Amer­ica’s all-around big­oted def­i­ni­tion of ‘ter­ror­ism’

GA Voice - - OUT SPOKEN -

The sad­dest part of the San Bernardino mass shoot­ing, as some­one not di­rectly im­pacted by the tragedy, was how in­dif­fer­ent I felt upon hear­ing that more than a dozen peo­ple were gunned down un­der Cal­i­for­nia sun­shine. As one of my col­lege friends noted, it some­times feels like such in­ci­dents have gone from “break­ing news” to “daily dose.”

The Cal­i­for­nia mas­sacre came less than a week af­ter a lu­natic opened fire at a Planned Par­ent­hood clinic in Colorado the day af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, and, hon­estly, I need more than a few days be­fore I can re­plen­ish my tol­er­ance for mass “mourn­ing” and fu­tile de­bates about the Sec­ond Amend­ment, given my am­biva­lence to­ward both guns and gun con­trol.

But since the San Bernardino shoot­ing, I’ve learned that it was not just an­other day in Amer­ica, not sim­ply an­other ex­pres­sion of our coun­try’s vi­o­lent predilec­tions. This was some­thing dif­fer­ent, some­thing greater to fear, some­thing worth su­per-glu­ing our bor­ders and turn­ing away women and chil­dren flee­ing unimag­in­able per­se­cu­tion.

San Bernardino was “ter­ror­ism.” More specif­i­cally, it was Rad­i­cal Is­lamic Ji­hadist Mus­lim-y Ra­mada­nian Ter­ror­ism. Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and their supporters are ad­dicted to the idea that “we can­not de­feat an enemy we are afraid to name,” and you can al­most feel the high they get from be­ing able to say “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism” for the twelfth time in five min­utes.

It’s curious how those most in­sis­tent on making a dis­tinc­tion be­tween ter­ror­ism and tra­di­tional violence are the same folks who have al­ways op­posed hate crimes leg­is­la­tion on the ba­sis that crime is crime. It is ob­vi­ously im­por­tant to rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence be­tween some­one be­ing killed dur­ing an armed rob­bery and 14 peo­ple be­ing slaugh­tered as part of a ma­ni­a­cal holy war.

Fu­eled by poi­sonous ide­ol­ogy, the lat­ter aims to wound not only the im­me­di­ate vic­tim, but all of the vic­tim’s kind: none of you are safe. The same is true when a trans­gen­der woman is tor­tured and ex­e­cuted be­cause of her gen­der iden­tity, when a bible study at a black church is in­ter­rupted by racially charged gun­fire, when a gay man shoots up a Chris­tian non­profit and when a re­li­gious fa­natic launches an as­sault on a women’s health clinic.

Con­ser­va­tives who al­ways claimed that mi­nori­ties would be re­ceiv­ing “spe­cial rights” if th­ese acts of do­mes­tic ter­ror­ism re­ceived stricter con­sid­er­a­tion than typ­i­cal crimes, folks who were able to shrug off the Planned Par­ent­hood mur­ders as an un­for­tu­nate aber­ra­tion, are now ter­ri­fied, venge­ful and de­mand­ing Pres­i­dent Obama launch World War III in re­sponse to the San Bernardino killings.

While they use San Bernardino to Amer­i­can­ize the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate of 1930s Ger­many, those who are cru­sad­ing against “rad­i­cal Is­lamic ter­ror­ism” shud­der and scoff when­ever the sources of this coun­try’s most en­dur­ing crises are named with can­dor:

Ra­bid White Supremacy. Bru­tal Misog­yny. Geno­ci­dal Ho­mo­pho­bia and Trans­pho­bia. Heart­less Xeno­pho­bia and all of the other big­otries that Amer­ica’s Judeo-Chris­tian tra­di­tion has fa­cil­i­tated. Per­haps the rea­son all th­ese dan­gers per­sist is be­cause con­ser­va­tives (and lib­er­als with shift­ing in­stincts) have al­ways re­fused to ac­cept that we can­not de­feat an enemy we are afraid to name.

Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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