What Happens When “Terrorism” is Us?

My last column raised a simple question: Is leftwing terrorism making a comeback?

It seemed to me an obvious thing to ask.  In the last year, we have seen three random attacks on police officers in apparent solidarity with (though not collusion or connection with) Black Lives Matter.  Top that off with last week’s mass shooting in a DC-area park by a gunman who hated Republicans, and the question seems obvious.

I knew it was a provocative point and I was fully prepared for a storm of responses.  Nor was I disappointed.  I heard from many Republicans who, amusingly, feel themselves victims of “hate speech.”  Then, there was the individual whose email said, in its entirety, “Terrorism has always been perpetrated by the left with no exceptions.”

Yeah.  Because it was tree huggers in the Ku Klux Klan who bombed 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963, right?  And the guy who bombed the Atlanta Olympics, wasn’t he angry about global warming?

More interesting than those, though, were the tweets and emails from liberals affronted by the idea that the left can commit terrorism.  Some were willing to go to truly prodigious lengths to rationalize.

Indeed, one person dismissed the idea that there was something morally wrong in shooting Rep. Steve Scalise, who is, in the writer’s estimation, a bigot and homophobe.  Putting aside that I wouldn’t want to live in a nation where bigotry and homophobia were capital crimes, two police officers were also wounded in the shooting.  Were they bigots and homophobes, too?

Another individual wrote that the shooting did not constitute terrorism, but, rather, “spasmodic violence on the part of oppressed people whose mental state cracked and failed them.”

I couldn’t help thinking how forgiving that is, how terribly understanding.  I wonder if that compassion will extend to the next Muslim who shoots up a street full of tourists.

Terrorism is defined as violence (usually indiscriminate) aimed at terrorizing a population in the name of some social or political point.  It’s a pretty simple definition, but I find myself struck, not for the first time, by how ready some of us are to believe that it can’t be terrorism if the terrorists look – or think – like we do.

That’s why news media are routinely slow to identify white terrorists as terrorists.  It’s why some liberals who don’t think twice about labeling Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph a terrorist contend that last week’s shooter was just a guy with a  good heart who “cracked” under pressure.

But that’s bull.

But in my humble opinion, if you are not willing to hold your own to the same standard you demand of others, you forfeit any right to the moral high ground.  These are angry and politically perilous times, yes.  We find ourselves saying, doing and feeling things we never thought we would, yes.

But in the midst of that maelstrom, it is as important as it ever was – in fact, more important than it ever was – to hold on to that high ground, to hold on to right.  Because otherwise, what’s the point?  If you become what you abhor in order to defeat what you abhor, what have you really won?

We all draw the line in different places, mind you.  But I’d like to think we can all agree on this much:

When you find yourself making excuses for a mass shooter, you’ve probably gone too far.

3 thoughts on “What Happens When “Terrorism” is Us?

  1. I agree with you, Leonard. One reason I could not support Bernie Sanders last year is that I didn’t want to see the election come down to a choice between two angry men. Running on a platform of anger and divisiveness seems somehow to give permission for followers to act out against opponents. A government of extremes doesn’t foster the common ground we need to occupying order to go forward as a nation.

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  2. Your question is a good one Leonard. In my mind, the operative word is “us.” Those who maintain that “us” includes all Americans are like governments maintaining that licensed professionals are suppose to be color blind. For those who believe that they likewise probably believe Jared Kushner saying this week that he is making government “…more transparent for citizens.” Uh-huh.

    In an enlightened society, any sane person expects the service sector to behave with color-blind like fairness, that government be transparent for citizens, and that “us” means everyone. We’re a helluva long way from any of that, aren’t we?

    So….we witness terrorists (mental patients) with zero empathy who cannot think clearly, who cannot see the other side of a matter, but most importantly, are psychopathic malefactors without internal connection, wrestling their own unacknowledged towering anger toward themselves and anyone else perceived as blocking their path to the sociopath’s refuge: power and influence.

    Be they ISIS, Christian extremists, republicans, democrats, government bureaucrats, power-mad humans imposing themselves on everyone, religious apologists, or rich people buying America.
    They come from all backgrounds sharing one profound crippling character: mental illness.

    Public education could have course-corrected for that before it was hijacked to serve other purposes.

    Yes, what happens when a population cannot live with diversity (translation: cannot live with love for their neighbors)? They self-destruct.

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