In the wake of yesterday's bombing in Boston, news stories are popping up all over the net lambasting domestic terrorism. Before readers go ballistic, let me say that I do not approve of terrorism of any sort, domestic or otherwise. However, homegrown terrorists are not a new phenomenon. In fact, if it were not for domestic terrorists it is unlikely that the United States as we know it would exist. Boston Tea Party anyone?
Terrorism, by definition, is the use of violence or threat of violence to intimidate a population into making religious, political, or ideological change. That's right, folks. The events leading up to the American Revolution were acts of terrorism against the British government. Once we rabble-rousers in the American Colonies got what we wanted, we patched up our differences with the British and got on with building a country.
Never mind that building the United States involved taking most of the land away from the people already living on it. I say this because the acts of terrorism against the Native American population are too numerous and go back too far for me to even list them in a blog post. A hard look at ourselves through Native American history is enough to sicken the strongest stomach.
Slavery also brought out the terrorist in the American heart. Officially, the first act of terrorism visited on the white population was November 7, 1837. A pro-slavery mob attacked a warehouse used to print an abolitionist newspaper owned by Presbyterian minister Elijah Parish Lovejoy. Lovejoy died in the attack. I wish I could say that the Civil War ended the racial terrorism, but the Civil Rights Movement is ongoing and black people still die for being black.
Issues of race are far from the only issues bringing out the terrorist in us. Labor unions resorted to violence to fight their corporate oppressors. Women were not above using violent action to gain equal rights. Anti-war movements used violence to gain PEACE! How many of us can still remember the terrorism connected to student unrest in the 1960's? Gays took to the streets in the Stonewall riot of the 1970's. A lot of these movements brought significant change, change that made us better as a nation. The question is "at what price?"
Two things need to change to stop the violence. First, show some respect for public protests. We need to listen to the grievances of others before those suffering feel that violence is their only recourse against injustice. Our media tends to accept police and official undercounts of protest participation without question. We play down the importance of social movements. We ignore issues that cause distress to others. We as a people need to change. Protest, peaceful demonstration, should be respected and encouraged as ways to address issues. The media should cover this kind of event and work toward making the issue part of public discourse. Instead of covering the sensational footage of a bomb going off, we need to give causes attention before they become horrific scenes of violence.
The acts of terrorists are large scale temper tantrums. Tantrums should never be rewarded with attention. What would happen
to these violent terrorists if we didn't give them or their actions the
attention they want? How would things change if terrorists were met with a
wall of silence from the media? I think it is time to find out.
One final note: we Americans are quick to point fingers at the Middle East or worse, at Muslim-Americans when a bomb explodes. We like to pretend that we are better than our Islamic neighbors. The World Trade Center is quickly pointed out every time a bomb explodes on American soil. Islam is not our enemy, terrorists are. If the Saudi suspect is behind the bomb yesterday, then he is following a long tradition of drawing attention to a cause through violence. Perhaps, it is time that we address the violence as the problem, not the particular group of people involved.