Thursday, April 18, 2013

‘Terrorism’ or ‘Tragedy’? Why Can’t Politics Ever Take a Rest?

Proving that some people will indeed argue about anything, this morning I read three different articles debating whether the Boston bombing is best described as “terrorism” or a “tragedy.”

Apparently, there are those who believe that the word “tragedy” is not specific enough. These individuals believe others are being too “PC” in not acknowledging that the bombing was a deliberate, malevolent act and that “tragedy” denotes a really bad event that was essentially no one’s fault. They favor the word “terrorism,” which makes it clear that an act was committed with depraved motivation.

Others have stated that because there is a legal definition of “terrorism,” and right now there isn’t enough information to determine if this bombing meets all three prongs of the definition, we shouldn’t speculate; that it’s okay to talk of the Boston bombing as an “act of terror” or “an act of terrorism,” but calling it just plain “terrorism” is premature.

President Obama was criticized for not calling the bombing “terrorism” and then criticized again for recasting the bombing as an “act of terror,” merely to avoid controversy, the theory goes.

As I've stated before, I like words, and I’m sympathetic to those who occasionally get tripped up on words, even to the extent of breaking down communications.

But this is ridiculous. This reminds me of the conversations I used to have with my nine-year-old when he was younger and learning to read.

I’d tell him, “Thomas put your shoes on. It’s time for school.”

And he’d reply, “It’s not a shoe, it’s a sandal.”

And I’d reply, “It’s both.”

“No, it’s not. It’s a sandal,” he’d insist.

Stuck on a detail and unable to grasp a larger meaning.

Like the child that he is.

One of the beauties of language is its complexity. We can use words to communicate in layers. Words don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Words can even have legal meanings and lay-person meanings. (For example, I say that Donald Trump’s hair is a crime, and it is. Not legally of course, but still.)
But here’s what’s really bothering me. Something feels wrong about this debate. It doesn’t feel like a genuine act to promote understanding. It feels political. It feels disrespectful to the victims. How should we characterize their pain? Let me count the ways…

Let’s not do that, okay?

Instead, let’s comfort the victims—the families of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, and Lingzi Lu and those one-hundred and seventy injured and their loved ones. Let’s continue to pray for their healing, physical and spiritual.

Let’s continue to pray that law enforcement relentlessly pursues the bastards who did this terrible thing.

Let’s do that instead.

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