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Call it “Terrorism” with Care

Published: April 9, 2021


Dear Editor:

Thank you for publishing the Minute on Racist Violence by Atlanta Friends Meeting (AFM) in the April 4 newsletter. Indeed, I agree with Atlanta Friends that the "spiritual and social conditions" in our society are what we must finally address, and not just the symptoms.

Symptoms are still important, though. One symptom of our weak spiritual condition is the urge to propagandize and use inflated (and thus at least partly untrue) language to mobilize against an enemy.

So it was with disappointment that I read the appellation "Domestic Terrorist Attack" in the letter introducing AFM's Minute.

January 6 was a violent insurrection, aided by seditious acts. But it was not terrorism, and using that word detracts from and degrades worldwide recognition of how terrorism engulfs life for so many people.

Terrorism is systematic violence to demoralize and/or instill fear, so as to coerce people to behave a certain way. It is a sustained attack on the psyche designed to destroy agency and make victims believe they have no choice but to submit to the perpetrators regardless of right and wrong.

The insurrection at the US Capital did not cow legislators into fear, nor the people of United States. I heard little rhetoric saying "do what we want or you and your family will be raped and killed". I did hear claims of government malpractice severe enough to warrant revolution. Of course, insurrection and revolution are words for the same thing, the difference being what you think is right under particular circumstances. But this was not terrorism in any significant way.

We do have Domestic Terrorism in America. Hate crimes against people of color top the list. Trumpist insurrection and even assassination threats motivated by white supremacy, are different than terrorism and using that word diminishes recognition of how harmful actual terrorist acts are to the fabric of society.

Thanks for listening.

from Jim Avera, Redwood Forest Meeting (4/3/2021)