I don’t expect Heathens to apologize for the actions of their racist minority, Southern Baptists to apologize for the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, or Catholics to apologize for pedo priests. It should then follow that I don’t except Muslims to apologize for the actions of their tiny radicalized minority that does violence either.
Terrorism that uses religion as its excuse is not the responsibility of the rest of its followers that live peacefully and faithfully. It is the responsibility of those that fall into its trap, period. Yes, we can sit here and talk about the millions of possibly contributory variables (variables that don’t cause other people to do the same thing), but at the end of the day, the decision to cause unprovoked harm against families having dinner or going to a show, at their place of work or worship, is a choice.
Personally, I’m good with not justifying their cause by acknowledging that they have a name…terrorism is terrorism. It doesn’t matter what crusade of hatred they’re using as an excuse. Whether they bomb a stadium or a mosque, put on a pointy hood to burn crosses or vandalize a home or bookstore because they are too dumb to know otherwise, set fire to an African American church or to an abortion clinic, shoot up a cafe or school, they are, all the same to me, and I will not give them the dignity of an identity. Call it what it is–hate, fear, ignorance, and violence…terrorism.
But I’m not bringing up this maxim to denounce the hatred and bigotry of terrorists…it goes without saying that any rational and reasonably compassionate human being would do so. I’m bringing this up to denounce our own hatred and bigotry. Because I’ve been seeing a lot of ignorance in word and deed over the last two weeks, from people that I would never have thought would lack the dignity of the reasoned and compassionate response.
When we fall into this trap–the trap of blaming a group for the deeds of individuals, of advocating or perpetuating discrimination or violence against the group by holding the innocent responsible for the deeds of bad actors, for removing their agency and their humanity from them by denying them the basic rights of human beings (rights we demand of ourselves), we let terror win. Not only do we let terror win, but we become the haters and the bigots.
The common chimpanzee wages war to maintain and gain territory. They will harass, kill, and even consume the bodies of members of other tribes–even babies–that breach their borders (with the exception of young females). The pygmy chimp on the other hand, wages love (and I mean this quite literally). These two species are our closest evolutionary relatives, and they split from one another around a million years ago (our ancestors split from their common ancestor around six million years ago). These two species are held captive by their genetics, driven by their instincts. But something in our own evolutionary path has allowed us to transcend genetics to some degree, to overcome our instincts in this regard, to choose our actions and reactions.
We need not choose to condemn or consume the other among us, simply for their other-ness. We need not be held captive by fear and hatred. Territoriality and nativism need not rule the better angels of our nature. We can choose a better path. We can act with compassion and honor. We can judge individuals on their individual merits. We can make just judgment.