Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ideologies, Terrorism, and Stuff People Do

Terrorism (n): the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

Sunday May 31, abortion doctor George Tiller was shot and killed while attending church in Wichita, Kansas. Because Tiller and his clinic have been previous targets of anti-choice vandalism, bombings, and shootings, authorities believe Tiller's murder to have been politically, religiously, and ideologically-motivated. Scott Roeder has been arrested and is expected to be charged with the murder. According to the Kansas City Star:

"Roeder was a member of an anti-government group in the 1990s and a staunch abortion opponent....Those who know Roeder told The Kansas City Star that he believed killing abortion doctors was an act of justifiable homicide."

If these allegations are true, then the murder of Dr. Tiller is nothing short of domestic terrorism. It was an act of violence against a civilian in order to attain a goal that was ideological in nature. To their credit, several anti-choice organizations have condemned the murder of Dr. Tiller. Comment sections following news reports and blogs, however, are less encouraging. Many comments display an underlying hypocrisy of many people who consider themselves to be Christian anti-choicers. While celebrating a Culture of Life because murder is wrong, some people nonetheless believe that sometimes murder of adults is right, even though the lives of non-fetal human beings are widely thought to constitute "life" as well.

Nonetheless, I do not believe this murder, if it truly was an act of anti-choice terrorism, is representative of the anti-choice movement as a whole. I know many people who oppose abortion and all of them are quite capable of opposing abortion without murdering abortion doctors. As with any movement, there are those who go beyond rhetoric and peaceful demonstration and engage in acts of violence. Anti-choice individuals who murder abortion doctors are no more representative of the anti-choice movement as a whole than, for instance, are queer radicals who disrupt church services are representative of the LGBT rights movement as a whole. It is wrong to demonize people on any side of a movement by painting the few violent extremists as being representative of all people who hold a certain belief.

Americans are disagreeable and that's fine. We cannot expect all people to hold the same exact views, after all. The real challenge for humanity is to live together peacefully in spite of holding different views and to explore why it is that we are so often incapable of doing so. For one, reality is much more nuanced than the "reality" that the media, blogs, and the news present. The pervasive belief that America consists of two opposing forces engaged in a Culture War fosters a simplistic outlook that says we have Red Americans versus Blue Americans who are comprised of Us and Them. In reality, there are two types of people, as the saying goes, those who divide the world into two types of people, and everyone else. The problem with violence isn't that it's an anti-choice problem, or a pro-choice problem, or a black problem, or a white problem, or a queer problem, or an anti-gay problem, or a Christian problem, or an atheist problem. It's that it's a human problem.

Until mass numbers of humanity ever realize that, we are lost.

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