A frame of an old Peanuts strip has Lucy loudly proclaiming “Look out, everybody! I’m gonna be crabby for the rest of the day!!”
That’s pretty much been me lately. Lack of sleep, computer issues, people who don’t understand (or care about) the concept of truth or freedom, and various other annoyances have been getting on my last nerve and performing a raucous tap-dance on it.
And then Friday happened. Yes, the things that annoy me are still there, but I was reminded that it’s not all about me.
Sadly, instead of concentrating on the things at the core of terrorist acts, we’re focusing on tarring all Muslims with the terrorism brush, or on whether Starbucks is insulting Christians by not including snowflakes on its cups (the answer, apparently, is “hell, yeah!”).
What happens far too often is that we generalize the “other” that scares us, so that all Muslims are terrorists, all mentally ill people are killers, and all who don’t believe as you do are evil.
Let’s be clear: There are certainly dangers in this world, but fear and the certainty that only your beliefs are the correct ones are two of the biggest. Just as there are “Islamic” terrorists, there are “Christian” ones (such as Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord), “Jewish” ones (Jewish Defense League) and just about any other extremists you can imagine. Those extremists, though, don’t speak for the majority, and most often represent a wildly bastardized version of their faith. Who knows? The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may be the only faith (or lack-of-faith) tradition that doesn’t have a problem with extremists … though there may well be infighting over sauces and meatballs.
Fellow blogger John Pavlovitz, who’s also a pastor and author, had one of the best summations I’ve seen on the reaction to the Paris attacks:
“The face of terrorism is tragically diverse, and if we are to fully condemn it we need to be consistent in calling out all of it or we become complicit. In the face of hatred in the world we cannot afford to be selectively outraged, or to have our hearts broken only for that which feels convenient or familiar or obvious. We cannot identify evil simply when it fits our politics or preferences or the stark black and white narrative we most desire to be true about the Good and Bad Guys.”
Terrorists, in short, come in all forms. Simply not holding the values you hold does not make one a terrorist; when violence is involved, though …
Federal code defines terrorism (though there is no single, universally accepted definition) as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” That certainly applies to far more than radical Islamist groups—the Unabomber, Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph quickly come to mind—and pretending otherwise would be foolish and ill-advised. Regardless of beliefs, killing and otherwise terrorizing people to further agendas (which is what the Unabomber, McVeigh and Rudolph did) is terrorism.
In a study from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, in the period from 2001 to 2011, eco-terror groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front were found to be responsible for most terror attacks by attributed groups in the United States, with a combined 84 out of 90 attacks (97 total attributions, though, as some attacks had multiple claimants); unlike those by al-Qaida (that would be 9/11) and Minutemen American Defense, though, there were no fatalities in those assaults.
Since 9/11 through the Charleston shootings, jihadists have killed 26 people in U.S. attacks, while white supremacists, anti-government radicals and the like have been responsible for 48 deaths, according to an analysis by New America.
Does that mean we should ease off on radical Islamists? No, just that we need to remember that jihadists are not the only terrorists in the world. Be wary of terrorists—and the terrorists of ISIS are among the worst—but be certain before you pick up that brush again and tar innocents.
About those computer issues: You may have noticed a distinct lack of response if you’ve sent letters in via the Web form or by email in the past week. Unfortunately, the paper’s mail server has been ailing, and some letters apparently disappeared into the void.
For that, we are heartily sorry. We’re also quite ticked off as we wait impatiently for the problem to be solved. Seriously. Don’t test us.
Our emails are being rerouted, so we’re getting most of them now, but always need more. Send us a letter by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on the Web, or if you don’t have Internet access or just don’t trust technology right now, you can mail it to Voices, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203.
Yes, we’re still fact-checking, so leave the tales of Bush-Cheney arrest warrants, mass-shooting gun-free zones and other myths where you found them, or make it absolutely clear that it is your opinion that they’re true, or that an attributed individual believes it. Opinions stated as facts are a no-go; opinions unsupported by facts aren’t the same thing and thus acceptable (just make sure we can tell it’s your opinion … yes, someone did indeed decide that I said we don’t print opinion unsupported by facts … apparently he’s unacquainted with opinion sections …).
And lay off the tap shoes, please. I just got that nerve calmed down.