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Real American Terrorists
Real American Terrorists©
Real American Terrorists©
March 22, 2011
A little over a year after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, I was spending a weekend on the phone talking with family and friends, making an effort to stay in contact with them. On one call, I was reconnecting with an old friend that I have known for over 30 years. We were talking about nothing in particular, just trying to make up new chapters to some old stories.
Each of us has to travel a great deal with our job so it was natural that the conversation turned to our latest adventures on the road. I am in an airplane all the time and I would often be asked if it bothers me to travel since the terrorist attacks. My standard response has been, “I never really liked to fly in commercial planes where I think I am older that the pilot” and as time goes by the number of pilots that fit that description is becoming larger. Therefore, the level of dislike has not increased or decreased with the passing of time. My friend had recently taken a cross-country flight and was complaining about the long lines through security. I told him that I really could not tell that much difference in the amount of time and hassle it took to travel by air. I believe that I always ended up in the slowest line at the airport. That is why I bring a book with me to read in line, it helps to pass the time. During the course of this conversation my friend had made a comment that sparked my interest. He was speaking to the lack of faith that there was in airport security. He completely bought into the idea that airport security was still lax even after the government stepped in. He stated what would make him feel better about his safety, “If the security people were American.”
Being the shy wallflower that I am, I asked a question to clarify what “American” meant to him. The response was, “Well you know their English is not that good”. “Oh”, I said as I was trying to grasp the meaning of this statement in relation to being an American. “Does that mean that anyone who has an accent or does not speak proper English is not an American?” If that is the case then 95% of all Americans are in real trouble, and are theoretically here illegally. Very few Americans actually speak “Proper English” except those from North Dakota. Go anywhere else in the country and finding people who speak English with no accent is impossible. At this time my wife who was listening to my side of the conversation was telling my friend “Don’t go there with him, you will regret it.” However, my friend did not heed her advice and responded to my question with, “Well you know, they did not look or act professionally. I just don’t think that they are trained very well.”
Being worried about the training of airport security personnel is a legitimate cause for concern. In fact being concerned with the training of everyone involved with air transportation industry is a reasonable expectation. I personally do not want to get on an airplane where I think that any of the staff had not received proper training or that they did not know how to do their job. There are too many things that can go wrong; an airport is a place where you would like to have people who know what they are doing. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the governmental agency that is responsible for the hiring and training of airport security personnel. Citing their official web site, “Good security requires an engaged and empowered workforce. As part of TSA's ongoing model workplace efforts, TSA has undertaken a series of progressive workforce initiatives in recent years. Those efforts have focused on motivating and educating the workforce by opening lines of communication, fostering safe and productive work environments and identifying and rewarding exemplary performance.” According to TSA, they hire and train only the best. We do not expect them to state on their web site that they only hire crappy employees do we?
That all aside, the real question here is what does their training have to do with their citizenship? Does that mean that all people who are not properly trained to do their job should be put on the next boat out of the country? If so, again about 99% of the population is in trouble and all of the executives in corporate America would be out of a job. I am willing to bet that the vast majority of us are faking it when it comes to actually knowing what we are doing at work.
My kids actually came to my friend’s rescue, tugging on my pant leg wanting their turn on the phone. I gave up the phone and turned to the key board with my mind reeling with ideas. I am poking fun at a very serious subject. What my friend was showing me was a side of himself that he was probably not aware of; the comment he made was at best uninformed; at worst, it was an intentional racist statement. He was equating a person’s citizenship and the ability to do their job and intelligence with their speech pattern. To be fair to him, he was just parroting statements that he has heard elsewhere. In his mind, he believes that he holds no ill will to anyone and in actuality my friend is a good person. However, for this particular issue he had societal blinders on that he was probably not aware of.
In this story, there is no evil villain and at the time of the conversation, there were no physical victims. There was an act, which in many ways contributes to the overall scheme of things in our society. That simple statement, “I wish they were Americans” says really so much about how people perceive other people who look different from them self. Why did my friend think that someone who speaks with a “foreign” accent was not an American? I remember growing up and listening to the parents and grandparents of a number of my friends. Many of who spoke with a strong German, Russian, or Scandinavian accent. No one ever questioned their citizenship or loyalty or that they would/could not work because of their accent.
