Stop calling them anti-government extremist groups. Militiamen. Right-wing militants. Zealots. Or even more grossly inaccurate, Patriots. In the days since gunmen took over a federal wildlife refuge in Burns, Oregon all eyes have been trained on the tense situation and a renewed call to not only recognize but combat domestic terrorism within the United States. Self-proclaimed as the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom (CCF), this group broke into and destroyed federal property all the while brandishing guns and threatening a kill and be killed stance. It is not a peaceful protest or an organized sit in meant to enact government change. It is a violent bully mentality that is aggressive, criminal, and meant to inflict fear for personal and ideological gain. This is terrorism, pure and simple.
When people hear the word terrorism they automatically picture a bearded man, presumably Arab or of African descent, spouting off “Jihad” and wielding suicide vests or homemade bombs and weapons. Immigrants and refugees, fleeing the very violence and terror we ourselves fear, are conflated alongside the Islamic State, ISIL, and Al-Qaeda. We treat them as threats even though not a single refugee in the U.S. since 9/11 has committed a terrorist act.
As 2016 begins terror remains our number one priority when it comes to national security and foreign policy. Everything we do must be weighed against the probability of whether or not it will weaken our defenses against this outside and foreign threat. Currently terrorism is solely associated with people and religions that are neither white nor Christian. If you are either than you get a pass by the media and politicians. The fact that various hashtags such as #YallQaeda, #YeeHawd, #VanillaISIS, #Talibundy, and #YokelHaram sprung up immediately following CCF’s actions, only further conveys the double standard that terrorism and terrorist-like actions are only committed by dark-skinned and non-Christian foreigners.
I laughed at them. They are creative and funny but they are wrong. They miss the mark.
American culture and history was initially grounded in the belief that in the face of tyranny revolutionary action by the people and for the people must take place. There is an underlying belief that if you don’t like the current form of government you can challenge and ultimately overthrow it. And at the heart of this belief is a growing group of violent, anti-government extremist organizations who are not afraid to shoot, bomb, and burn to make their point.
The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Related Terms defines terrorism as “The unlawful use of violence or threat of violence, often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs, to instill fear and coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are usually political.”
I don’t see how you can label the Oregon standoff as anything but terrorism and to do so dismisses the growing threat these types of groups present to the U.S.
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks and monitors extremist organizations, there has been a 37% increase in identified far-right and ant-government militia groups, bringing the total to 276 militia groups out of the total 874 organizations tracked by SPLC during 2014. If you look at the SPLC live Hate Map, the majority of identified Christian-right, neo-Nazi, and anti-government groups are predominantly located in rural areas and conservative, Republican states. Considering the blatant ant-government ideologues and politicians in these locations, it’s no wonder that the number keeps mounting.
During the mid-1990s there was a resurgence of right-wing extreme ideology and domestic terrorism following the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Carried out by Tim McVeigh, the bombing killed 168 people and injured more than 680, and started a revolution within the right-wing, anti-government movement. Here was man who refused to rely on words. Instead he took deliberate and violent action to demonstrate his hatred of the federal government and anger following the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents.
What’s happening in Oregon shouldn’t be met with surprise. Violence and the threat of violence has become the trademark for these types of groups. According to SPLC, this includes: “plans to bomb government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives and biological and chemical weapons.” They are galvanized by the hate speech against anyone who is not considered traditionally American spewed forth by politicians, media figures, and conservative and Christian ideologues. They find justification for violence in their Christian faith. And they will not stop until we start looking at and treating them as terrorists instead of just a bunch of angry white dudes.