Missing the definition of terrorism on 9/11

Like many people around the country, I reflected on the events that took place on September 11, 2001. It would be very difficult to argue that that day was not a somber and tragic one. However, it is fair and relevant to ask where we are now. That is in fact what remembering that day is partially about.

So how far have we come? What has changed? How have we grown from it?

Initially it seemed that people were in shock with what they saw on TV, and I didn't really know how to react at first. People didn't seem ready to ask questions about our own government or to critically look at historical reasons for what happened. So that kind of analysis never took place by the mainstream press.

September 11 doesn't only hold significance to the United States. Many Chilean people also consider it a tragic day, but for other reasons. On September 11, 1973, Chilean president Salvador Allende died during a military coup. Ironically enough, the United States had a great deal to do with his removal from power. Most people will never hear about this because it's kept quiet and overshadowed by other events on that same day.

Depending on how one chooses to use certain terminology, the removal of Allende from power can be considered an act of terrorism. To me, terrorism is any act that creates an environment that is hostile or terrifying. I'd go as far as saying that people of color in this country deal with terrorism from the day they are born, and continue to live through it almost every day.

 Have you ever really stopped to think about what the term terrorism means? According to the definition found in the Federal Criminal Code, Chapter 113B of Part I of Title 18 of the United States, terrorism includes "... activities that involve violent (or life-threatening acts) that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State and appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and (if domestic) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and (if international) occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States."

I would argue that such a definition would call into question many of the actions that the United States has carried out over the years, decades and centuries.

Even considering the above definition and keeping in mind that the term is used in the media on a daily basis, I can't really say with confidence that this is what is meant when people talk about terrorism. I can ask any number of people who either have family from the Middle East or come from the Middle East themselves, and they will tell me that their experience is very different.

In the days following September 11, 2001, my Middle Eastern brothers and sisters became targets of terroism on a different level. They were racially profiled, called names, searched at airports more than others, and so on. Suddenly the idea of terrorism had the face of a person of darker skin, which is something that the federal definition never states, but seems to practice.

So the reality is that when people talk about terrorism they mean something they don't actually say. Much like white privilege or men making more money than women, in the United States, terrorism goes hand-in-hand with people from the Middle East, much like "illegal" immigration goes with Mexicans.

These are associations that just don't have any moral or fair foundations. They are terms that are never openly questioned in a presumed, free democracy. Where is the discourse? Has the political, social, and moral consciousness of this society not passed its "terrible 2's" yet? From the looks of it, no, for folks are still pointing their fingers and not taking leadership by asking what their role is in all of this.

This is one of the many additional tragedies that was revealed after 9/11, But, for me, the question is this: how can this society mature beyond such pettiness?

I am not just blaming or pointing fingers at this or that person. Rather, I'm calling on people to question and engage in more-than-meets-the-eye thought.

If you've read history and know about people like Salvador Allende and events like the extermination of Native people in North America, then perhaps you will have grounds for legitimately disagreeing with me. But, if all you base your opinions on are on what you hear and see on TV, then maybe it's time that you did a little research.

I am always willing to hear what others have to say and I invite discourse and dialogue. After all, that's what our democracy is all about, right?

Enrique Gonzalez is a resident of the Skyway neighborhood in South Seattle and works at El Centro de la Raza. He may be reached through the address or e-dress listed below.[[In-content Ad]]