Fast forward 10 years of progressively louder rhetoric, in March 2011, Representative from New York, the Honorable Mr. Peter King, has opened public trials to address the issue of homegrown terrorist. “Today's hearing will be the first in a series of hearings dealing with the critical issue of the radicalization of Muslim-Americans.” As his opening statement explains, he is looking at Islamic terrorists; he believes that the majority of terrorist attacks against this country can be contributed to radical Islam. “Al Qaeda realizes that the measures we have put in place over the past 9 ½ years make it very difficult to launch a large scale attack against the homeland from outside the country which is why they have altered their strategy and are recruiting and using people living legally in the United States. These include:
• New York City Subway bomber Najibullah Zazi;
• Fort Hood Terrorist U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan;
• Colleen LaRose, known as “Jihad Jane”;
• Times Square Bomber Faisal Shahzad;
• Mumbai Plotter David Headley;
• Little Rock Recruiting Center Shooter Carlos Bledsoe, whose Father is a witness today; and
• Dozens of individuals in Minneapolis associated with the Somali terrorist organization, al Shabaab. The Uncle of one of those young men- who was radicalized in Minneapolis, sent to Somalia, and eventually killed – is also with us today.”
Public awareness about potential terrorist attacks is important and the incidents noted are important to be cognitive of their existence. America also has a need to be conscious of the issue of homegrown terrorist; however, this Congressional hearing is excluding the majority of active domestic terrorist groups operating in this country.
In 2008 according to the University of Maryland Global Terrorism Database (GTD) out of the 54-recorded incidents there was no domestic terrorist activities linked to Islamic groups. The Animal Liberation Front accounted for three, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas had one, the Ku Klux Klan had five, Neo-Nazi had one, Public Enemy Number One (CA / United States) also had one, and the other 43 incidents are unknown. In a 2010 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill report there were 21 domestic terrorists associated with radical Islamic groups/individuals arrested and one attack with no fatalities. In that same report notes that in 2009 there were two domestic terrorists’ attacks with 14 deaths.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that there are 1,002 active hate groups, 824 anti-government “Patriot” groups, and 319 nativist extremist groups that were active in 2010. The stated aim of many of these groups is the violent overthrow of the U.S. Government. On the FBI’s Domestic Terrorist Fugitive list there are nine people listed, none of which are Islamic, four are from the Earth Liberation Front (ELF).Earth Liberation Front (Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and five of them have been on the list since the 1970’s. At this point, I think it will be useful to look at three definitions to help focus the discussion.
Terrorism – “The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
Terrorist – “a radical who employs terror as a political weapon; usually organizes with other terrorists in small cells; often uses religion as a cover for terrorist activities.”
Domestic Terrorist –“terrorism practiced in your own country against your own people; the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City was an instance of domestic terrorism.” Earth Liberation Front (ELF).
By these definitions, if we were truly concerned with domestic terrorists than Congress would be looking at all groups that fit into that category, not the minority of groups. The observation by the University of North Carolina is relevant to this discussion, “Muslim-American terrorism makes news. Out of the thousands of acts of violence that occur in the United States each year, an efficient system of government prosecution and media coverage brings Muslim-American terrorism suspects to national attention, creating the impression -- perhaps unintentionally – that Muslim-American terrorism is more prevalent than it really is.” Why is this?
To explain the phenomenon, let me start with the story of one Mr. Timothy McVeigh. On April 19,1995, a White male Christian and veteran of the first Gulf War planted a bomb outside the Fred R. Morrow Federal Building in Oklahoma City (Figure 1), killing hundreds of people, including small children in a daycare facility. When he committed this horrendous act of terrorism, did it mean that all White male Christians were evil? Of course, not, to take a leap of logic like that is ridiculous. Was the act enough to justify the detainment of White male Christians, and deny them their civil liberties? Again the answer is, no. Was there a cry for vengeance against White male Christians? No, in fact, shortly after the bombing there was a rash of violent crimes committed against people who looked as if they came from the Middle East. The initial belief by many was that the bombing was planned and executed by someone from the Middle East. When it was reveled that Mr. McVeigh was one of the bombers, there was a moment of disbelief.
