Who Are You Calling A Domestic Terrorist?

Who Are You Calling A Domestic Terrorist? December 8, 2015

There’s no progress without confrontation, and it’s impossible to get anywhere until “we” (looking at “certain” people, “certain” groups, and “certain” individuals in power) admit there’s a problem.

The horrific San Bernardino shooting has incited another influx of public discussions and media reports steeped in cherry-picked conclusions about who are and who aren’t a menace to our society. So since everyone wants to bring up the topic, what are we going to do about domestic terrorism? And by that I mean how much longer will those who occupy positions of authority, mainstream media, and all those who subscribe to their rationalizations and red herrings refuse to see the current state of affairs is in dire need of an overhaul?

When will we finally accept that the U.S. doesn’t suffer from a Muslim problem, that the words “Islam” and “Muslim” aren’t interchangeable with terrorist, and that the face of terrorism in our society overwhelmingly resembles the current racial majority, and not those of brown and black complexion?

I saw an article a couple days ago covering the San Bernardino attacks that declared Islamic extremists are the new face of domestic terrorism. It, of course, continued the narrative that both diminished the longstanding tradition of white, right wing terrorism and pegged Islamic extremism as the “true threat” by highlighting the mass shooting that took place 6 days ago at the Inland Regional Center.

Please understand I’m not downplaying this cruel assault. What happened was despicable and uncompromisingly wrong, and I feel for the loved ones that will forever be affected by it. I don’t want to cheapen that disaster. My only intention is to address a double-standard we as a society allow to go unrecognized time and time again.

We can’t use this tragedy as a lightning rod to erase the custom of non-Muslim fanatical terrorism. Likewise, we can’t use this incident to incite more anti-Muslim bigotry or to seriously consider xenophobic and foolhardy calls to banning Muslim immigration from the likes of a certain demagogue blowhard seeking the Presidency.

What does it say about our fallen standards and rising prejudices when Dick Cheney becomes the voice of reason?

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There’s a strong urge to focus on the evils of Islamic radicalism. And I think these issues should be examined and confronted in a non-racialized way when they occur. However, there’s a more broad revulsion and condemnation of Islam and Muslims that many of us accept uncritically or unjustly. This is the case for the general population as well as those who exist in the subculture of the secular community, many of whom remain bedazzled by insular rhetoric from the likes of Dawkins and Maher. More on them, in-depth, at a later time.

The social disease of intolerance and denigration of minority groups is nothing new in the U.S., where marginalizing, degrading, and endorsing stereotypes of out-groups is an unmistakable part of Americana, past and present.

We can’t continue this Jedi mind trick routine where we magnify certain issues while overlooking others. We can’t continue to use this most recent mass shooting as another scapegoat to ignore the social immunity and ideology that motivates the majority of mass shootings.

No, Islamic extremism isn’t the face of domestic terrorism. Despite whatever whitewashed ideas popularized by politicians, media, or those we choose to admire, numbers don’t lie. At least not when it comes to statistics involving mass shootings.

As this brilliant map shows, just three of the hundreds of mass shootings in 2015 were committed by Muslim suspects. The vast majority of the rest were committed by white Christian men.

This is reality. It may not agree with what people imagine or wish to believe, but it spells out things as they actually exist. Facts don’t care about your beliefs or preferred agenda.

Yes, the U.S. certainly suffers from a domestic terrorism issue, but the threat isn’t what the fear mongers peddle to the masses. And the dilemma is two-pronged.

First, we must address the ways white privilege disrupts the way we socially conceive and consider domestic terrorism. This bias leads to denialism, defensiveness, intellectual dishonesty, and misapplied standards that tend to excuse white perpetrators as “mentally ill” or a “lone wolf” when non-white culprits are never given such concessions. It also clouds our judgment when confronting the fact that the abundance of these vicious atrocities aren’t carried out by people pledging allegiance to Allah or ISIS.

According to a study conducted by the Combating Terrorism Center, you’re more than seven times likely to be the victim of a terrorist attack by someone who looks like Donald Trump, Clint Eastwood, or Wayne LaPierre. Those 2013 numbers are somewhat dated now and obviously don’t include San Bernardino (or other incidents involving non-Muslims). Despite this, and despite the reluctance of state officials to admit it in some cases, the FBI has long acknowledged the main terrorist threat in the U.S. is right-wing extremism. Excuse this whatever way you like.

Second, though equally important, we must address the public’s continued, unadulterated fidelity to gun culture. We talk of religious fanaticism but pardon this nation’s zealous dedication to possessing firearms. Those who revere the idea of gun ownership tend to range from tenacious to fanatical.

I already know that for me even saying this there will likely be major backlash from those intensely enthusiastic about their right to bear arms. Yeah, the 1789 Joint Resolution of Congress’ fourth article states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

And then, in 1791, the ratified Second Amendment states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Yes, over two hundred years ago, the forefathers of this country—for the purposes of a well-regulated militia (justify that stipulation however you wish)—granted gun ownership as a legal right. Many of those same forefathers also supported and actively participated in chattel slavery and considered Africans living tools.

It took a while…okay, a long while…but eventually, after decades of protest, opposition and a literal war, the 13th Amendment was finally passed. My point: through struggle, dispute, and maturation, we are able to change. We can do better and think more rationally about ideas signed into law once upon a time that are widely cherished. It’s okay to evolve the ethos of our society.

When will those who have the authority to make necessary changes to gun regulations finally act on the rising call for action?

Look at Australia. Mass shootings plagued their society between 1984 and 1996. However, after the Port Arthur mass murder (35 dead, 23 wounded not counting the shooter), the Australian government organized extensive legislation restricting firearms. Not an all-out ban as some believe, but robust gun laws.

In the U.S., after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting left 28 dead (20 children between 6-7) and 2 injured, ten states passed more lax, gun-right laws. Rationalize that anyway you desire.

I’m not saying stronger regulation will solve all of our gun-related issues. I don’t think it’s that simple. I do think serious restrictions along with a concerted effort to adjust our current willful social attitudes and beliefs about civilian gun ownership has the potential to reduce gun violence.

I hope the increased analysis of who is far more likely to commit domestic terrorism, along with intensified pleas for gun restrictions, are more carefully considered.

Khaled Hosseini wisely said: “Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.” Who we characterize as the enemy and what we erect as impediments to our freedom reassures what we want to believe…while simultaneously glossing over the adverse consequences of these accepted traditions.

We can’t allow ourselves to get swept up in witch hunts. Too often such mass hysteria and false advertising mythologizes a particular antagonist (e.g., Islam, Muslims) while turning a blind eye to inconvenient truths. White terrorism is real. Acts of terrorism carried out by Christians is also terrorism. Our current views on guns must change.

So, again I ask: What are we going to do about domestic terrorism?

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