Monday, April 22, 2013

The true price of terrorism. Can we ever just take a break?

A week ago today, two young men set off bombs at the Boston Marathon. I won't go over the details because, as of today, many details are unclear and those that ARE clear can be found easily through your favorite search engine. Aside from that, the Boston Marathon bombing ISN'T the purpose of this post. I have been examining my thoughts on the effects of terrorism for the last several weeks. I've tried to organize my thoughts and examine why I, personally, am so upset. (Parts of this post are taken directly from a conversation I had with my best friend over Facebook dealing with our confusion over these recent events. All of the comments/ thoughts are my own, not the comments or opinions of others in that post.)

It's very difficult to put into words how I, and many other Americans, feel in a post 9/11 America. Before 9/11, we had this false sense of security. I remember being so confused on 9/11. I remember asking, "who would be stupid enough to attack America?!" In my (16 year old) mind, we were the greatest, most powerful country in the world. Anyone who attacked us would have to be an idiot. Now, many years later, I understand how naive I was on 9/11. I understand that the reason that one act of terrorism was able to affect us so much was because of that simple naivety. This was so devastating to us because we truly believed we couldn't be touched.

So much has changed since then. I did a post a while back on how 9/11 changed our lives. One thing I didn't mention in that post (mainly because at the time, I hadn't realized it) was how much more angry Americans are now. I believe that is one of the biggest prices of terrorism.  Americans have become so angry since 9/11. Maybe I just never paid attention before that. But since then, I've noticed how angry we are as a country. Between religion, politics, gay marriage, abortion rights, gun laws, immigration, racism, sexism, the economy, terrorism, bullying, etc. You just can't get away from all the fighting. It's exhausting. And maybe social media and the internet and the 24 hour news coverage with the ticker at the bottom of the screen all play a part. But it just seems that the only thing that "brings up together" is tragedy. But even that only lasts a few minutes before we are at each others throats. I've noticed it in myself. I'm angry. I read the news stories about rape victims having video of their attacks shared online, and people wanting to arm every American with an arsenal of guns because they will somehow magically protect us from the "bad guys." And I'm angry. And it scares me that I'm this angry. I'm angry because I feel like everyone is falling apart. This country is falling apart, and I can see it. And I WANT to help put it back together. But I don't know how. I don't know how to take away all the hatred and the fear and the blood-lust that seems to spread like wildfire. And I guess that's the true effect of terrorism. I don't want to live in a post 9/11 America anymore, because we have forgotten why this country used to be great. It used to be a land of freedom and the American dream. And it's devolved into constant bickering. Americans seem to hate each other almost as much as the terrorists we so loathe. We are turning into the people we hate instead of realizing that their way; constant war, feuding, intolerance and hatred, is NOT the American way.

Going back to the Boston Marathon bombing, once the second bomber was caught, everyone got so excited. "It's over!" The nation sighed a breath of relief. But it never really IS over, is it? Because each time we breathe a sigh of relief that we've caught this week's villain, another one steps up to take his place. I think that part of the reason I can't get all excited. Because I know in a few weeks or months, someone else will attack and kill innocent people. And the American people will be shocked and horrified until we catch/kill that guy. But we never learn anything. As a country, we aren't making an effort to understand it all. We blame it on religion or a mental illness and move on. But we never want to look closer at the situation. We never learn anything except how to be angry and hateful and paranoid. We need to start asking more questions and digging deeper instead of just writing if off as a religious terrorist or a crazy person. There is more to this. People don't plan terrorist attacks overnight. They don't just wake up one morning and decide to bomb a marathon or shoot up a school. There is a path that has lead them to that point and we need to start looking for it.

When the second bomber was caught, I remember reading comment after comment about how we should just kill him. Don't give him a trial. Don't ask him any questions. Just kill him. It scares me to think that this is what our country has become. In no way do I condone what he and his brother did. They murdered innocent people. They injured over a hundred people. And they took away a sense of safety from the people of Boston and this entire country. But if your solution to that is to just kill them without a second thought, I can't agree with you. This kid is 19 years old. He's lived here for over ten years. He has friends and family and he (until a few days ago) was a college student. This kid is a human being. And unless we want to devolve into terrorists ourselves, we need to start remembering the value of ALL human life. Not just the lives of those we approve of. Do I think he should be punished? Of course I do. But killing him in anger isn't a punishment. It's just a way to make ourselves feel better for a few minutes. Does it solve anything? No. Do we learn anything from killing? No. But we lose so much. This country prides itself on being "better" than other countries. We have a moral compass. So, what happens when we throw that moral compass out the window and start flying blind? We become what we hate.

We need to do what we can to understand what path these young men took to become terrorists. We need to look at how mass shooters become mass shooters. What can we do to prevent anyone else from taking these paths? What can we do to protect ourselves from the people we can't "save" from this life? We need to take a look at ourselves and our own anger and learn how to control it. We need to learn the difference between justice and vengeance. We need to work toward becoming a great country again instead of throwing out our ideals to indulge in our anger and fear. Because if we don't, this country will continue to fall in on itself.

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