Call these attacks by their rightful name

Sam Rosenblatt, Opinions Co-Editor

After the most recent tragedies to befall innocent civilians in the United States, it’s time to broaden our definitions of what constitutes terrorism.

There is no single definition of terrorism, but most scholars agree that it generally involves a non-state actor using violence or the threat of violence to achieve a political goal. Under this definition, some of the horrific acts of violence that occurred in the past few years do not constitute terrorism.

While I agree with the principles of this definition, it’s ridiculous that we don’t have a strong enough way of communicating the pain that some acts have caused. The shooters in Las Vegas and Newtown, Conn. and Charleston, S.C. and elsewhere may not have had truly “political” goals, but they certainly did mean to scare us, to harm us, to kill us. To terrorize us.

Killing groups of innocent people, stories so shocking that they dominate national headlines, should not be considered any different in the eyes of our elected officials or the public itself.

It’s even more upsetting that at times race seems to play a significant role in how we label a tragedy an act of terror. The perpetrators of the Orlando and San Bernardino, Calif attacks were Arab; the perpetrators of the Las Vegas and Newtown attacks were not. Obviously, officials don’t classify an act as terrorism simply because the antagonists were Arab or Muslim — for instance, the Orlando shooter swore allegiance to ISIS. Still, it doesn’t reflect well on our society if we don’t recognize the equal extremity of acts perpetrated by Muslims and white Christians.

It doesn’t matter who perpetrates these crimes. At the very least, we should label such attacks as terrorism until we have a better word to communicate the severity of the action without implying the political goals.

Driving a truck through a crowded bike path is terrorism. Shooting at a concert crowd is terrorism. Bombing supporters at a marathon finish line is terrorism. Invading a school or church or nightclub and shooting those inside is terrorism.

Find me the word I’m looking for and I’ll gladly relabel these events. Until then, let’s stop the cringe-worthy anticipation of whether our leaders will call such attacks by their rightful name.

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