Two weeks ago, I wrote about paranoia in Middle America. Last week, I wondered about the nuclear deal with Iran. A recent experience and a reader’s comments induce me to amplify my remarks.
Regarding paranoia, many Americans fear both crime and an encroaching federal government. They often turn to guns for protection. Fear of Washington is misplaced, I believe. Not so fear of crime—particularly in small towns and rural areas.
Carolyn and I spent last weekend among the redwoods up north in Humboldt County with my cousin and her husband—I’ll call him Bob. Summer days reach 100 degrees. Nights cool down. Perfect for growing marijuana. Seemingly powerless, Humboldt civic leaders throw their hands in the air—or look the other way. The economy depends on pot. Many Humboldt residents oppose legalization to keep the industry in place, prices high and money circulating.
Big-time operators, including Mexican cartels according to Bob, have established huge grows. Bob points to the mountains—challenging terrain for law enforcement. Big grows exist on federal and tribal (Hoopa) lands. Growers level hilltops and divert streams. They set out poison to kill “invasive” deer. They’re also heavily armed. You don’t want to hike up there.
Job seekers abound. But growers hire only people they trust. Rebuffed, unsavory characters engage in crime. In Bob’s quiet neighborhood, break-ins occur with disturbing frequency. Several took place while we were there. One neighbor doesn’t bother locking his door. It’s cheaper to lose something trivial than replace a doorframe. Guns go off. Saturday night, I heard a rifle shot. Possibly someone was hunting—illegally. (Summers, deer forage at night.) Or someone spotted an intruder. Bob—no paranoid—keeps a .38 handy.
Now to Iran. Chris, a friend of a regular reader, states that Americans misunderstand that country. Having lived in Iran and traveled extensively, he believes that Iranians don’t mean it when they march, chanting “Death to America! Death to Israel!” It’s all a wink-and-nod affair. The marchers are bused in and paid. They also get “brownie points” from the government. University admission might ride on participation. Chris also emphasizes that the government is weaker than Americans think. “There are so many cabals and power camps that it makes ours look like streamlined, FAR more complex than red vs. blue.”
My response: No and yes. No, not all Iranians hate America. Or even Israel (not so sure there). Yes, Iran’s threat in the Middle East is real. Most Iranians may wish only to pursue their education, careers and family matters. But the ayatollahs and the military, chiefly the Republican Guard, still hold their fingers on the trigger to extend Iran’s influence. They support their regional proxies in doing the same. When Tehran—the government as opposed to the people—launches its version of street theater, the world rightly takes such hostility seriously. Still, I agree that ordinary Iranians have much in common with us.
Bottom line: I’m skeptical that we’ll enhance our security by arming ourselves to the teeth at home. Or dropping bombs half a world away. But let’s listen to those who fret that the world can be a scary place. It can be. Common sense might lead us to common ground. And wouldn’t that be refreshing?
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