Terrorists terrorize. That’s their job description. Those terrorizing terrorists terrify people. The only question they ask themselves when they go to bed at night is: Did I terrorize enough people today?
Meanwhile, for your listening pleasure, a small dose of appropriate paranoia.
So, boys and girls, how do the terrorists win? They win when people are terrorized. Conversely, they do not win when people are not terrorized. They do not win when people go about their daily lives, basking in the freedom they have been vouchsafed, cherishing their parents and embracing their children, demonstrating the civic virtues of tolerance, patience, love.
So are the terrorists winning?
Our police have been so militarized that they resemble occupying armies. The government increasingly insists on overriding privacy rights in the name of tenuous national security concerns. Our schools are fortresses, our children are armed, our Muslims are harassed, jailed, beaten.
We are terrified. The terrorists have won.
Fear is useful in presidential politics. Republican candidates are outdoing themselves in outlining the immense dimensions of the threat. Every woman in a head scarf is a potential suicide bomber; every man in a turban is likely to shoot up a church. (Even though the guy is probably a Sikh and thus: Not a Muslim). Also, black people are prowling the streets looking for your credit cards. Better not let them vote.
With all due respect to the the victims of terrorism in New York and San Bernardino, Islamic Jihadists are not a large threat in this country. There are many things threatening Americans, including gun violence, poverty and sugar. Alas, fighting those things is not popular, so let’s fight Islamic terrorists instead.
ISIS is grotesque, but it’s not the only grotesque entity occupying the Middle East. It’s a foreign policy nightmare, and it’s going to end real badly, and we should help our allies — if we can find any. We should also continue to grapple with our national legacy of genocide and slavery. But, you know, turn off the TV. Prune your Facebook and Twitter lists. Find someone in need and give them money, shelter, succor.
And vote like someone who isn’t afraid. Because then the terrorists will lose.