If you want a good scare, don’t read Stephen King late at night — read the Department of Homeland Security’s latest bulletin on national terrorism.

Careful, though. If you do, you may not want to leave your house for a while.

First, it describes the domestic terrorists you’ve been hearing so much about lately, the “lone offenders against minority communities, schools, houses of worship, and mass transit …” as the bulletin says. They are armed, dangerous and mostly random in their targeted victims.

Some of these, such as the suspect in the Buffalo, New York, shooting at a grocery store, are motivated by conspiracy theories revolving around “white genocide” or the “great replacement” of the white race. Others, like the suspect in the April attack on a New York City subway during rush hour, were applauded by al-Qaida and ISIS.

Add to this mass murders, such as the one involving little children in Uvalde, Texas, where the motive is less clear.

But the danger isn’t confined to those. The bulletin goes on to talk about people upset with perceived weaknesses at the U.S.-Mexico border, which may be used to “justify violence against individuals, such as minorities and law enforcement officials involved in the enforcement of border security.”

Then there is the recently leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that might signal that abortion law will soon be turned over to the states. Homeland Security is looking for possible violence to break out on both sides of that issue. 

Perspective: How to have a better conversation about abortion

And don’t forget the midterm election in November. The bulletin says, “... we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events and election workers will likely increase.”

If you doubt the seriousness of these warnings, look no further than the murder last week of retired Judge John Roemer in Wisconsin, allegedly at the hands of someone he had sentenced to prison 17 years earlier. The suspect reportedly had a hit list of other government officials, including the governor of Wisconsin.

Topping it all off, the bulletin says the nation’s foreign enemies — China, Iran and Russia, for starters — are watching all of this closely and “have sought to contribute to U.S. internal discord and weaken its focus and position internationally.” They do this by providing megaphones for all the above, the things “that radicalized individuals have cited to justify violence.”

Social media is laced with threads tied to each of these, as are darker sites away from the mainstream internet, where hatred spreads like cockroaches in the night. 

It’s enough to paralyze any good citizen. But then, anything bad can look overwhelming when viewed through a magnifying glass.

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I don’t pretend to have the answers. Politicians could, and should, compromise on gun-related measures, mental health funding and extra money for police departments. These could prevent some crimes from ever happening, but they wouldn’t address the motives and causes underlying these crimes.

Long-term answers take time and need to begin small, with you and me.

At least, that’s what I get from reading the growing research on human goodness, or what researchers call “moral elevation.”

Amid all the talk of copycat crimes that mimic horrible acts, we often forget that the opposite is true, too. Acts of human goodness generate copycats, too. A lot of research bears this out. I choose to focus on a study published a few years ago in Biological Psychology

It involved 104 college students who were shown videos depicting acts that were either heroic, compassionate or simply amusing, while their hearts and brains were being monitored to see any changes in what are known as parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. 

Researchers found changes in both, at least with the heroic and compassionate videos. The students who watched mere entertainment experienced neither.

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The results showed that people who viewed the suffering of others being alleviated felt a release of stress and a desire to act similarly to other people.

Sarina Saturn, a researcher at Oregon State University and co-author of the study, told Berkeley’s Greater Good magazine, “It’s kind of cool to see that what’s happening in your body is an impetus to prosociality and inspires people to give and be kind.”

Again, being kind isn’t a quick answer to the violence around us. No matter how disconcerting it is, we should read the Homeland Security Bulletin and understand the dangers.

But don’t underestimate the power of kindness, either. As the late South African Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” 

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