Terrorists Aren't Magic, Don't Have Superpowers

One thing that the Rude Pundit has never understood is why we endow terrorists with seemingly magical powers, as if they can just use their minds and a wave of their hands to make bridges explode and bullets pierce the hearts of the infidels. This mostly goes for Muslim terrorists. We haven't made the leap to thinking that dirt-poor whites who blow shit up or gun the fuck out of some business are anything more than the luckiest knuckle-draggers in the filthy cave.

But Muslim terrorists (or, more accurately, what we label "terrorists") are treated like they will go all Thanos on our puny asses, and, woe to us, we don't have any fucking Avengers to help us, so we have to pass laws and commit acts that just make us look like little pussies. See Gitmo, see the Patriot Act, see most every fake case that's ever been hyped up to justify the security state apparatus when it's really just some deranged fucker who said some stupid shit on an online forum and the FBI treated him like he had visited Fantasy Island for wannabe jihadists.

The hysteria that surrounds our every attempt to grapple with terrorism is just goddamned depressing. Even the term is bullshit, as in the well-worn but still potent argument about why, say, Omar Mateen was a terrorist but, say, Dylan Roof isn't. Both are deluded fucknuts who wanted to intimidate and harm people because they didn't conform to their fucked-up version of the world. Both got their radical ideologies online. Both wrote or proclaimed that they were bad-ass motherfuckers wrapped up in trying to bring about greater violence or take great selfies or something.

And the term is even more full of shit when you talk about "potential terrorists," as in the mystical files that make up the "Terrorist Watch List" (or, as the FBI calls it, the Terrorist Screening Database). As you might know, you don't get to know why you are on, say, the no-fly list. That's a secret, even from you, should you find out you can't board your plane, even if you're not hiding a box cutter in your anus.

But here we are, with Democrats going to the barricades to expand the use of the TSD, which can take away your rights without any due process or charge or ability to answer. Yesterday's thrilling sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives was about taking this abuse of power and expanding it to include gun sales. While you might think that it's awesome to prevent anyone from buying a gun, if you believe that people with scary names who might have done something to make the FBI think they might at some undefined date become terrorists, if you think the government should be able to make secret lists and deny civil liberties and rights (buying those weapons is still legal, no matter what you'd like), then you're kind of not a liberal anymore on this issue and the ACLU thinks you're full of shit.

The most generous reading of the sit-in is that John Lewis and the other Democrats wanted to do something, anything to break the logjam against action on gun control. If we can get this passed, then maybe universal background checks would be next. Or, in some ways, it's kind of clever to use the TSD to say, "Well, if you're gonna label people terrorists-in-waiting, then why the fuck would you let 'em buy guns?" And if this was an effort to delegitimize the whole damn list, that would be noble. Of course, it wasn't.

Meanwhile, on the right, we get a fanning of the flames of panic, from Donald Trump's anti-Muslim desire to "figure out what the hell is going on" to Republicans who are ready to scream that Muslim Magnetos are going to come to our homes and kill us all. This past weekend, the Rude Pundit was walking past protesters outside Trump International Hotel in Manhattan. Except they weren't protesting the baboon-haired hate-seller. They were there to protest the United States allowing Syrian refugees into this country. They equated the refugees with ISIS. And even when it comes to ISIS, that, right there, is hysteria, without any facts, any truth, just purely projecting a fictional fantasy evil onto some really very ordinary criminals.

Until we learn to calm the fuck down, at the personal and the political levels, about terrorism, until we learn to separate fantastical fears from mundane reality, with a good dose of caution and awareness, we're doomed to keep pretending like we're doing good when, really, we're just playing cruel games with people's lives.