By Dr. Dean Aslinia
Watching the news these days, it is filled with grim realities of the uncertain and dangerous world we live in. As a psychotherapist and professor of counseling, I am often faced with questions from parents of “what do I tell my children?” “How do I keep them away from danger and high anxiety?” The simplest answer I often provide is that adults need to be honest with children. We live in a world where danger no longer only looms in dark and quiet places. In fact, some of the most dangerous places are now the most populated, and what is otherwise perceived to be secure zones. This is because we are now fighting with a new level of criminal activity; the type that is rooted in an uninformed, uneducated ideology that brain washes individuals into believing that killing themselves and others will somehow result in eternal peace. From a psychological perspective, when one is determined to do whatever it takes to achieve a goal, there is seldom a defense. Therefore, being honest with our children and informing them of the dangers in the world is the best policy. Being vigilant and aware of our surroundings have always been, and will continue to be our first line of defense. Another aspect that parents can utilize in easing their children’s fears is to provide them assurance on the things they can control. As parents, we must re-assure our children that they are loved and provided with everything parents can offer. We must understand that making grand promises that bad things will never happen to anyone in our families are flawed and potentially dangerous guarantees that we should avoid.
If there is any good news for those living in the U.S., it is that we have managed some things better than Europe. This may serve as a saving grace for all of us, and perhaps a major reminder of the path we should continue. As someone who analyzes the psychological factors involved in world events, I perceive identifiable underpinnings in recent terrorist attacks in Europe. I believe that large European countries such as France and Great Britain have been targets of terrorist attacks because of their hesitation to allow immigrant Muslim citizens to acculturate and assimilate in their culture. This hesitation has existed for several generations, and unfortunately has evolved into the situation today, where their children and grandchildren are living through the implications. From a sociology and anthropology perspective, these young migrants are as French or British as their other non-Muslim counterparts. These migrants are born outside of their native country, speak both native and local languages, and have merged their local and native cultural experiences. They have often never traveled to their native land, and typically their only understanding of their culture is vicariously through their parents or grandparents. Nevertheless, their psychological and emotional perceptions impede their feelings of belonging in the country they live in. They realize that because of their skin color and ethnic origin, they are discriminated against in the country they predominantly call “home”. Many of them are without jobs, living in areas where immigrant populations live, segregated from locals. These simple factors lead to the gradual development of inferiority complexes, that when not addressed, can lead to acts of retaliation or revenge.
Alternatively, the U.S. is for the most part, a welcoming nation to migrants. Our history illustrates that those who want to pursue the American Dream are granted the freedom to fully assimilate and acculturate into the American culture. Immigrants live side-by-side in our communities, and collaborate with us on the advancement of goals in the workplace. We have allowed these same individuals to hold political offices and to have a voice alongside us. These simple actions have helped our migrants from feeling different, isolated and neglected. It is for this reason that our country is less likely to encounter acts of terror. This history of success functioning of our society should serve as a reminder that when we are kind to our neighbors, they are less like to resort to acts of retaliation.