Many of you will want to know how I got from a simple comment about airport security personnel to, the current Congressional trials and finally to the bombing in Oklahoma City. Why am I going down this path? All three actions have their genius in the same place. I want to suggest a theory that will help explain and tie it together. To start the process I am going to force some of you back to your college Political Science class and reference a book called The Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes. For those of you who never took Political Science or cannot remember any class that you took more than a week ago here is a quick refresher/introduction course on Mr. Hobbes. He was a political philosopher working in Britain in the early 1600’s. His book The Leviathan was talking about the structure of a country and its government.
I would like to focus our attention to the cover of the book. Figure 2 is a reproduction of the top section of the original 1651 cover. At a glance, it looks like a picture of a king or a monarch, keeping watch over his land. “Essence of the Common-wealth; which (to define it) is One person, of whose Acts a great Multitude, by mutual Covenants one with another, have made themselves…for Peace and Common Defense.”
However, a closer inspection (Figure 3) of the image reveals that the sovereign is made up of people. All people of the society are needed to create the face and body of the Leviathan. Therefore, the Leviathan, through the sovereign is a representation of the society, and the face of the Leviathan is a reflection of the perceived face or perceived dominant face of the society. Each society has its own perceived face. Keep in mind that the perceived face of the Leviathan may not necessarily be a true reflection of the society.
What do you think that the perceived face of the Leviathan is in America? Even in the 2008 Presidential election process where a Black male and a Caucasian female were running neck and neck for the Democrat nomination, and where the Black male won the Presidential election, the White male was and still is the dominant face of the Leviathan in America. In popular culture America, White, Anglo Saxon is the perceived face, even though we are a very diverse culture, the stereotype of being White male controlled still exists. So the picture you see here of the Leviathan (Figure 2), which was created in 1651 is still very much so the perceived face of western society in 2011. In America, the dynamic of the face of our Leviathan has been a work in progress since the first Europeans landed here.
When a face seems to look different from that of the Leviathan and it has a voice that does not fit the popular voice of the Leviathan, an assumption is made that the face does not belong. So what happens when the face of the perpetrator of an egregious crime or act is a reflection of the Leviathan and what happens when the perpetrator has a face that is different from the Leviathan? Is there a difference?
There is a common misperception that people who commit egregious acts, such as terrorism, are mentally unbalanced. However, research does not support that assumption. The authors of the book Who Becomes a Terrorist talk about what the generic profile of a foreign terrorist would be, “Contrary to the stereotype that the terrorist is a psychopath or otherwise mentally disturbed, the terrorist is actually quite sane, although deluded by an ideological or religious way of viewing the world.” That concept is confirmed about domestic terrorist in the book Soldiers of God that states, “My racial beliefs are based on Scriptural teachings,’ Charles Lee states. ‘Without them, how could I possibly justify supremacy?” Both are pointing to religious or divine guidance in the justification of their actions.
The acts of terrorism, TwinTower attacks (Figure 4) and the bombing of the FederalBuilding in Oklahoma City (Figure 1), were committed by two different groups. Each with their own ideology and mythology, but the individual with the face of the Leviathan was treated as an individual, where the perpetrator with a face that was different from the Leviathan was treated as a member of a larger group or class. Hence, Mr. McVeigh worked only with a small group of people. When in fact there are a large number of active domestic terrorist groups in America. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 888 active hate groups and 131 Patriot groups operating in this country. Even with that information, in the eyes of the Leviathan, Mr. McVeigh was not portrayed as a part of a larger systemic problem. This does not mean that the actions of the individual are acceptable by the mass population. The opposite is true; the majority of the population was outraged by this act of a domestic terrorist and he was put to death for his actions.
