They Are All The Same

The passing of time has given us little to no more perspective, and certainly no less sorrow, on the murder of nine American citizens at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on the 17th of June this year.  A tragedy in no uncertain terms.

Much has been written, and I am certain will be again in the future as he goes to trial, about the motives of the young man who committed this despicable act.  To me it is relatively simple — he is a terrorist in the same vein as those joining ISIS, killing tourists in Tunisia, or the London bombings conducted ten years ago yesterday (the UK’s “7/7” which they equate to our 9/11).  The perpetrators of these evil acts and more are all of the same type. Almost universally they tend to be young males, alienated from society, aggrieved in their minds in some way by a societal group and able to find others of like mind on the internet.

It is this last element that may be different in society today than in years past but it does not adequately explain their actions.  As we all know, one can find almost anything on the internet.  There is no filter, there is no verification of facts, there is no stopping the vilification of one group or another and it is the perfect vehicle for inducing someone overlooked by society who feels a need to make a name for themselves.  It can be by conducting a single attack on their own, or it can be a recruitment tool to get young men to leave their homes and join a vicious organization that gives them vindication for their dirty deeds.  The internet makes it all easier, but it does not of itself explain their actions.

For some reason when such an act occurs in the United States we rarely use the word “terrorist.”  I don’t know why.  These are certainly terrorist acts done in the name of some cause just as they are overseas. Instead we seem to use words like “unstable” or “anti-social” or “lone wolf” or other words that tend to make it seem as though terrorism by United States citizens does not take place.  The implication is that attacks against Americans are only terrorist attacks if conducted overseas or are done on American soil by foreigners. The bombers of a church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 that killed four young girls were terrorists. Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 and was a terrorist. The six people killed in the Wisconsin Sikh Temple in 2012 were killed by a terrorist. Unfortunately, I could go on and on. We rightly worry about foreign terrorists carrying out attacks on our cities.  Let’s also understand that such attacks occur all too often by Americans.

I will not use pop psychology to analyze the elements of our society that cause these people to terrorize their fellow citizens.  I will argue that the first step is to call them what they are and not to rationalize their behavior even as we call it a tragedy.  Whether from the Middle East or the U.S. Midwest, they are the same.  They are terrorists.

Footnote:  I am sure that you, like me, are astounded at the generosity, humility, faith and belief in God demonstrated by the families and friends of those killed in the attack in Charleston.  I am humbled by their peace filled reaction.  Whatever our individual faith or beliefs, we could all take a lesson from them.

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