Saturday, July 21, 2012

letter to the Sun: horror vs. terror

Here's a letter I sent to the Sun:

Dear Baltimore Sun,

I was intrigued by your choice to use the word “horror” and not “terror” in your headline for your report on the devastating shooting in Colorado (“Real-life horror”, July 21).  I was then disappointed to not find any meaningful discussion in the story about whether this act of violence should be considered an act of terrorism.  Perhaps there are good reasons not to, but, without a presentation of those reasons, I cannot help but wonder whether if the suspected shooter were Muslim, had brown-colored skin, or had an Arabic-sounding name, your editorial choices would have been different.

The distinction may seem academic to the families of the victims, who are now going through the darkest hours of their lives, but this question actually raises two important issues.  During a time of limited resources and concern about the deficit, questions about how we will allocate those resources get to the very core of our priorities as Americans.  Our nation spends literally billions of dollars fighting terrorism: are we going to spend some of those dollars to prevent violent and, yes, terrifying attacks in our own country, even when the perpetrators are white?

The second issue is continued hostility toward Muslim Americans.  These sorts of editorial choices contribute to the misconception that only Muslims are terrorists, which leads to the further confusion that all Muslims are terrorists, which leads to irrational activities such as the inquiries currently led by U.S. Rep. Bachmann.  Not only are these inquiries a poor use of our aforementioned scant resources, but they also broadcast to the world how hypocritical Americans are: the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reflects that this country was first colonized by Europeans primarily in order to escape religious persecution, and, by prohibiting any sort of religious test for public office, our Founding Fathers recognized that someone’s religion is a poor basis on which to judge their character.  And an ugly perception of Americans around the world will, sadly, fuel more violence against Americans.


Tone Alert gave me five red bars for this one: but I'm not sure there's a way to talk about terrorism and racism without setting it off.

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