Apr 25, 2013 - Issue 514

 BlackCommentator.com Cover Story: Homeland Terrorism - Not an Excuse for Demagoguery By Rosa Santos, BC Guest Commentator

My sense of justice and compassion for the victims of violence is precisely why I feel I have to say something. The United States, in general, and the Boston community in particular, experienced not just a threat to their safety but an actual attack on their security; an attack against individuals, families and communities the moment that the two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon on the afternoon of April 15, 2013. The 9/11 attack in New York as well as the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, CT, among others, flung affected communities and the United States into a sense of chaos, insecurity, grief and anger. No one, in their right mind, would declare it is not so.

Coming from a Third World country, I am quite familiar with the face of terrorism.  My country experienced it in the Philippine-American War (1899-1911), in the form of naked aggression against my people by the government of the United States.  It has continued to this day through low intensity conflict strategies,  joint US-Philippines military exercises, and  extra judicial killings of Filipino activists (and civilians), blatantly ignored by the US government and objectively supported by their ally, the government of the Philippines. I am tempted to say to the people of the United States: “So now you know how it feels when you are under siege”. I had this similar reaction during the 9/11 attack. I reigned in these feeling out of respect to those who have fallen during these violent events.  And I did not want my sentiments to be misunderstood, as if I were somehow cavalier regarding the loss of life.  I am anything but.

The reaction of Bostonians as well as New Yorkers was that “We shall overcome” and that “we would come together and let this not defeat us. We are strong!” And yes, it is reasonable for people of the United States to fight, even violently, to eliminate their source of insecurity.

And so, Boston was shut down and the law enforcers did their best to capture the suspect for the sake of the community’s security and well-being. It was emotional and even dramatic as the news unfolded minute by minute. As expected, the city’s sense of insecurity came to an end with the death of the older “terrorist” and the capture of the younger brother. The citizens of Boston as well as the rest of the United States  cheered in relief and applauded the law enforcers.  I shared a sense of relief that the suspects were no longer running free.

Yet, I had to wonder when would the people of the United States realize that a similar scenario is also happening continuously in Syria, Gaza, Philippines, Nicaragua and other parts of the world, and has been for a very long time now. Communities in these countries are under siege, often from death squads, paramilitaries and also government troops, frequently supported by the United States government.  These communities have every right to protect themselves and resist the aggression against them. Yet this resistance and the efforts to protect themselves against what terrorizes them has been met by more aggression from the U.S. and made worse by labeling them as terrorists for defending their homeland against foreign invasion. Before anyone tries to dismiss my arguments as allegedly excusing terrorists, let me be quite clear that nothing stated here negates the threat from terrorists, i.e., those who use military means against civilians in order to advance political purposes. The question in this case is: Who terrorizes whom?

My point, and one that may be difficult for many people to address at this moment, is that the people of Boston, or the rest of the United States are not alone in their sense of insecurity. There are more people out there who are under threat or in actual warfare for not just a week but for years now. The challenge is for the people of the United States to look beyond themselves and see what is on the other side of the world and the role of their own government in fostering violence and hatred locally and globally. Reducing violence and terrorism is a two-way process. 

This is a complicated moment.  It is a moment of relief but also a moment to reflect.  Americans should not allow bigotry, labeling and racism to rule their judgment of what is just and compassionate. It will be quite easy in the coming days, weeks and months, for demagoguery to prevail; to return to the Islamophobic attacks, suggesting that all terrorists are Muslim, as if no one ever heard the name Timothy McVeigh.  It will be easy to blind ourselves to the terrorism that takes place overseas, often with the support of our own government.

As a community struggles to overcome terrorism from the outside, so must this cultivate a culture that is just and compassionate inside of their own walls and radiating among those gathered at the edge.

BlackCommentator.com Guest Commentator, Rosa Santos, is a former human rights activist from the Philippines who knows all too well about terror having had half of her relatives killed or 'disappeared' during the US-supported Marcos dictatorship. Contact Ms. Santos.