Many Americans have never seen terrorism up close. I have.
It became normal to attempt to reassure patients shaken by the dozens of men in foreboding black cassocks murmuring chants and staring from the sidewalk near the clinic. I recall joking to myself that whoever threw a Molotov cocktail at our building “couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” as if a terrorist with a bad arm were really a laughing matter.
I can still feel the floor dropping out of my stomach as I tried to remember how to dial 911 while an irate man was physically assaulting my boss in an attempt to force his way into the clinic. I still wonder if picking up the phone was the right thing, or if I should have been at her side, pushing him out.
That, folks, is terrorism. It took me years to recognize it as such. I had internalized the way we all minimize and make excuses for domestic terrorism.
“Some glass and burn marks on the ground? Oh well, it’s just some kids causing trouble…Of course what she did was wrong, but you have to understand how evil she thought abortion was…Golly, he was always such a disturbed young man...It’s a horrendous tragedy, but we can’t speculate on what the shooter’s motivations might have been.”
Planned Parenthood is far from the only target. Black churches have been burning across the South. White supremacists opened fire on Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis. The Omaha Islamic Center was vandalized in both August and November. These aren’t hypothetical threats.
I bring all this up because I want to change the way we think and talk about terrorism. Terrorism is already close to home. But we have to start actually caring about the people affected by it.
That means caring about Muslims whose centers of worship are vandalized. It means we can’t dehumanize Black Lives Matter protesters as just a bunch of rabble-rousers. It means calling domestic terrorism by its name when it happens, even though it will probably mean condemning people who look and think like you.
You already live in a society where terrorism is real. And you can handle it.
So don’t be too afraid of the Syrian refugees. The security promised to you by Governor Ricketts and others like him is false. You can’t stop terrorism by keeping all immigrants out. And the price we have to pay — relinquishing the best parts of our humanity — is too steep for the rather meaningless comfort to be had by keeping out the people who need our help.
Leastways, I’m not afraid. Read more…