© 2008, 2014 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
Bucket Lists and the Past.
When I was a young boy, I was exposed to an exceptional amount of knowledge from adults with wisdom, and I also read much of the ‘Encyclopedia Britannica‘. I was amazed by the exciting differences in the world, the animals, nature, cultures, the arts, exotic places, and the Seven Wonders of the World. I resolved to travel and see them all, the quintessential 10-year-old’s bucket list of dreams; to do exciting things, sail oceans, climb Pyramids, ride majestic elephants, live on coconuts, join the French Foreign Legion, cross the Sahara desert and Africa, find gold and treasures, be an arctic explorer, and live in Africa, hunting for lions, be a cowboy and meet Davey Crockett in the Land of the Free —all at the same time.
Although I learned to dream of adventure, read quite successfully and learn much at a very early age, it is clear now it was impossible to know anything of the future. I did not know, for example, that the Middle East was going to be one of the major hot-spots of political unrest in the world. I did not know it was going to be dangerous, even deadly to travel in 2014 in parts of the world simply because I am Christian; and if I did hear anything about danger, in those days it meant little, for facing danger and being courageous in the face of adversity was one of the primary and nothing less than essential characteristics of heroes in the minds of ten-year-old boys.
In afterthought, I did not really understand why Islam was different, or what a Muslim was, other than the fact that it was practiced by people of a different religion from another culture; precious information endlessly gleaned and absorbed from the dog-eared Encyclopedia Britannica A-Z.
I could not know there was going to be Muslim terrorism or extremists and fanatics destroying the name of Islam at whim in the next century. I did not know terrorism would ultimately be perpetrated freely upon innocents, for I, too, was one of the innocents at that time. I saw no reason for uprisings and discerned no Islamic association with evil, terrorism, or anything of the like. Terrorist horror was ever expected, assumed or even imagined. My family was a family of peace and cross-cultural acceptance. I could not imagine, as a child, any other race or “religious” person committing atrocities upon human beings. There was, after all, no Internet and very little television. Heroes were King Arthur, Roy Rogers, Dick Tracy and Superman. Heroes were part of the bucket list.
To a mere boy, pictures of noble knights in Brittannica, bold Christian crusaders, with bejeweled, silver swords and shiny armour, steel shields bearing crosses in red – were merely a part of the “knights in shining armour” culture that all boys admire at that age –and were easily associated with British tradition, King Arthur, honour and adventure. Such activities were not ‘naturally’ associated with religious, ultra-religious or violent persecution and conquest— just as the activities of Vikings and Persian hordes explored and “adventurously” plundered, courageously killing objectors and stealing beautiful maidens was a natural part of life.
Times change. I have become older, as every one must, and in the process I also became acutely aware of much information and misinformation being scribed on my ‘tabula rasa‘, the hypothetical blank slate of innocence—that now has become contradictory, problematic, or simply no longer remains to apply.
My parents were for the better part self-educated and interested in literally everything in existence, therefore I soon became informed on travel, world affairs, political gamesmanship, warfare, civil and human foibles, history, and tribal fights and fables, wild and woolly, good and bad, truth and fiction.
One of the Arabian fables I unfortunately read was “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”. Men who were emboldened thieves, men that were devious, a concept which contradicted my childhood teaching that a man, above all, must be worthy of trust, keep his word, must be honest and loyal to the end, never compromise his values, and always be protective of the innocent and the underprivileged, especially women and children. That impression and contradiction somehow remains eternally in my memory. Like it or not, in the current state of affairs, distrust has resurfaced in the psyche. Why?
In the interim I had also discovered warfare, the ultimate human admission of failure to reason. World war II came to be understood; Korea, and Vietnam followed and faded, but a solution for the Middle East was never found. Since the state of Israel was arbitrarily formed, far away from North America, we have heard of little other than civil unrest in the middle East, riots, rumors of war, and clearly, much discontent from the Muslim populations in the area. The Suez Crisis, Lebanon, The Six Day War, The Gulf War, the Second Gulf war, the war in Afghanistan, and the Iraq war all come to mind, but those events were only a portion of the violence. Violence and disaster exploded; the contagion of the Arab Spring proliferated. Since 9/ 11 –The Taliban, Hamas, and other extremist groups, politically difficult people, have forced their way into the public psyche, and done so with incomprehensibly bad reputations.
Worse yet is the new but predictable rising of ISIL, a group of terrorists with an ugly, self-empowering agenda, has ‘declared’ a self-proclaimed “caliphate” extolling extreme, brutal aberrations of “Islam”. Their genocidal activity now includes territory in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, on the border of Turkey. The world objects to their brutal and blatant beheading of innocent westerners —and has declared a bombing campaign to ‘reduce’ ISIL.. War guaranteed. Not surprising is it?
