Maybe the civil war wasn’t such a bad idea after all

It’s slowly becoming clear to me that only the Republican party, with their decades long claim on religious fundamentalism, can pull off the startlingly effective strategy of literally demonizing their opponents outright. These tactics1 only start to make sense when you remember that they are intended for those whose worldview includes speaking in tongues and the laying of hands to cast out demons2. This has been the crux of the McCain campaign for the past week.

Sen. McCain’s problem is that he can’t actually come out and foment the paranoia and xenophobia that has so benefited his party in the past, but that hasn’t stopped him from unleashing his lipstick wearing pitbull to pinch sling for him. Amidst the aforementioned Gov. Palin’s impressive hatchet skills3 and McCain’s indifferent silence, cries of “terrorist” are now routine at Republican rallies whenever Barack Obama’s name is invoked. This stems from Sen. Obama’s race alleged allegiance with former Weather Underground member and current University of Illinois at Chicago professor Bill Ayers.

It seems Barack Obama’s “palling around” with a “known terrorist” is a point of “concern” for “Republicans” across the “nation4.” This fear seems totally well founded, because I know, if I were ever elected President, and one of my friends dared me to start mailing anthrax to my coworkers and appointees or to blow up the White House (without me in it), I totally would because I wouldn’t want to look like a pussy. But enough of hypotheticals, let’s look at the facts. The record clearly shows that Barack Obama did work with Bill Ayers. To blow up the Pentagon? Sadly, no. To fund Al-Qaeda? That would be really juicy, but no. To combat poverty and distribute public school grants? Sigh. Yes.

No offense to Prof. Ayers, but I’m not all that impressed with his acts of terrorism. As far as I can tell, besides the willful destruction of property, the greatest of American sins, and shutting down the Pentagon for a few days, the most his terrorist organization managed to accomplish was to blow up three of their own.5 I’m not exactly shivering in my boots.6

Let’s say that you’re still worried though, if Bill Ayers is so evil, then surely he must be currently serving a prison sentence for his crimes? No, and that’s the beauty; he no longer needs to. It’s not that Bill Ayers is currently planning terrorist action against the United States, it’s that he has the permanent taint of terrorism7 upon him. It’s not that Barrack Obama is a terrorist today, it’s that terrorism8 runs in his blood.

If that is the measure by which we judge terrorism today, then I think it’s time we faced an unpleasant truth.

We are all terrorists.

If the definition of a terrorist is anyone who wishes to create terror in a specific category of victim, with the purpose of altering the behavior of the members of that category, does this then mean that anyone who supports imprisonment and especially the death penalty as deterrents to crime is by definition a terrorist? The same question could be asked, of anyone who spanks or threatens to spank a child. Clearly the stated purpose is to terrify a specific group of people into changing their behavior. That’s what deterrence is. And given the rates at which blacks, Latinos, and American Indians, are imprisoned (and on death row), it could be argued that a good part of the judicial and penal systems in the United States constitutes a giant racist, terrorist organization. Simply looking at the numbers it becomes clear that the judicial and penal systems have achieved the segregation of black males-into-prisons-on a scale of which the KKK and their puny brethren could only dream.

- Derrick Jensen

Whether you agree with the above sentiment or not, it should be clear that terrorism is in the eye of the beholder. The average American is all for terrorism, if it’s against our enemies. If a group or “cell”, as the saying goes,9 of individuals threatened average American citizens, at home or abroad, with waterboarding or extreme rendition, there is no doubt as to what the U.S. government would call that.

On September 12th, 2001, the word “terror” split open, metastasizing over the rest of the English language.10 It was not the attacks themselves, but our response to them, that was to blame. The word has now lost all meaning, amounting to little more than a Scarlet ‘T’ that is difficult, if not impossible to shake off. John “The Smiler” Edwards aside, terrorists are the new mistresses/gay liaisons. Every future politician will have their past scrutinized not for personal transgressions, but for neighbors and babysitters who belonged to “questionable” organizations.11

We forget that if words are a form of magic, they derive their power from us. When we ignore this fact we do ourselves a great and dangerous disservice. When we let simple words and names get the better of us, they rob us, impoverish and weaken us in an already impossible world.

Words are just tools, “tools, of course, can be the subtlest of traps.”


Get thee behind me, Hussein!

Believe me, I understand. America needed a daddy after 9/11 to kiss its boo-boo and now in the midst of an economic catastrophe it needs a bogeyman more than ever.12 I don’t mean to belittle either crisis; these are valid, if not ideal, responses to the insanity of our times and fear can be a great motivator. But we have had our share of bogeymen in this country, whether it was an immigrant out to steal your job, a communist out to subvert your way of life, or a black man out to fuck your daughter and then your wife.

Tales of ghouls and monsters lurking in the dark may have served us in the past, but it is time to put away childish things. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to share this sentiment.

Either John McCain is simply brokering in fear13 to become America’s next abusive step-father, or he is genuine in his belief that Sen. Obama’s past associations pose a threat to the safety of American citizens. If we grant him the benefit of the doubt, then it looks like Sen. McCain is for meeting with terrorists with no preconditions after all, or just one I guess, that they be running for president of the United States.

Did Sen. McCain come to this information only after the scrutiny brought on by Sen. Obama’s presidential campaign? Did he knowingly let a terrorist become elected Senator of Illinois, a state with twice the population of his own? Or is that fine, just so long as he’s not President.

Senator McCain, if you truly believe Barack Obama is guilty of treason, either by association or by deed, then I implore you to do your duty and place this terrorist under citizen’s arrest when next you meet on Wednesday. You owe it to your supporters and, more importantly, to the country you claim to put first. I’ll be waiting.

Unless of course this is all just a ridiculous and desperate stunt preying on the basest and most outmoded of human instincts, in which case I would appreciate it if you stopped implying Sen. Obama is out to get us, or that it’s a crime to be Muslim (or black for that matter) in the U.S., or that all Americans are as conniving, obstinate and backwards as you.14

I’m not saying either of these men will deliver what they promise, but it seems that these are the platforms they have chosen to run on:


Which could you use more of in your life?

  1. Or is it a strategy? It’s so confusing. []
  2. Strange that all Christian demons seem to be Muslim. []
  3. Not to mention her nunchuku skills, bow hunting (from a helicopter) skills and computer hacking skills. Getting your email hacked is a form of hacking, right? []
  4. Isn’t language fun? []
  5. The solution there seems pretty clear: don’t join any terrorist organization that Bill Ayers is a member of. []
  6. I mean, I don’t own any boots, but if I did, they certainly would not be shivering. []
  7. If that’s not already the name of a gay porn movie, then the gay porn industry has failed you. Also, dibs. []
  8. re: Islam []
  9. Can someone explain to me why that is so much more ominous? It just evokes a beehive in my mind. Not exactly a terrifying image. (If you’re just reading this in the title pop-up, click through for a surprise.) []
  10. One word to bind them all. []
  11. Welcome back 1950s, it’s like you never left. []
  12. The Beast that Shouted Boo at the Heart of the World. []
  13. A truly recession proof market. []
  14. Keith Olbermann has now left my body. []

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