“In politics, what begins with fear usually ends in folly." — Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I have said this before, and I will say it again: One thing I fear more than al-Qaida or Taliban terrorists are domestic terrorists. It does not matter the why or wherefore; we are our own worst enemy.
The latest story broke May 20 and looks like it will continue for a long while. Sunday’s Associated Press headline written in the print edition of the Columbia Tribune (page 6A) read, “Prison Islam called a threat.” The only word that jumped out was and still is “Islam.”
You have to read the article to learn that three of the four alleged terrorists are from the U.S., the fourth from Haiti. That three of the four alleged terrorists converted to Islam while serving federal prison sentences. That their last names are Williams (uncle and nephew), Cromitie and Payen — not names we associate with terrorism or terrorists.
My position is simple: This headline and others like it promote anthropophobia, xenophobia and theophobia and should be a disgrace to Americans. It is not. Americans need an enemy. We need someone to fight. We need “Them.”
For many Jews, the enemy was and still is the Germans. The anger over the murder of millions in death camps is still so strong that 50 years after the end of World War II, many will not ride in a German-built car nor listen to Wagner operas or symphonies. The atrocities of the Nazi government in the 1930s and '40s were so unforgivable that the German people must continue to pay.
In the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s, it was those “damned and ungodly Communists,” the filth from the Soviet Union, the Peoples Republic of China, North Korea, North Vietnam and, of course, Cuba. We lived with air-raid drills and bomb shelters to protect ourselves from the inevitable nuclear attack from “Them.”
Economically, the enemy in the 1970s, '80s and '90s was Japan, threatening America’s dominance in manufacturing. With Japan’s infrastructure destroyed in World War II, new and modern factories were built producing better and less-expensive goods. All done with the financial assistance from the United States. How dare they.
During the '80s and through the new century, the enemy has included those crossing the southern borders of this land seeking only the American Dream. We fear them because they do not speak English, they do not look like us and they dress funny.
This decade, the enemy also includes anyone from any Middle Eastern country, except Israel. More so if that person is Muslim. Every one of “Them” is responsible for 9/11.
We have become afraid of people, of foreigners and members of specific religious sects. Americans have become anthropophobic, xenophobic and theophobic.
Rep. Peter T. King, R-N.Y., told the Los Angeles Times, “(The arrest of the Bronx Four) shows how real the threat is from homegrown terrorists.” Yet journalists and bloggers appear to spend more time on the growth of radical Islam than domestic terrorists. Most reports of the arrests remind the readers that all four grew beards that were “thick and bushy in keeping with devout Muslim norms.”
The perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombings, Michael Fortier, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols , are (or were) Euro-Americans and mostly nondescript. They were more dangerous, better organized and more motivated than the Bronx Four. We “trusted” them because they were white, spoke English and dressed like Americans. America first wrongly blamed radical Muslims.
If you were to meet people on the street, one clean-cut and Euro-American, the other Arab-American and wearing a full beard or a burqa, who would you trust? Add an African-American in the mix and does your opinion change? What if none spoke English? Be honest, painfully honest.
Americans want to believe the words inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, herself an immigrant. Emma Lazarus wrote, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free … ”
How long can America continue if we add to this wonderful sonnet, “But only if you look, dress, speak and sound like us”? Aren’t we either immigrants or the sons and daughters of immigrants?
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for MissouriTribune.com and TRCB.com. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.