In overview: A change of Bucket-List Reality
In the last 10 years, we have seemingly not had a single news broadcast without shootings, terrorism, Muslim fanaticism, Islamic discontent, suicide bomber attacks, mindless violence of all forms. It seems Islamic fanaticism has metastasized globally, and the name of Islam is invariably implicated in, by far, the majority of trouble spots.
Has that aspect of civilization made anyone feel secure and encouraged to travel and explore? No. Virtually every trouble spot in the world today, for some reason or the other, invariably involves Islam. The reader must decide why. Making things ever worse, some bitter, angry and archaic “learned Muslim clerics” leaders of Islam, declare Jihad for violence and call for destruction of all “infidels”.
As a digression, perhaps being labeled an “infidel” should not be considered offensive, but that label vicariously suggests the description of a person with fidelity and loyalty to nothing, having diminutive or no value, and most particularly, NO belief in a valid God. I digress, but in defense of human nature, the specific “attributed label” of ‘infidel’ directly suggests disrespect and must, like it or not, ultimately affect the way one thinks.The label is, frankly, offensive. No matter, we’re adults. As a Christian I happen to believe in God, and very much so. I also make no apology for my lifetime, chosen faith.That’s the way it is, and will remain so. So much for political correctness.
The majority of Muslim clerics, the leaders, and the Muslim population remain silent when events of extreme violence are conducted by fanatic murderers in the “name of Islam”, although it is likely they do so in fear of reprisal from the fanatics themselves. No matter, the reason for silence is almost irrelevant; the impression, the societal attitude, the sense of distrust, in fact, the very cast of absolute distrust has been created .
Although I fully believe that as a global citizen, I should feel free to travel anywhere in the world much as I would have as a child, and I do remain blessed with courage that is unflagging, it is with much difficulty that I have concluded, considering the memory of distrust, and the current state of word affairs particularly since 9/11, that sadly, the Muslim world is clearly not a particularly safe place to travel. In fact for the last ten years, it has been a demonstrably dangerous.
Kindly do not blame me for thinking so, because I , like every human being, am merely a product of a new, unacceptable, incomprehensible and violent world village where people, even women, mindlessly blow themselves up and kill hundreds of innocent people including other women and children annually. Kidnappers, impotent, cowardly Muslim self-appointed power brokers carrying ‘big guns’ persist in trying to force their ugly agenda upon my civilization, display their brutality and publicly behead unfortunate western victims as a ‘tactic’. Wow……. Were I a total fool or a delusional idiot, I would think those actions normal in ‘war’. They are not normal. Let us keep that straight.
The Conundrum for Islam and Muslims
Regardless of what the rest of the global population thinks, Islamic leaders, and Muslim populations, collectively and curiously, continue to remain essentially silent. Why on earth would a culture and religion now so badly maligned by a few, a mere fraction of itself, —remain silent? The derivative question then must be, ” Is there something to remain silent about?” In observation of humanity, it is excruciatingly difficult NOT to draw conclusions and imagine stereotypes where endless incidents of terrorism in real life are repeatedly committed in the name of Islam. Shall Muslims next door and world-wide rightfully be considered to be potential authors of terror because of that silence? No. It is painfully obvious that not all Muslims are terrorists, but the sad fact is, the seeds of Muslim extremism and potential global terrorism have been successfully planted and cultivated in the minds of people world-wide. Much distrust of Islam clearly exists. Can that situation be corrected? Not in the foreseeable future. That wish is simply too large to fit in any bucket list.
After the tragedy of 9/11, in a state of shock, society demonstrated the logical tendency to shift into a mode of self-preservation. As a result, I too, therefore arbitrarily would tend to avoid unnecessary travel, especially into politically unstable areas. Clearly a call for caution is today, borne on the wind.
Reality and the Bucket List Now
As a realistic practitioner of civility ingrained with logic, common sense and human decency, I prefer to concentrate on peaceful endeavours . Instead of travel, and worrying myself sick about things I cannot change, I do other, more productive things. If my reaction is representative as a realistic poll of humanity, life itself, suffered damage from Muslim fanaticism. It is my fondest wish that civilization has the wisdom to question, resolve, re-examine and re-evaluate circumstance as times change.
Let’s talk to the boy again. The question must be asked: Will he, now an adult and a fully informed adventurer, disillusioned by atrocities, brutality, mass executions, all crimes against humanity itself —eventually wander into the middle East as a tourist to fulfill childhood dreams to scratch those wishes from the bucket list? Not likely. Ever. Time is growing short. Frankly, it makes me wonder why humanity has learned nothing but violence in the last few thousand years.
As life exists today, travel can be deadly dangerous —even to volunteer and participate in remedial health and international relief efforts. Only time itself, and a universal, honest, and overwhelming declaration of Global Peace by all Muslim religious leaders in ALL factions and countries —will change the political reality necessary to heal the wounds of Muslim extremism. Today, because of the improbability of that quantum change ever occurring, the world appears to be damaged irrevocably. Feel free to comment. I want readers to think for themselves. What do YOU think?
Is that Incoming I hear?