It is tempting, very tempting, to go on about this particularly nice winter. But like talk of medical ailment, what can one accomplish by talking about it? I have a hip that howls and a bladder that enjoys midnight strolls. Talking about either changes nothing. Much of the communicating we do is the same: changing nothing other than allowing us to unburden or daylight our concerns. Feeling like an animal trapped and forced to stay indoors by foul weather, I muddled around through old writing and found something of interest.
Decades past, I did a project about the Holocaust and Auschwitz/Brzezinka in particular. I liked my slant but caught hell for departing from right-thinking notions, which is more than a tiny bit ironic for a leftist like me to be not right-thinking enough for the left. Well, no matter. My effort was rejected in favor of a more conventional stand on how to present who was doing what to whom. Where did I go wrong? I said then (and hold to the view to this day) that in a system such as Nazism that made victims of Jews, Poles, and many other groups, there were collateral “victims” clearly on the Nazi side. If you’re on the side of a system that narrowly defines who and what is acceptable, your own freedom and potential is sacrificed (victim) to that system. A better way to put it is to say there are passive and active victims, and depending on how you define it, that can be either the one who takes life or the one losing it. No matter how I cut it, however, the Nazi wielding the gun is another form of victim to a system he or she cannot question or challenge. We use the Nazi bad-guy image so often that turning it as I did was seen as foul play. You decide. I didn’t say the type of victimhood was equal, only that each side is victimized by a bad system.
Take the same approach with terrorism. You’ll read time and again of the victims of terror. Who are they? Innocent people blown up, shot, knifed, gassed, etc. by a zealot are the ones we call victims, and surely they are. Among the victims of an attack, you’ll sometimes see the person who did the killing counted along with other dead. In a suicide bombing, that adds ONE possible victim coming from the killer side. But to be a victim, a person has to be dead or injured.
I’ll say that in terms of terror those victims are by far the minority. All of free society has and will continue to pay a heavy toll in costs and lives dealing with terror. Since 9/11, even small border crossings such as the one I know well have gone from quite small stops to surveillance forts with three or four times the guards before 9/11. It is a huge expense and a sad one, considering that so much good effort must be devoted to the bad apple potential of who-knows-how-many. Have we had to put up with more searches at the border and longer waits in lines, along with shoe removal and other small indignities, all in the name of security? Yes, we have. Things that were not questioned in the past are issues today. Who doesn’t go to the Mall of America without thinking at least once of its terror target potential? In a real sense, the victim of 9/11 is an entire nation and group of nations, including all their unborn who will enter life subject to this new reality. What happened to the dream of freedom that it was so easily mashed with so little effort and cost to those doing so?
The answer to my question isn’t much different from what I said years ago about Holocaust victims. But actually, I think terror widens my view on this because there are as many or more unwitting victims on the “terror” side as there are in the “free world.” While a terror attack may take out a dozen here or thousands with a 9/11, whole populations are kept captive to terror by its frequent use. It’s horrible to see the result of a mall attack in Kenya or the murder of entire families in Thailand where the terrorists place the youngest, smallest bodies in first position. Why do this? It certainly frightens many Thai, but this in-your-face cruelty is just the ticket for keeping the ordinary followers properly in line. Terror attacks frighten potential victims and further intimidate the followers into fuller submission.
Think on it. You are a twelve-year-old child watching the public execution by horrific means of a sinner, non-believer, criminal, pagan idol worshiper, blaspheming threat to society. You watch to the chant of “We Love The Almighty!” Do you think for one instant that that twelve-year-old doesn’t see loud and clear that he or she had damn well love the Almighty in exactly the way told or meet the same minced-in-public fate of the one being killed? If you are thirty-two, you’ll likely have a family too who would suffer as you would for clashing with the Almighty Lovers. If you were sixty-two, would you want to end a long life in a brutal spectacle? Such acts do take place where terror has been allowed to slither in as political/religious.
Think. If we as free people can be slowly intimidated into conciliation with those who abet terror, how much more are those under the sway of those systems condemned to perpetual fear and life under a cloud of everlasting hate, because no system using, advocating, or tolerating terror is ever free of hatred. Hatred is required to justify merciless acts of terror, and hate in the hearts and minds of followers must be equally fanned and fueled to keep the fire of destruction masked as a social good or godly requirement. If free people fail to oppose the tyranny of terror, how much more impossible and worse is it for those already in its grip of silence and fear?