I found myself scratching my head at two recent stories about terrorism here in the United States. One being the recently announced plot to attack malls and kill civilians and first responders, the other being a little-known arrest in Orange County, New York, of a teenager who had planned to resurrect the horror felt during the Columbine massacre by attacking his school in the manner that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did. Both are clear-cut cases of mass murder meant to cause fear and kill innocents. Yet the teenager gets arrested and goes to a psych facility and the mall killers are thrown into federal custody. Why the disparity?
It reminded me of another terrorism double-header from a few weeks ago. We all know the plot of Najibullah Zazi - the Afghan immigrant with ties to New York and Colorado who allegedly planned to set bombs off at large transit centers in the United States. Another arrest occurred a couple of weeks later involving possible plots of mass murder and bombs: that of Vincent Pizzonia in Suffolk County on Long Island. He accidentally detonated a bomb he was making and was found with more bomb-making materials and pictures of the interior of Columbine high School, as well as pictures of Harris and Klebold. Pizzonia was not even arrested and school administrators were mulling over whether they should allow him back to school. If those pictures had been of a major transit hub and Osama bin Laden rather than Columbine and Harris and Klebold, would we be in the same situation?
I'm not saying what we should do with folks like Zazi or Pizzonia, though a uniform way of dealing with terrorism situations would be helpful. We just need to recognize that terrorism is terrorism, whether done by a follower of Islam or a pissed-off white kid. If you have plans to harm innocents with weapons like assault rifles or explosives because you disagree with people, that would make you a terrorist. Whether you plan to do it at a school or at a train station, in the name of some twisted form of Islam or because you feel left out, it is terrorism.
When we focus on certain groups involved with terrorism (radical Muslims) and brush aside other groups (isolated suburban white kids) we lose sight of the simple fact that terrorism knows no color or ethnic boundary; it is not isolated in one particular demographic. Why do we reserve the word for some, but not others? Why do we torture some, but counsel others? Attacks on innocents are never called for, no matter who perpetrates them. Peace.
Photo - Uncle Sam (Son of the South)