Met the Terrorists and They Are Us
Uncle Bill Warner
By one definition, it is the attempt by a person or group to get
what they want by doing things so horrible to their "enemies"
that they will succomb to fear and acquiesce to the desires of the
is often a tool used by the powerless who have no great military
machine at their command. The 9-11 bombers didn't have an army,
but they were able to make a forceful statement, "Get out of
our countries. We can hurt you."
forces often use terror to intimidate populations, as in the case
of the Nazi bombing of Rotterdam after it had surrendered in World
War II, or the U.S. "Shock and Awe" destruction in Iraq.
The name itself, "Shock and Awe," spells out our intent
to terrorize the Iraqis. We never call it "terrorism",
of course, when we're the ones doing the terrorizing. We just assume
the ends (our ends) justify the means.
in all sizes. The December 9, 2005 issue of the Visalia Times-Delta
turns the spotlight on terrorism in our own community. Some teen
agers at Golden West High School had been harassing two students
due their race, according to the article. The old saw about "sticks
and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me"
is a fallacy, because words DO hurt. After a year, the parents of
these two students decided they had had enough, so they pulled their
boys out of Golden West. No doubt the teen aged terrorists felt
they won that round.
In July, the
mother, Kelly Pankey, spoke to the Times Delta about the racial
taunts and threats her sons had experienced. The torments had gone
beyond "mere" words: their home and car had been egged
on three different occasions, one time seriously frightening their
14-yr-old daughter who was home alone at the time. (When this incident
was discussed recently at the Visalia Friends Meeting, one of our
members, who is also black, said her car also had been egged last
summer when she moved to town. Others could testify that these are
not isolated incidents.)
Egging is a
nuisance. It is very difficult to clean off and it can do damage
to paint if it is not removed immediately. But being targeted by
an anonymous assailiant goes beyond nuisance. It is a psychological
as well as physical assault. I have had my car egged simply because
someone didn't like my pro-peace bumper sticker. I take it as the
price I have to pay for living around small-minded people.
on the Pankeys, in that they felt it necessary to move away from
the harassment. I remember well the burning of crosses on the lawns
of Blacks in the South by the KKK to keep them from voting. Those
who voted anyway stood the chance of being lynched. The terrorists
usually got away with murder, until the Federal government finally
stepped in and stopped most of it in the 60's. That's over 40 years
ago. Is it water under the bridge, or have things really changed
all that much? I guess you could say ashes on the lawn were a nuissance,
like egg on the car paint, but the psychological message is the
same: "You're not wanted." If you have been the target
of terror attacks you have to keep looking over your shoulder.
We can condemn
the "bad apples," but how do the rest of us fit into this
terror business? Many of us grew up learning to look down on certain
groups like Blacks (or Italians) or groups we feared, or didn't
understand, like homosexuals. We told jokes which made them look
stupid or vicious. We said cruel things about and to them, never
really thinking about the damage our words caused. In our own eyes,
we were not the bigots. We were not the racists. But we would not
want one of them marrying our sister. If we didn't actually lynch
anyone we were not the bad apples. Well, maybe not, but when was
the last time you stopped or reported an incident of harassment
that you witnessed? When was the last time you called someone on
their telling a racist joke? There are no "Black" jokes
or "Jewish" jokes or "Arab" jokes. There are
anti-Black jokes, and anti-Jewish jokes, and anti-Arab jokes. They
We are all
diminished by the attacks on the Pankeys. A community that does
not cry out against the unacceptable behavior of its "bad apples"
sends a message to the terrorists and the terrorized alike that
the community condones the behavior. If we are not part of the solution,
we are part of the problem. When incidents like this occur, demand
that schools and city governments take action. Psychological assault
is real assault. Terrorism, huge or small contradicts American values.
We need to call it for what it is and fight against it every time
it crops up.
to the terrorists among us.
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