In Defense of the Past, or What I Want to Teach My Daughter.

 

I apologize that this isn’t my normal style of post. It doesn’t have to do with terrorism or world conflict. This is my opinion. There will be others who disagree, and that’s ok. I did not write this to start an argument, or even to begin a discussion. It is something I feel strongly about, and wanted to share, for my child and others. It is part of how I view the world.

There has long been nostalgia for the idyllic times of the 1950s. People like to romanticize this mythical era of family values, of lesser violence, of simpler times. This was the time of ‘Leave It to Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best,’ fictional accounts of happy families whose day to day problems could be solved in 30 minutes. These families represented the ideal of the times.

There are those who push back against the want of this seemingly happier time in history. It was wrought with racism, bigotry, sexism (while true, it was not universal). They say nuclear families aren’t necessary for happiness. They say religion is no basis for happy lives. Men don’t need to be “men,” and “women” don’t need to be women. Women shouldn’t strive to be vapid housewives. I’ve heard that women shouldn’t want to be stay-at-home moms because they are to be so much more. A working woman is a happy woman. Women shouldn’t be dependent on anyone, let alone a man.

I ask: is there not a place for that anymore?

As my daughter grows, I want her to know that none of it is wrong. There is a place for traditional families, teaching religion-based values, with stay-at-home feminine moms raising feminine daughters while the father works.  In a time when these things are looked down upon, I want my daughter to know that they are still legitimate, that they still have a place in society along with everything and everyone else.

In today’s society, families of all make-ups are acceptable. Single moms, single dads, same-sex parents all share the table with traditional families, yet it’s the traditional families that are deemed old-fashioned and out of date. The mere thought of promoting a traditional family can bring disdain, as if a traditional family automatically means hate. Wonderful children are being raised by families of all types, however, studies continue to show that children in stable, traditional families fare better. It seems, fathers AND mothers know best. And they can coexist in a world of single moms, and two dads, without prejudice.

Just as a father and mother have a place in society, religion has a place in the home today. I am lucky in that my church is one filled – truly – with love. I have never sat through a liturgy filled with hate. Although the Church has a stand on certain issues, they are not preached. What is taught is kindness and forgiveness. That though some may sin, they are not lesser human beings in the eyes of God. Though we may not agree with a person or their choices in life, it does not mean they are worth less or should be demeaned. Of course religion is not required to make a good person. People of one religion aren’t better than those of another. But religion can provide structure for those values we prize, a way to teach and learn. It can provide a community and support for those who have none.

As I stay home to raise my child, I will teach her these things. I have chosen to stop working to raise my child. Of course, I am lucky enough to have a supportive partner. There is no time-frame for me to return to work. I will go back – or not – when or if I am ready. I have worked hard to get my degree in a field I love, but I love my baby more. There is nothing more important to me than raising a good person. In my case, a good person, a good woman, can come in the form of a stay-at-home mom who chooses to dress like a lady, who happily cooks dinner, and who prays. I want my daughter to know that a woman doesn’t need to measure her self-worth by how much she makes, or if she can juggle a family and career. Women don’t need to “have it all” to be a successful woman or person. She can be happy taking care of the family. What better a person than a kind, generous, caring person?

The world is full of contradictions, and my daughter’s mother is no exception. I am proud to be a smart, educated, self-sufficient woman. At the same time, I want to be in a committed family relationship with a strong, caring, masculine man. Feminine women are not weak or submissive. Dresses and heels do not mean a woman is conforming to a sexist ideal, but can be seen as embracing the woman. I don’t want my daughter to think she has to dress in a revealing manner to attract men, nor do I want her to think she has to dress masculine to prove she isn’t giving in to a beauty standard. I want her to be proud of being a woman, that she is different from a man. And I want her to not be afraid recognizing that difference. While there are many women that can do the same things men can, there are many more that cannot. And that’s ok. A girl must find her own role in life, not be forced into one by pressures from men or other women.

Finally, men. This could be a dissertation in itself. Even though her father and I will provide guidance, it’s something my daughter will have to learn along the way, as with all people. But men don’t need to be neatly categorized into good feminist men, and bad masculine men. A strong, religious, old-fashioned man does not automatically mean misogynistic. Traditional gender roles still produce a respectful, devoted, caring, generous man, a man who will provide for his family while teaching his daughter to be self-sufficient. A good man will protect his family, but also encourage independence.

These are, of course, all universal values; no one era owns them. Unfortunately, many of them seem to have been lost to today’s anything goes attitude. Traditional roles and values aren’t so traditional anymore, as more and more people shun them as old-fashioned or even harmful. Sadly, those people are only looking at those who have twisted the meaning and sentiment. Traditional roles and values don’t automatically mean racism or misogyny. It means strong, resilient, and respectful. And these are qualities I want my daughter to have.

