Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 309
August 24, 1998

Reflections on Terrorism


The embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam joined the World Trade Center and the Beirut Marine barracks as terrorists' targets. Even while decrying terrorism, I find a clear logic undergirding terrorists' actions.

Terrorism is the violence of the weak; war is the violence of the strong. Each is given due honor and each is condemned, depending on which group is speaking.

Violence so very quickly moves our languid blood. Terrorism and war have an instantaneous binding power--to rally supporters.

We decry the breakdown of "law and order." But, law and order is the slogan of those in control--law being the rule of the powerful and order being that which is imposed by rulers. For example, Israel, as the powerful nation in the Middle East, is able to define law and order and thus label Palestinians as terrorists, whereas Israel's own violent actions in the name of law and order find little condemnation.

Injustice is the seedbed of anger; unrecognized and sustained injustice provokes violence. Think of the anger generated by being cut off on the freeway or having one's child not get her or his due in school. Unaddressed or sustained, such incidences can provoke inner rage and even a violent outburst. Our country was founded in terrorist's acts--unjust taxation without representation and the long list of other injustices enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.

Terrorism gives life to those engaged in it. The British writer G. K. Chesterton pointed out: "When a man has found something which he prefers to life, he then for the first time begins to live." Jesus said much the same thing. To find a purpose beyond one's own ego--like Nathan Hale or Bonhoeffer or a suicide terrorist- allows a person to come fully alive. Terrorists do what our 'heroes' do but for what we consider the wrong things.

Truly terrible are those violent actions that visit random death on innocents. Terrible, also, are lives wasted with narrow vision. Mull over with me the words of two other British writers--William Butler Yeats and George Bernard Shaw.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

--Robert H. Tucker
24 August 1998


© Robert H. Tucker, 1998.
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