Yesterday I averred that the Charleston shooter was not a terrorist. I wrote that in the post-911 world, we throw that charge around too much. If this were 1999, Dylann Roof would merely be a mass murderer. I said that we are too eager to call a non-Muslim a terrorist. I said that calling him a terrorist is PC gone awry.
I pulled it. I felt some of my thinking didn’t pass the smell test. I’m going to start fresh. Let’s hope this doesn’t stink either.
Terror is political. I think that’s clear to anyone who does the most basic research. Was the shooting political because Roof was a racist? That’s a difficult question. I feel that by saying that he was a terrorist, it follows that we need to reclassify a lot of violent acts perpetrated as terrorism. Perhaps I am splitting hairs, but we should separate hate crimes and mass murder from the nebulous definition of “terrorism”. If we think clearly we find that all acts of violence are “terroristic” by nature. Any killing traumatizes everyone in the vicinity of the crime. If we omit the fact that terror is something used to achieve political gain, then we can call anyone a terrorist.
I’m a white guy. I am sick to death of racism and oppression. I understand white privilege and know that my knapsack is never very far from me. I’m as liberal as they come. But I think perhaps we get a little out of hand when we try to reduce things and avoid the complexity of a given situation. It seems to me that we are still traumatized by 9-11, so much so that we look for terrorism in any tragedy. It’s become embedded in the American experience. We are a collective of victims, and our language has changed as a result of it.
What Dylann Roof did was a hate crime and a mass murder. He is a racist and a disturbed individual. He’ll go away for a very long time. But there was no weapon of mass destruction (shoehorning a pistol into this category is absurd), no conspiracy, no destruction of property, no cause except racism. And he’s being charged with murder, not terrorism.
All I am saying is let’s be sparing with the way we describe things. I like to be precise, and I attempt that every day I write. I probably fail a lot. But I am trying to make sense of this world just like you. And I try to apply the right logic and use the right words for every situation I observe. I want that little scumbag to atone. But I must call him what he really is and not give in to the emotions that make us so reflexive and reactive sometimes. I hope whoever reads this understands that I am not minimizing what this guy did.
But I won’t maximize it either.