The following is a response from a reader to David’s post.
He (this writer) is dead on.
I’m a Tar Heel Grad from ’96. And like everyone else, I was shocked to learn about the terrorist attack on my old school. You ask what is gained by calling this a terrorist act. You gain moral clarity by calling it terrorism. Listen to yourself for a minute:
“And so, even if this is an act of terrorism, which it very well may be, some greater good is served by NOT calling it terrorism. In a post-9/11 world, the very word terrorism has connotations that spark panic, fear, and irrational hatred.”
I respond: To not call something what it is, you are sending the message you are afraid to face reality because it has consequences. To quote Albus Dumbledore fromt he Harry Potter novels, “Fear of a name, increases fear of the thing itself.” Let’s not be afraid to say that this is what it is. When we stop saying that what happened last week is terrorism, we enable two things. First we allow the perpetrators of terror to see we bury our heads in the sand at the first mild sign of provocation. Perhaps Mr. Taheri-azar is unconnected to a cell. That’s fine, but the minute he attacks innocents to support a politcal agenda, he declares his allegiance with our enemies in the global war on terror.
Secondly, the purveyors of irrational hatred are responsible for their actions, as clearly as Mr. Taheri-azar is for his. We do ourselves no favors by shying away from declaring an act of terrorism an act of terrorism, just because someone else might use that declaration to support a cause we oppose. In fact if our motivation for pulling punches is because we may give the racists in our world a weapon, then we sacrifice some of our moral high ground. We were wronged. And we must respond with clarity of thought and of purpose.
I was a student at UNC ten years ago when the Mother’s Day fire at Phi Gamma Delta took five lives in the hours before graduation. Those fires were a tragic accident, and the Carolina campus rallied together to mourn our fallen friends and also to make sure the same fate did not befall others, by promoting solutions that ensured better fire safety in buildings in Chapel Hill. This vicious, and I daresay evil attack, gives us Tar Heels another chance to show our mettle. And the conservatives on campus need to be there as leaders. Buck up.
Now is not the time to go wobbly.