In today’s The New York Times, Tomis Kapitan very persuasively argues that:
“[b]y effectively placing designated individuals or groups outside the norms of acceptable social and political behavior, the rhetoric of “terror” has had these effects:
1) It erases any incentive the public might have to understand the nature and origins of their grievances so that the possible legitimacy of their demands will not be raised.
2) It deflects attention away from one’s own policies that might have contributed to their grievances.
3) It repudiates any calls for negotiation.
4) It obliterates the distinction between national liberation movements and fringe fanatics (for example, during the 1990s, the “terrorist” label was applied to Nelson Mandela and Timothy McVeigh alike);
5) It paves the way for the use of force by making it easier for a government to exploit the fears of its citizens and ignore objections to the manner in which it responds to terrorist violence.”
I hope that you will all read Kapitan’s article and consider his argument. For too long we have been captive to the rhetoric of terrorism. While it has been an incredibly effective tool for politicians and ideologues, it has hurt our ability to deal effectively with terrorism. Fear mongering dismantles our ability to think rationally. We too easily accept emotionally gratifying solutions that feel right but in reality may not be. Any real solution will not be easy, and it will require that we give up the quick-fix, emotionally gratifying responses that we keep turning to. It will also require humility and a willingness to confront our own role in creating and exacerbating the situation.