Nevertheless, in the eyes of the Leviathan, Timothy McVeigh’s act was the act of a lone person or a very small group of people. His act was not a reflection of White Christian males. What is wild is the attempt by some people to rewrite history to claim that Timothy McVeigh was actually working with Osama bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network. So the transgression was actually inflicted by a face that did not match that of the Leviathan.
People whose face does not match the perceived face of the American Leviathan carried out the events of September 11, 2001, and therefore, in the eyes of the Leviathan, all people with that perceived face are blamed. In this case, anyone who is perceived to be from the Middle East or of the Muslim faith is being blamed for the actions of the terrorist. The actions of the few in this case become a reflection of the whole.
Let me go back to my original story. How does the Leviathan and talk about airport security staff go together? The face and the speech of the airport security employees in question appeared to be foreign to my friend. Their faces and speech pattern did not match that of the Leviathan and therefore they had to be inferior and could not possibly be trained to do their jobs. The different faces are perceived to be more closely related to those who attacked this country and therefore a threat to the Leviathan. As a threat, they should not be trusted to work in a position that is perceived as critical to the safety of so many.
How does my friend’s comment influence or affect a society? He did not make any comment to the security personnel. He did not file a complaint with TSA administrators. All he did was tell a friend that he thought that they were not qualified for their jobs. However, the assumption he made is that they were inferior because of their accent.
To close out this article, let me state that the airport was in southern California and the ethnicity/race of the airport security personnel in question was Asian. Ask yourself these two questions. 1) Before I provided this information, what face did you give the airport security personnel? 2) Why did you pick that face?
Copyright March 2011 All Rights Reserved
Figures and Footnotes
Figure 1. The FederalBuilding in Oklahoma City. DefenseImagery.mil (F-3203-SPT-95-000023-XX-0198). (accessed March 16, 2011)
Figure 2. The Leviathan. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/world/images/s37.jpg . (accessed March 16, 2011)
Figure 3. IBID
Figure 4. WorldTradeCenter Attack. UA_Flight_175_hits_WTC_south_tower_9-11.jpeg. (accessed March 16, 2011)
 September 11, 2001 is referring to the attacks that took place on that date, destroying the two towers of the WorldTradeCenter in New York City and damaging the Pentagon in WashingtonD.C.
 When he spoke of their "looks", he was talking about skin color.
 Transportation Security Administration. http://www.tsa.gov/approach/people/index.shtm. (accessed March 22, 2011)
 Yes, I am knowingly stereotyping all corporate executives.
 http://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/search/Results.aspx?country=217. (accessed March 16, 2011)
 KURZMAN, CHARLES. Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting. DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL. FEBRUARY 2, 2011. figure 3. http://sanford.duke.edu/centers/tcths/about/documents/Kurzman_Muslim-American_Terrorism_Since_911_An_Accounting.pdf. (accessed March 15, 2011)
 Terrorism. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/terrorism. (accessed March 16, 2011)
 Terrorist. http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=terrorist. (accessed March 16, 2011)
 Domestic Terrorist. http://www.thefreedictionary.com/domestic+terrorism. (accessed March 16, 2011)
 KURZMAN, CHARLES. Muslim-American Terrorism Since 9/11: An Accounting. DEPARTMENT OF SOCIOLOGY UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA, CHAPEL HILL. FEBRUARY 2, 2011. figure 3. http://sanford.duke.edu/centers/tcths/about/documents/Kurzman_Muslim-American_Terrorism_Since_911_An_Accounting.pdf. (Accessed March 15, 2011)
 Yes, I meant to say “his” land.
 Hobbes, Thomas Leviathan. Page 228
 Above the picture of the sovereign is a quote from the Book of Job "Non est potestas Super Terram quae Comparetur ei". There is no power on earth to be compared to him.
 Hudson, Rex A. Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why. Page 91
 Barnes, Myra, Bushart, Howard, and Craig, John R., Soldiers of God; White supremacists and their Holy War for America. Page 40
 Southern PovertyLawCenter www.splcenter.org. (accessed March 16, 2011)