending?

Conservatives remain obsessed with Benghazi. No matter how many times Mrs. Clinton is cleared, Republicans insist on more hearings, the conclusions of which they then reject. The question I’ve never been able to have answered is why it’s so important to them that this atrocity was caused by ordinary terrorism, rather than an inflammatory video? Either way, Islamic thugs killed our people — so why does it matter what inspired them? Is the Obama administration (i.e., Hillary) somehow more to blame one way than the other?

Also controversial is the Iran nuclear deal. Nearly everyone on the Right opposes it, but what’s their alternative? Conservatives say we need to “get tough” with Iran, but what does that mean … another invasion? These same people also want to get tough with the Islamic State, but no one seems to want American boots on the ground. Ted Cruz has suggested carpet bombing and making the desert glow, but that just makes me question his seriousness as a potential commander in chief.

The war in Syria makes me wonder, why is America obliged to take in large numbers of refugees? The Syrians have never been our friends or allies, so how did they become our responsibility? Before we do it, we should find out how allowing waves of immigration from that region has worked out in Europe — in France, for instance, or in liberal Sweden, which now wants to send 80,000 Muslim immigrants back, or in Cologne, Germany, where large numbers of women have been assaulted by Islamic refugees.

Our government claims to vet immigrants thoroughly, but I’d like to know how it’s done and how well it’s working. Is someone checking license photos with the Damascus or Baghdad DMV? Does anyone believe that asking asylum seekers whether they’re terrorists works? Do terrorists have the urge to tell the truth about their motivations?

Trump has suggested banning all travel by Muslims into the U.S. The religious discrimination and constitutional issues aside, someone needs to ask how we determine who’s a Muslim and who isn’t. Passports don’t have an entry for the bearer’s religion. If being Islamic keeps immigrants out of America, do you think they’ll tell the truth, or will there be a sudden spike in Syrian and Iraqi “Christians” applying for asylum?  

Trump opened his campaign claiming Mexican immigration is a crisis, because so many Mexicans are “rapists and drug dealers.” With net Hispanic immigration now at less than zero, is this realistic or just fear mongering? At a New Hampshire church, Trump led a Baptist-style “call and response,” asking, “Who’s paying for the wall,” to which the whitest congregation ever repeatedly shouted, “Mexico.” I’d like to hear a call that asks, “Why would they do that?” but I doubt I’d hear a believable response.

It’s a bit hard to be frightened of the Hispanic immigrants who want to cut my lawn when ISIS wants to cut my head off. Talk show host Bill Maher has said that the more you learn about the Koran and Islam, the scarier both become. Such talk is often labeled “racist Islamophobia,” but someone needs to explain to me when Islam became a race.

Like religious fanatics of all stripes, devout Muslims are often scary. However, the hatred and rabble-rousing aimed at Muslims that’s taking place on social media, especially from the Right, is also scary. Because, in the end, even if we all were to agree that Islam represents a danger, what should we do about it? (Please don’t tell me we need to “get tough.”) And what, exactly, do we expect the majority of Muslims in America, who just want to live their lives, to do about the radicals?

There are 1.5 billion Muslims spread across the globe. No matter what we might think of them, does anyone really believe a war against Islam is practical or desirable? The Caliphate’s jihadists want us to become more like them, and to oppose them with some form of Christian jihad. If we accede to their wishes, doesn’t that mean the terrorists win?

Here at home, it’s conceivable that Trump, a game show host, will be running against Bernie Sanders, a socialist. The U.S. has been socialist since FDR, along with most of the rest of the developed world, but the conventional wisdom says Americans won’t vote for one. My question is, which benefits of democratic socialism — Medicare, Social Security, unemployment compensation, etc. — would we be willing to lose out on?

GOP primary candidates ridicule the idea that manmade climate change is a crisis; however, if it is happening, as 97% of scientists believe, it’s extremely dangerous. Anti-science conservatives (many of whom also reject evolution and the Big Bang) side with the oil companies, which makes me wonder — do they believe that NOAA, NASA, the Pentagon and the rest of the world are merely wrong on this issue, or is it a massive conspiracy conducted by the evil cabal that comprises the scientific community?

And finally, I’d like to ask angry Trump supporters, ostensibly sick and tired of being governed by incompetent, bought and paid-for representatives of the billionaires, elites and oligarchs, why they think plutocracy will be curtailed by cutting out the middlemen and voting in a billionaire oligarch with no experience, instead of someone from the middle class.

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