In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Boston, united and courageous Bostonians declared the terrorists will not win. I applaud and support this defiant stance. Terrorism must not be allowed to achieve it’s goals but, to ensure it’s defeat, we must know exactly what those goals are and how we might counteract them.
The ultimate target of terrorism is the mind. Terrorism is a dark dialog spoken in the language of pain and suffering to convey the message of fear. This feeling of fear for our very survival brings with it fear’s close companions: hatred, confusion, hopelessness, vengeance and blood-lust. It is an attempt to disfigure the soul by committing acts against the body.
Throughout the history of the world, fear and grief have been used as tools to control and manipulate the heart of mankind. It works because it plays on our natural survival instinct. It’s natural to fear for our lives and grieve for our lost loved ones. It’s natural to want to strike out against that which as made us fearful and threatens our survival. This is exactly what the terrorist wants us to feel.
We are also quick to call the terrorist a monster or some other inhuman distinction. This too, is a goal of the terrorist. Calling someone a monster makes them different from being a person. It makes them an instrument of evil with no redeeming value and separates them from our shared human spirit. Seeing another person in this way helps us make sense of their actions as simply an evil monster doing evil things. This also elevates the terrorist by transforming him or her from a mere person making choices, like the rest of us, to a mythical creature of pure evil. Dehumanization is a reward to the terrorist and sends a message that a simple choice can elevate a person to god-like or devil-like status. It plays into the “beyond human” persona that the terrorist has of himself.
All of these effects seem to be natural and unavoidable outcomes to horrific acts but are they? Must we submit ourselves to the prison of fear and hatred that the terrorist wish to create for us? The answer is a resounding, resolute and defiant NO.
Make no mistake, the perpetrators of these acts must be pursued and prosecuted but this alone will not signify victory over the goals and objectives terrorism. We must refuse to give over our freedom to dictates of our fears. We must not allow our capacity of love to diminish while stoking the fires of hatred and retribution. We must resist the urge to classify the terrorist as anything more or less than human. We must defiantly proclaim the truth that there is no force on earth capable of extinguishing our spirit, corrupting our souls or limiting our love and enjoyment of life.