Driving up to Burning Man often coincides with major, often tragic, world events. One year it was the protracted siege by militants, of a school full of children and adults in Beslan, Russia. Another year, it was Hurricane Katrina, one of the worst disasters in US history, which effectively destroyed the city of New Orleans. This year, my drive out coincided with a fear campaign by media conglomerates that drummed up fear of a supposed new threat to our very well-being, a brand new terrorist organization with a new name and new attitude, ISIS!
Not to belittle the threat that is truly there, but the odds of a US citizen being killed by a terrorist is a small fraction of the odds that he or she will be wrongly killed by a police officer in the execution of his or her duties. Not to mention that ISIS is entirely a product of US intervention, and all of their weapons say Made in USA.
So I had pulled into the colossal parking lot of the Walmart in Wadsworth, Nevada. This was the last major spot of civilization on the way to Burning Man. Only small towns remained ahead, which, though they did cater to burners, were not equipped to fully outfit everyone. I caught a short nap in my car before heading into the store to clean myself up a bit, and get some last minute items.
Back at my car, I encountered a gentlemen of Wadsworth at his pickup truck in the opposing space. His truck was empty; he wasn't going to Burning Man, but saw that I was and we began a conversation. He was older than I and seemed to have a conservative bent, which would be fitting for this rural Nevada town. He said he had been to Burning Man once, but the harsh desert conditions were not for him. He talked of the event, predictably, as a festival of wild debauchery. Not entirely untrue, of course, but hardly the whole story, but I happily indulged him with a smile and nod.
Then he expressed concern, that at a large festival like that, that we were open to a terrorist attack from ISIS. I was a mix of shocked and amused. I told him that it was highly unlikely that Burning Man would make the most attractive target for a terrorist strike, compared to, say, New York or Los Angeles. The weather and terrain conditions on the playa make anything out there a daunting task, let alone sneaking around in the blank whiteness to plant explosives, or whatever this man might've feared they'd do. No, this was just more warmongering hysteria drummed up by our media. This man had no doubt been watching his fox "news", and moralizing about the hippie rave in the desert, and just put two and two together.
I did what I could to comfort his fears, or fantasies, or whatever, and bid him goodbye. I take nothing personal from this encounter, as he was merely carrying and passing on the message of fear that had been given to him by the innocuous-looking television in his home.
Please, if you are worried about attacks from a foreign invader, have a look inside yourself and see if there's anything within you that is attacking, invading, angry, or belligerent. What we fear and hate in others is that they reflect back to us some part that we fear and hate within ourselves. Pointing to an outside enemy, or to "those people" as the ones that need to be fixed, or killed, is a distraction from real problems right at home, right in our own communities, in our institutions, and in our own bodies.
Let's all look within to face and address the real issues.
|"AMERICA FIGHTS TERRORISM" copyright 2008 David Fleischmann, the free radical|