No, we can never be 100% safe, but there are steps that communities can take to offer protections against terrorist attacks.
While flag-waving has value as an expression of patriotism and loyalty to one’s government, it does little in terms of providing actual solutions to serious problems.
Terrorism is not new to the USA. We’ve always had terrorists among us and as I mentioned earlier with the example of Kehoe who in 1927 blew up a public school killing 38 children and injuring 58 others. [Had he been able to fully realize his plans, Kehoe would have killed hundreds of people but something went wrong with his detonator.] We are likely to have people like this among us always – here in the USA and all over the world.
However, particularly in addressing the issues of the current wave of terrorists who claim to be Islamic, there are several things that Americans can do to improve this situation.
1) Figure out ways to identify and reach out to individuals in our community (and in fact the world if we have those means) who are in a downward spiral away from identification with their community and do something to pull them back in so they reestablish their identity and connection to the community. We know the profile of the young men who are attracted to terrorist cells. They are between the ages of 20 and 30 and often they are members of a minority group who feel disenfranchised from the larger community and are looking for a place to belong and feel important. With this much knowledge, we should be able to do something in the way of intervention/prevention.
2) Teach our children how to think and reason--not merely regurgitate “facts” they are told by adults. I've just this past week suggested to some of my teacher friends that perhaps we should offer an elective that teaches kids how to be more aware of how advertisers try to manipulate them. The same kinds of tricks that advertisers use, cult leaders and leaders of terrorist cells use to recruit their young impressionable victims. There is a lot of value for our kiddos in learning [how] advertisers manipulate them. PBS has a fabulous course for kids on advertising tricks of the trade. It is absolutely fabulous. I would love to see every single one of our kiddos exposed to this information.
3) Educate people regarding all the many faces of Islam. Just a one-page fact sheet might open the eyes of some people--especially when parallels are drawn between Muslims and Christians. Although I’m sure there are those who would take exception, I find it quite amazing how similar their organizations are. For example, both religions are broadly divided into two factions. For the Muslims, it’s the Shia and the Sunni. For the Christians, it's the Catholics and the Protestants.
Both religions are fractured into many sects. Islam is divided into at least 50 different sects or schools of thought and many of these sects are as different from each other as the Westboro Baptist Church is from the larger body of the Baptists.
To view adherents of Islam as one giant united sweeping body of locusts bent on world domination, as some do, would be laughable if this mistaken viewpoint did not come with awful consequences for innocents.
When people tell me that "a Muslim is a Muslim, they are all the same", they reveal a certain lack of knowledge regarding the Muslims and their complex religion. For one specific example, they show they do not know that ISIS, a fundamentalist sect of Islam, has vowed to kill all four million Shia Muslims in the world because according to ISIS, the Shia don't follow the law of the Koran. One could hardly say then that the Shia are united with ISIS. Also such a declaration indicates an unawareness of the Muslim persecutions of the Sufi, another Islamic sect (that also has 14 different variations within its own sect). In light of this, think of all the different kinds of Baptist churches.
Muslims are no more united than are the Christians, even within their own narrow sects or schools of thought. There are not just Sufis; there are at least 14 different sects of them and they don’t agree among themselves.
There are not just Sunnis, there are many different sects of them and some of them like ISIS are extreme fundamentalists who interpret their ancient religious text literally while others do not.
Using the Christian religion as a comparison, there are not just Baptists. There are so many Baptist denominations I can’t count them all. Go take a look for yourself.
Also, it’s important to remember the face of Islam is changing and evolving. Among their sects they now have a "non-denominational Muslim" group and just last night on KERA news I saw a story about a group of Muslims in Africa who have begun a sect called "Open-Muslim". Sixty-year-old Taj Hargey, an Oxford University graduate, is the man behind this new mosque– a mosque he sees worthy of being replicated in other parts of the world.
In this Mosque the women can speak and they worship in the main area along with the men. They are also open to the gay community. Several of these "Open-Muslim" mosques have opened up all over the world. A few are in the USA.
Of course there is uproar among many of the other Muslim groups about this, just as there is uproar among many Christian communities regarding acceptance of Gays and welcoming them into their houses of worship. There are Christian Churches in the world where gays are not welcome just as there are Mosques where they are not welcome. No particular religion it would seem has a corner on exclusivity. Among the Christians, for example, many churches have communion that is closed to non-members of that particular Christian branch even though communion is a ritual that is practiced in many, if not most all Christian Churches.
Below are links to that Open Mosque in Cape Town South Africa. Imagine that! A country that was home to the repressive regime of the Apartheid from 1948 to 1994 is today home to this expression of religious freedom in the Islamic faith. Perhaps anything is possible.