Groesbeck: Terrorism By Any Other Name

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By Ren Groesbeck

It is time to politicize the terror attack by a white man at the music festival in Las Vegas. Whiteness protects people who organize terrorist attacks from being called a terrorist and instead are called the “lone wolf,” “local shooter,” or “gunman,” anything but terrorist.

Leaving more than 59 people dead and over 500 injured, Stephen Paddock carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and also the third deadliest modern attack on U.S. land. Still, the event is not being labeled as a terrorist attack by authorities.

There are people who believe this horrific event should not be characterized as terrorism, because the definition calls for a political, religious or social objective. Nobody knows the motive behind the man targeting a music festival, it may have died with the gunman in that hotel room. But, if a man who has more than a dozen weapons in a hotel room for the direct purpose of killing innocent people — and forcing tens of thousands of others to run for their lives — does not meet the requirements of a terrorist, then the word has no functional meaning.

An attack like the one in Las Vegas is inherently, but also by definition, a political act. Setting aside motive, the gun used to kill over 50 people and injure more than hundreds was purchased in a country where military-level weaponry is freely available to people. That is a political position.

President Donald Trump has an inconsistent history with the term terrorist. Following the killing of a counter-protester in Charlottesville, Virginia at the white nationalist rally, Trump said only that “you can call it whatever you want.” However, Trump is quick to repeatedly define attacks carried out by Muslims as terrorist attacks. After the attack on the London Underground, Trump tweeted to condemn what he called the “loser terrorist” in charge of the explosions, before the suspect was identified.

More significantly, Trump had no hesitation labeling the previously most lethal mass shooting in U.S. history, at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, as terrorism. He even used it to push his proposed Muslim ban.

This nation needs to confront and challenge this terrorism and the forces that empower it.

In the United States, we have fought wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to end terrorism. Congress passed the Patriot Act. We go through x-rays and pat-downs at the airport, take off shoes and belts at TSA checkpoints. But, when terrorists attack with rifles, our moral clarity hesitates. Part of this error is driven by racism. The news sends out statements about how the white shooter “wouldn’t hurt a fly,” and the family and neighbors describe him as quiet and polite. Meanwhile, when a person of color is killed at the hands of white policemen, articles will say the person who died was “no angel.”

Irritated, enabled white men are the greatest terrorist threat challenging America.