The weeds of fear are the favored crop of any terrorist.
Two years after that bit of unpleasantness in New York City, in Washington, DC, and in the Pennsylvania countryside, I wrote this:
Terrorists commit their acts not for the benefit of the dead, but for those who remain alive. “Look at what we’ll do to you and yours,” they say, “if you don’t do what we want you to do.” They revel in our horror. They rejoice in the sorrow of the families who will never bury the atomized [or beheaded] bodies of their loved ones. They say, “yeah, we did it and we’ll do it to you unless you….submit.”
Does anyone remember the story of Emmett Till? Several years before I was born, Till, fourteen-years-old, was the victim of another set of terrorists. This young black man, not knowing or not caring about the ways of the South of that period, was murdered for allegedly making an indecent remark to a white woman. He disappeared and, days later, his body, beaten and shot, was found in a river. The men who were tried for his murder were acquitted. Emmett’s murder wasn’t an isolated case of a man supposedly defending the honor of his wife. As we know, all over the South, black men were being murdered for “stepping out of their place,” whether they actually had stepped out of their “place” or not.
Those who committed these crimes did so not only for “revenge” on the dead, but to send a message to and strike fear in the living. That’s what made it terrorism. Sound familiar?
In 2001 (and 1968 and 1979 and 1983 and 1988 and 1993 and 1998 and 2003 [added: and in 2014] and every year in between), the players are different from that of 1955, but the message is the same: do what we want or this will happen to you or to those whom you love. In this case, it is “worship in the way we worship; bow five times a day to Mecca or else.”
I mention the Till case not to compare the two sets of terrorists, per se, but to compare the dissimilar reactions of the victims’ loved ones. Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, had an open-casket funeral for her son. […]
[Till’s] head–monstrous from the beating, the bullet and the decomposition–contrasted against the normalcy of the casket and the suit that Mrs. Till had picked out for the body. It gave the picture that much more ugliness: your worst nightmare in banal black and white.
But Mamie Till’s steely words about the open-casket decision were electrifying: “I want the world to see what they did to my son.”
Well, the “world” did see and, though there was much more sorrow to be had–as it is with any major upheaval of a society–things changed. Some of us even think that things have changed for the better…such home-grown types of terrorists still exist, but when caught, they usually sit on death row rather sit at home having beers with their friends. We can send our message as well.
All die once. But the feaful die twice.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game,
was published in 2009; the second edition in 2012. Her new novel, Arlen’s Harem, is due in 2014. Help her fund it and help keep her blog alive!