What defines a terrorist? In the wake of the Boston tragedy.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ~ Martin Luther King Jr
So I’ve been disturbed in the last few days, another horrific crime has occurred in America, another senseless act of violence. Once again someone has made the decision to kill innocent people. That is disturbing enough, but what has disturbed and confused me more is the reaction to this particular event.
The conversation has revolved around whether or not a “terrorist” who is a US citizen, should be allowed to have his constitutional rights. I would remind people that the ideas of liberty and freedom are messy. A system that presumes innocence will sometimes let a guilty man go free and convict an innocent man. But it is to try to provide the utmost protection possible to the wrongly accused man that these rights were created in the first place. Not an avenue to exonerate monsters, but a system that strives to and will hopefully exonerate you should you erroneously be accused of being a monster.
Let’s take a recent act of horrific violence, the Aurora, CO theater shootings. On July 20, 2012 James Eagan Holmes is alleged to have killed 12 people and injured 58 in a mass shooting during a midnight showing of the movie The Dark Knight. Basically, a young Caucasian male used firearms to kill a large number of people and planted booby-trapped explosives in his apartment that he luckily confessed about saving further carnage. People were upset, they wanted to string him up but I didn’t hear the word terrorism thrown around, nor did I hear anyone upset that Mr. Holmes was being afforded his constitutionally guaranteed rights as a US citizen.
Fast forward to last week and the horrific violence in Boston, MA. Two brothers set off pressure cooker bombs at the Boston Marathon killing 3 people and wounding nearly 150 others. They were well armed and were reported have thrown explosives at and to have fired repeatedly on law enforcement personnel. People are of course upset , they want to string the surviving brother up but this time, the suspect is labeled a “terrorist” and many people want to deny him his constitutionally guaranteed rights as a US citizen.
So what has been eating at me is what is the difference between these two acts that makes one terrorism and the other a crime. First what is similar, both men used firearms and explosives to inflict injury and terror on Americans. Both men were young Caucasian American citizens.
So what is different between these two men:
1. One used guns as a primary form of killing the other used bombs, but both were prepared to use both.
2. One was born a US Citizen, one was a naturalized citizen.
3. One was not a Muslim, one was a Muslim.
So which of these differences makes one a terrorist and not the other, is terrorism defined by your weapon of choice? I doubt many people would make that distinction and quite frankly I never heard anyone screaming terrorist at Eric Rudolph or demanding his rights be removed.
Does being born a US citizen make you immune to being called a terrorist?
Does being a Muslim make you a terrorist?
When you look at the objective facts I think what determines your view that one of these men is a terrorist and the other isn’t, if you share that view, might be a bit disturbing. I know, most of you who hold that view will dismiss this as some liberal rant, but let’s remember I’m defending the idea that both of these men should be given all of their legal rights guaranteed under the constitution to all US citizens. Up until this week that was the rallying cry of conservatives, they supposedly believed in liberty, freedom and were the defenders of the constitution. But not this week, why?
I think the most hypocritical idea is this. When the shootings in Sandy Hook occurred, conservatives rallied around the idea that as much of a tragedy as the shooting was, a single tragedy shouldn’t allow the government to infringe on any American’s constitutional rights. Now however, conservatives are rallying around the idea that a single tragedy, because it has been labeled terrorism, should be used to deny an America citizen his constitutional rights.
The funny thing is that conservatives are arguing that President Obama sucks because he will give this “terrorist” his rights. So thought about another way, conservatives are arguing that what they want is for President Obama and his administration to have the power to name someone an enemy combatant and deny them their rights even if they are US citizens living in America. Really, is that what conservatives want? Do they really want the guy they call names and threaten in comment sections to have the power to snatch them up and make them disappear? The same folks who call him a fascist, want him to have fascist powers, at least when it’s convenient, in the news and when white people are being killed by someone who prays to Allah instead of Jesus Christ and that is one of the least Christian ideas I’ve ever encountered.