Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dylann Roof’s Not Crazy, He’s a Terrorist


The shootings in Charleston were an unfathomable act of evil.  But in the days since then, my party’s reaction to this may have been worse.  So far, the narrative that has emerged from the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh news hole was that this was “the act of a troubled loner” or even weirder, an “attack on faith.”

It was neither of those things.  It was an act of domestic terrorism that assassinated a black political leader.

I will say it again.  It was an act of terrorism.

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WRONG.
Why?  Terrorism is the use of violence to intimidate or coerce, often for political means.  Terrorism isn’t about who performed the act, but what the goal of the act was.  Regardless, a persistent caricature of what a terrorist looks like has permeated the collective consciousness: Arab men, Muslim, usually in their 20s or 30.  Frankly, he looks a lot like Osama Bin Laden, and given the horrible acts he perpetrated against our country, and the subsequent 15 years of the “war on terror,” its unsurprising, despite the fact that is implicit racism. 

But again, terrorism isn’t about the person, it’s about the act and the goals.  Osama Bin Laden WAS a terrorist, but so was the IRA and the Ku Klux Klan - and they were was white as I am.  All used targeted violence to coerce, intimidate, and further political ends.

Dylann Roof is a white supremacist who has been photographed wearing the flag of apartheid South Africa.  Dylann Roof killed members of a black church to “start a civil war.”  Dylann Roof is a terrorist who killed to intimidate and killed in line with his personal racist political beliefs.  It doesn’t matter that he seems to have acted alone.  It doesn’t matter that he does not appear to have been a member of any organized group.  It’s the ends that matter, not the person.

Dylann Roof is a terrorist.

It is important that Republicans admit this and discuss what happened in Charleston using this lens.  As a party we are more likely to hold the “Arab as terrorist” caricature, usually to the exclusion of any other possible potential terrorist.  As a party we have a (perhaps well deserved) reputation as scornful of minorities.  Accordingly it is disappointing to see the thought leaders of our party ignore the racial terrorism that underlies Roof’s actions and instead destroy our credibility by trying to fit these horrific actions into the right wing media’s talking points about the “war on Christianity” (a war whose existence I have yet to see).  This isn’t about credibility though.  It isn’t about our party’s ability to relate to minorities.  It’s about our party’s ability to deal with and face the truth. 

For Republican leaders to redirect the narrative away from that of an act of terrorism and into facile narratives such as “the war on faith” is to obscure the truth, and obscuring the truth leads to misunderstanding, mistrust and ultimately conflict.   This is not the path we must follow. We must admit and confront the truth about what happened in Charleston if we are going to prevent these events from ever happening again.

Terrorism comes in many forms.  We will not end the violence and end the hatred until we can talk about it honestly.  Dylann Roof is a terrorist and should be tried and treated as such.  To say otherwise is to live in a constructed fantasy.

It’s a fantasy this Republican won’t participate in any more.

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