After the Sept. 11, 2001, air attacks on the World Trade Towers, Pentagon, etc., the United States was first in line promoting and promulgating the use of the word "terrorism." The country created a Department of Homeland Security -- a multi-billion-dollar industry to fend off the future. Countries around the world jumped on the "terrorism" band wagon, each with its own definition and each having found a stamp of approval for violent actions against ... well, against damned near anything that opposed a powerful status quo. The U.S., once rightfully considered the 'greatest country in the world' invaded Iraq after its most powerful men and women painted a picture of 'terrorist' potential ... what if these insane people attacked again as the 'terrorists' of 9/11 had? No longer was it sufficient to go to war with those who attacked. Now it was OK to attack those who might attack. And to date, no one has really defined what, precisely, constitutes "terrorism." It is enough to say the word to give one action or another legitimacy.
It sounded and sounds good -- "terrorism." Flags flap in the breeze and bands play its tunes. Who dies or is maimed is not so important as a limp-wristed label like "terrorism." And the damage that is done is not only what is visible and, often, obscene ... there is the damage within: A careless word uttered with sincerity gnaws at the very country whose flag anti-terrorists wave. With a bureaucracy as large as the Department of Homeland Security -- billions of dollars, lots of important jobs -- it is hard to see how anyone might pull back from this arena of ill-considered and often hysterical thinking.
But the gnawing continues ... it's hard to tell which is more frightening, more demeaning, more dictatorial -- the groups dedicated to "terror" or the ones who point them out and round them up.
Opening statements are due today in a Detroit courtroom where a Midwest militia is accused of plotting to overthrow the government of the United States. Was the Hutaree militia a spearhead initiative with mayhem on its mind or was it a bunch of armed good ol' boys full of boastful bullshit? No bullets flew, no wounds were bound, no bodies buried ... but the government asks a question masked as an assertion: "What if they had?" What if these guys had actually carried out what they talked about? What if "terrorism" had become a reality?
In libraries, the government takes note of book-reading habits. What-if rentals portended a sinister intent? And what if that intent were carried out? Reading up on how to make a fertilizer bomb ... hey, what reason does anyone have to do that unless, perhaps, they actually planned to do it ... blow up a building somewhere. It has happened before, so ... let's nip it in the bud.
Little and large the terrorist mentality takes hold. Little and large, ordinary citizens find themselves unable to exercise the rights once envied by the world -- thought, assembly, association, speech. Little and large, thoughtful and sometimes nefarious groups find themselves defending the same ground... the Ph.D. and the tattooed biker are squeezed into the same corral: Don't think naughty thoughts. Little and large, the United States oozes towards a Middle Eastern model of sharia ... the Middle East -- a place where no one blanches at the idea of a Religious Police Force.
Who is the terrorist? Anyone can ask the question and in asking it assert an as-yet-undefined danger. And as the fear rises, the unwillingness to reflect on what is undefined grows stronger: "You know what terrorism is! Just look around you!"
Joseph Goebbels and the Republican stalwarts are intimate partners ... and the country goes begging. Not that the Democrats have a seamless record either, but they are less obviously in love with war and other boy toys.
What if ... what if ... what if ....
What about thoroughly examining the what-if's.... or even a life without what-if's?