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From the Publisher's Desk – There's no place like home (March 4, 2015 issue)

I am amazed at the scope of differences in people and the various cultures around the world. We are all born as blank canvasses. I often think of a baby as a new computer with lots of storage space. It is up to the original programmer (parent or guardian) and the individual, as he or she ages, to fill that space with whatever direction they research or take.
I just heard on the news where ISIS has been successful using social media to recruit westerners to their cause. Most recently, three high school girls from the UK left the comforts of home for the cold, hard reality of Turkey and, eventually, Syria.
The girls, aged 15-16, boarded an airplane headed for Turkey without leaving any information or a goodbye for loved ones. It is presumed that the girls went to join the estimated 550 women from around the world who have become brides for jihadi fighters.
I have to admit that I haven’t traveled much out of the U.S. My concerns have grown stronger with all the recent turmoil I witness on the news.
I once visited Casablanca, Morocco, as a stop on a cruise. I should have done my research beforehand. I got off the ship in shorts and a polo shirt. The friend I was with could speak Arabic, so we ventured out in a cab to see the sights. We got out at one of the many grand Mosques to tour the grounds. Quickly I felt out of place. The women were all wearing a jellaba, which is a long-sleeved, ankle-length, flowing dress with their faces covered. Here I was with my bare legs peeping out of shorts.
We went by one of the open markets, where locals were selling their beautiful wares. It was best not to look at the men directly and make eye contact because they were very convincing on luring patrons into their space to view items. I was glad to get back to the ship.
My travels have in no means taken me to places of fear. Let’s face it, we face danger day after day on the highway. We get so caught up in our fast-paced lives that we seldom give thought to the fears we encounter or that our country as a whole faces.
It bothers me that we have so much turmoil in the world now and travel dangers have increased. It bothers me that youth are leaving to go join horrible ISIS groups and that generations are being so brainwashed by them and others. I am amazed that we are shown videos of beheadings by these groups.
Maybe bad things have just always been out there. Each generation seems to have something to suffer through whatever it is for the time. Some see war, famine or disease. It’s true we weren’t made to live forever on Earth and hopefully this current condition isn’t intended to be the final end.
I suppose the media is partly to blame for the realness of bringing us the visuals we experience. It seems that even that has become questionable with the credibility of one major news anchor who was recently put on leave.
I remember the trustworthiness of Walter Cronkite showing us the moon landing in black and white. I remember the look on my grandmother’s face when she heard on TV that President Kennedy had been shot. I remember the Tuesday that I was picking up the printed issues of The Erwin Record to bring back to town and heard that the World Trade Centers had been destroyed by airplanes.
I remember the 1977 flood we had throughout Unicoi County because I lived through it. I hiked through the woods on Spivey to reach a steel bridge that had not been washed away by the flood. From there, we got a ride to town and on to Johnson City. We got supplies and had them dropped near the house by a National Guard helicopter.
I remember watching the horrible sights from Hurricane Katrina on TV and then visiting the New Orleans a couple of years later, where damage was still visible and homes still abandoned.
We have withstood many tragedies in the U.S. from floods to fires to tornadoes and hurricanes. We seem to survive and come through strong. I know we need to support other countries with our strength and technology. Lots of times I feel this need is to keep the enemy from taking over smaller countries and increasing their overall power.
I know we are not meant to have peace on Earth but it seems like we’ve come a long way from the simple times. We are all created and governed by a loving God, but some have come so far from listening or from emotion. The new generations come on and stand very little chance of being any different than their surroundings.
It truly makes me grateful for where I live and the freedom I have. I could have easily been born in one of those other environments. However, I just can’t understand why someone would leave their families and normalcy in other areas, such as the UK, to plant themselves in the middle of ISIS turmoil.
Yes, we are all different. We have our conflicts on local levels but we at least have the opportunity to voice our opinions and vote on issues that matter.