The news is full every day of the disturbing pictures and harrowing stories of the hundreds of thousands of refugees bent on fleeing the awful wars in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, children and others drowning in make-shift boats, families hiking for hundreds and thousands of miles, fences erected and much more. Much of the crisis was generated by the invasion of Iraq thirteen years ago by an American government claiming its justification as a response to 9/11, even though Iraq was not involved with 9/11. Germany seems to be stepping up mightily in offering asylum for at least 800,000 persons and a number of other countries are also reaching out to assist the dispossessed. Others, not so much. Within countries there is considerable debate concerning the loss of one’s culture, the dilution of one’s cultural identity, etc. It is not an easy time for responsible citizens and governments to make sound decisions. But it is such a crisis that tests the moral fiber of a people. I have heard from my brother, now living in Iceland with his Icelandic wife, that there is much discussion and debate in the streets and cafes, etc. about the best course of action.
But in the United States I hear practically no debate and no discussion from our politicians or government employees or media. The silence is deafening. It is as if this is “something happening over there” and not something that affects us all. Yet because we are all humans it does affect us all and because our government did actually play a fundamental role in making the crisis happen, having created the vacuum in Iraq from our ill-fated invasion there, it is our concern. America made ISIS possible.
What can America do? How many openings can we create for refugees from the middle eastern wars? These are questions far more pertinent than How many times Donald Trump can make wild headlines for example. Why are we not asking these questions?
The bigger question I see unfolding is that of reptilian brain (war) vs. mammal brain (compassion and kinship). There is no question that humankind is in a profound struggle with itself about exactly this issue: Will we continue to choose the domination of the reptilian brain (example: as a species we are spending $58 per second on war and weapons)? Or will we opt for a more dominant role for our mammal brains—which are the brain of kinship, community and compassion? We see Europe facing that very choice at this time. One prays they do not flunk the test. Is America ready for the same challenge? If not, why not?
If humanity is to survive our very evolution must be marked by a choice on behalf of our mammal brains at the expense of our reptilian brains. If we don’t evolve, we will not survive. The present crisis is, as they say, a profound opportunity. An occasion for growing up, for growing more fully human. Let us not flunk this opportunity.