When the news broke last week that an American Airlines mechanic was arrested for allegedly sabotaging an airplane, you could be forgiven for wondering if it might be an attempt at terrorism.
Though the seriousness of the incident can’t be minimized, it almost was a relief to learn it wasn’t terror, but rather some mope trying to gin up more overtime.
This is the time of year when we hold our breath, when our thoughts turn back to Sept. 11, 2001.
As a nation, our gift - and our curse - is the ability to move forward. While doing so is a necessary tool of progress, our collective inability to focus for very long dooms us to ignore warning signs of that which threaten the present.
We’ve become notoriously impatient with detail and complication. History bores us. Geopolitics would too, if we ever bothered with it. We like our villains black-hatted and easy to identify.
But terrorism hardly ebbed when Osama bin Laden was dispatched to the bottom of the sea.
A different kind of monster has stepped into the vacuum.
In 2019, the danger is homegrown, perpetuated by Americans who have convinced themselves into believing they’re preserving their country, when in reality, they’re unraveling it.
Radicalized through social media, they’ve emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, emboldened by politicians and talking heads who feed into their resentment and victimhood.
They’re striking out wildly at a nation that is changing in ways contrary to how they’ve come to define it.
There’s been some debate over exactly what constitutes domestic terrorism, but why? It isn’t nuclear physics. If you murder or maim innocent people to further your own fanaticism, be it religious, political, social or racist, you’re a terrorist.
Emanuel AME Church; the Tree of Life Synagogue; Fort Hood, Texas; San Bernadino, California; Orlando, Florida; Las Vegas (2014 and 2017); Parkland, Florida; Gilroy, California; Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Poway, California; El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; the killing of six police officers in Dallas; and too many others to list all were acts of domestic terror.
‘Persistent and evolving’
However, no statute exists to charge a domestic terrorist with domestic terror.
The Department of Justice has determined the greatest immediate threat no longer comes from foreigners or Islamic extremists but those who think they are being good Americans by killing other Americans. They have appointed themselves the arbiters of what defines “American” - of who belongs here and who doesn’t and who gets to be fully human.
In May, Michael McGarrity, assistant director for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, told a congressional committee he would describe the threat of domestic terrorism as “persistent and evolving.” A month later, he told the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties the number of domestic terror incidents has risen 30 to 40% since last October.
Despite this increase, the current administration has reduced funding to address the threat.
Though law enforcement is growing more adept at ferreting out such people, the war against terror has no expiration date. For us, it will exist as long as there are Americans who are willing to betray this country by committing violence against it.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP.