Terrorism. The very definition of the word speaks volumes, and yet there is no way to completely define it.
The American Heritage Dictionary, after giving a pronunciation guide and noting an “n” for the part of speech (noun), tells us: “1. The use of terror, violence, and intimidation to achieve an end. 2. Fear and subjugation produced by this. 3. A system of government that uses terror to rule.”
In this country we tend to despise those who would resort to such methods. After all, doesn’t the word “terrorist,” the perpetrator of such horrible deeds, imply the worst of human nature: cowardly, criminal, maniacal, ruthless?
Yes, when it applies to individuals or groups who don’t share our values or our culture.
No, when it applies to people (individually and collectively) who represent those ideals in which we’ve come to believe.
Those foreign faces – the stereotypes of all that is antithetical to our basic religious and political beliefs – become our posters of what terrorists must look like.
Although we should have learned a lesson in the Oklahoma City bombing, when most Americans initially assumed that some foreigner and/or Muslim was responsible, many of us still find it hard to believe that a fellow countryman can be a terrorist.
Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist, as were those who torched churches, defaced synagogues, bombed abortion clinics or went to a home wearing a white hood, carrying a rope or lighting a cross.
This country has had its share of terrorists.
Although the individual acts of terrorism give me great heartache, I am most disturbed when governments resort to such savage acts.
Our own government, at all levels, has acted as terrorists.
Every time we have dropped a bomb on unknown subjects in foreign countries as retaliation for some tragic deed, we have practiced terrorism.
Every time a local police force or prison official or overzealous prosecutor has knowingly abused citizens’ rights, it is an act of terrorism.
But I really don’t want to talk about the United States right now. I’ll get back to that another time.
Let’s look to one of the most troubled spots on the globe.
Now, terrorism of any kind bothers me. When I hear of a sniper, suicide bomber or a young kid with a Molotov cocktail killing or injuring innocent civilians – men, women and children – it pains me.
Indeed, it angers me.
Even if we may understand the frustration of the perpetrators, the world should condemn such acts.
But it hurts me more when a state – a powerful government – strikes out against innocent, unarmed and helpless people.
The world, and especially the United States, should cry out even louder.
I know most Americans really don’t pay attention, and perhaps don’t even care, what happens in the Middle East. But they should.
Everyone’s hands are bloody in this never-ending conflict.
I understand that an oppressed, occupied people will eventually rise up against its oppressors, and it’s understandable that a nation feeling under siege will react with force.
But when a nation like Israel, which has enjoyed the support of this country and most of the Western world, responds with such indiscriminate violence against helpless people, it should be condemned for its barbarism.
That takes us back to that third definition of terrorism: “A system of government that uses terror to rule.”
Israel has systematically occupied land inhabited by others. It has practiced assassination of political dissidents without shame and without reproach from the rest of the civilized world.
This week, Israeli army bulldozers destroyed 14 Palestinian homes in the middle of the night, displacing more than 150 people, while our nation’s leaders remained pathetically silent.
Such brutal provocation must not be tolerated.
In its fight against terrorism, the state of Israel has become one of the world’s most notorious terrorists.
Somehow it must be stopped.
Mr. Bob Ray Sanders kindly allowed MMN to republish this column. This column was first published in the Star-Telegram where his column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.