Terrorism: What is it? (and why you should know what it looks like).

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Image result for las vegas
Photo by Cnn.com
The attacks in Las Vegas have brought up several crucial debates in our nation. The second amendment, mental health, and white privilege are just some of the major topics of conversation due to Sunday night's tragic events.

Let's talk about terrorism. As a travel blogger, this has become an unfortunate and frequent topic of conversation in my daily life as well as on the blog (you can read my latest post here).  There's a big debate about what terrorism is and isn't. In order to make this as clear and concise as possible let's look at some of our favorite dictionaries for help. According to Merriam-Webster 'terrorism' is "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion". Dictonairy.com defines terrorism as "the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization".  While the Oxford dictionary defines it as "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims."

You might be shaking your head in confusion from these definitions and that's okay. Typically (as seen from the definitions above), terrorism is linked with politics. As Americans, we automatically link terrorism to the Middle East. Images of the Twin Towers falling down and Saddam Hussein play in our minds when we hear the words "terrorist" or "terrorism".  Type the word 'terrorist' in Google and you'll find these images in your head pop up.

The unfortunate reality is this: acts of terrorism are happening in our own backyard by our own neighbors. Terrorists aren't (always) guys from lands far far away seeking vengeance for political or religious reasons. A terrorist could be the person eating fries at McDonald's, a high school student, or someone buying a ticket at the movie theater. 

There is a reason why you panic on a plane when you see someone that fits the stereotype of a terrorist walk down the aisle. It's because the media portrays white people as the victims when they, in fact, *typically*  are the ones inflicting pain. Throughout the last eight months, Vox.com  reports that more Americans have been killed in attacks by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners (https://www.vox.com/world/2017/10/2/16396612/las-vegas-mass-shooting-terrorism-islam). Whiteness has somehow protected men, such as  Stephen Paddock, to be considered a terrorist. Instead, the media labels him as a "lone wolf", "gambler", or even as a grandfather

The term "lone wolf" has been used to describe previous white male attackers including James Homes during the Aurora Colorado shooting and Dylann Roof who shot and killed a pastor and eight other parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina. "For people of color, and especially for Muslims, the treatment is often different. Muslims often get labeled as a terrorist before all the facts have come out." states the Intercept.com (https://theintercept.com/2017/10/02/lone-wolf-white-privlege-las-vegas-stephen-paddock/).

If we look back at the definitions of "terrorism" we'll see that the incident that took place on Sunday night in Las Vegas was an act of terrorism. Stephen Paddock inflicted pain on an innocent group of people for his own personal gain. He was the only known person behind this operation, but that doesn't make him a lone wolf. It would be too kind to describe someone that killed 59 people solely as a "lone wolf". Stephen Paddock was a white man. Stephen Paddock was a gambler. Stephen Paddock killed innocent people. Stephen Paddock was a terrorist. 

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