 

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The Spanish Threat

In March 2004, ten explosions ripped through the Madrid train system. The blasts killed 192 people, and are widely attributed to an al Qaeda-affiliated organization. The previously unknown group calling itself Abu Nayif al Afghani claimed responsibility for the attacks. Those attacks happened at the time the current government had cooperated with the US on the invasion of Iraq, causing many people to vote in the opposing party, who called for the removal of Spanish troops. The bombings in Madrid achieved what terror is meant to do: cause fear, and change policy.

Since 11-M, as the Spanish refer to the Madrid bombings, there have been no reported incidents of terrorism in Spain. Abu Nayaf al Afghani has all but disappeared. In recent years, eyes have turned to France and Belgium, both countries having been victim to numerous attacks, large and small. But given the number of cells detected and militants captured in Spain, it is only a matter of time before Spain falls victim again, and with it more of Europe.

Since 2011, there have been nearly 200 people arrested on terror-related charges. That is approximately three times as many as were arrested between 1996 and 2012. In late 2015, Spanish terrorism experts released a report revealing the statistics about who made up Spain’s terror threat. Nine out of ten arrested were affiliated in some way with a known terror organization. Of those arrested, over half were born outside of Spain. This year alone, Spain has arrested almost 30 on terror-related charges. A pair of Moroccans were arrested in July were charged with financing a terror organization.

At least 75% of the terror suspects have been residents of the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco, but cells have been interrupted all over southern Spain. The would-be terrorists captured by Spanish authorities are sometimes found to be plotting attacks inside Spain itself, or are involved in recruiting and support efforts. In August 2012, three al Qaeda-connected men were caught plotting to attack Gibraltar. Curiously, two of the men were Chechen, claiming to be in Spain seeking asylum. One Chechen, Eldar Magomedov (AKA Ahmad Avar), was said to have been former Spetsnaz before leaving to join terror training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mohammed Ankari Adamov is also said to have trained in Afghanistan, and is rumored to have been involved in 2011’s Domodedovo Airport bombing.

This is not to say Spanish terrorists are happy to plot inside Spain. Their efforts have reached into neighboring France. One individual was arrested in Malaga in April 2015 on charges of supplying Paris supermarket gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, with arms. While the 27 year-old was a French citizen from Sainte Catherine, the fact that he was in Malaga should be no coincidence. Other potential jihadis have been caught in Malaga, some caught coming from or going to Syria. Months later, Ayoub El Khazzani, a Moroccan-born Spanish resident from Algeciras, was tackled on a Paris-bound train, disrupting an attack.

Yet, Spanish jihadis are not exactly streaming out of the country to join the cause. As of December of 2015, there were an estimated 150 Spanish fighters in Syria and Iraq. A more recent report stated than fewer foreign fighters are joining Islamic State. Does this mean there are fewer individuals willing to join the cause? The answer is likely ‘no.’ Given the recent attacks in Europe – specifically France and Belgium – it makes more sense to assume the fighters are staying put to plan attacks at home. Since Islamic State’s rise to power, more terrorists have switched support from al Qaeda, including affiliate al Nusra, to supporting the cause of IS. Years ago, support for a group calling itself Nadim al Magrebi briefly appeared on the radar. This is notable because of the group’s call to liberate Ceuta and Melilla from Spain. (It is interesting to recall that Ayman Zawahiri once called for the reconquering of al Andalus.) There had been concerns about Islamist infiltration into the Spanish military based in the enclaves. In 2013, there was a document issued by the Spanish Ministry of Defense reporting the detection of radicalism among the ranks.

The trend in terrorist attacks is leaning toward those inspired, rather than ordered directly by, Islamic State. A May 2016 message released by the group called on supporters to attack Europe and the U.S., encouraging lone wolf attacks. Other messages have encouraged Paris-style attacks in Germany and elsewhere. There is no reason to believe that Spanish IS supporters won’t eventually heed the call.

In the last 18 months, France, Belgium, and now Germany have been hit with several terror attacks, from large coordinated events (such as in Paris) to individual attacks, like the most recent in Germany. Since withdrawing from Iraq after the Madrid attacks, Spain has made little waves in the Muslim world. By contrast, France, Belgium, and Germany have actively fought both at home and in the Middle East against Islamic extremism. One attack in France came after that government began airstrikes in Syria, another after they announced they were moving their aircraft carrier to rejoin the fight. Spain, while not committing to airstrikes, vowed to support other countries in their fight against Islamic State.

For now, Spain has been lucky. Many of those arrested have been suspected of supporting terrorists rather than plotting their own attacks. We can hope that the number of arrests by Spanish authorities mean they are getting more proficient at identifying and apprehending the threat. However, we must not kid ourselves into believing that is the only case. That another major attack has not happened in Spain since 2004 does not mean there will not be another. Somebody may just be waiting to take advantage of Spain’s inaction and unpreparedness to attack.