Opinion: Defining terrorism

Lucas Misera

The United States seems to be avoiding looking introspectively in the face of the growing concern over terrorism. This issue seems particularly rampant in Congress, as yet another incident on U.S. soil claimed enough lives to constitute a mass shooting.

Recently in California, 14 people were gunned down in an act of terrorism. Officials have announced the attack was planned, and a possible connection to ISIS is being investigated. My problem lies in the fact that it took a tie to ISIS to call the loss of 14 lives a terrorist attack. Are we so ignorant as to ignore growing domestic dangers?

By definition, terrorism is “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” It is undoubtedly easier, unfortunately, for the government to apply this definition to radicalized Muslims rather than other mass-shooters across the nation.

The government’s tendency to only label religiously-fueled attacks is lazy and misguided. The recent attacks in Paris, Mali and California were inarguably acts of terrorism, but we also have to realize that domestic terrorism is just as real; the lives lost in Newtown, Aurora and Umpqua Community College were also victims of terrorist activity, and legislators need to recognize that.

Perhaps the label that we put on each attack truly makes a difference. Whenever there’s a link to Islam, Congress is quick to label the attack as terrorism. School shootings are continually referred to as “senseless acts of violence.” Yes, terrorism is comprised of senseless acts of violence, but the difference between the two is that terrorism elicits a nearly instantaneous response from legislators while events like school shootings sadly develop into a series of congressional bickering and unproductivity.

It’s time to identify shooters such as Adam Lanza and Christopher Harper-Mercer, the perpetrators at Newtown and Umpqua, respectively, as terrorists, and to match the seriousness of the crimes with an equally stern response. Terrorism stemming from radicalism quickly draws cries from Congress and other politicians for stricter border controls, IDs and revamped security, but a shooting with no affiliation to Islam results in a more divided political system.

The problem is summed up by the San Bernardino shooting: Prior to knowing the shooter most likely had ties to ISIS, the nation was ready to erupt into another cyclical debate on gun control. Now that it’s denotatively easier to link it to terrorism due to the possible link to ISIS, the government is acting with urgency because radical Islam is the problem politicians can most easily confront.

It’s hard to admit that domestic terrorism is real. It’s impossible to predict when the next shooting in a school, theater or mall might happen, so progress must be made by legislators on minimizing the effects or chances of such heinous acts. Sure, radicalism is an easy scapegoat, but ignoring the subtle problem of domestically-groomed, religiously-unaffiliated acts of violence and refusing to call these acts terrorism is foolish.

Lucas Misera is an opinion writer for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].