On Friday, December 30, a terrorist attacked two women's clinics in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. Two women were murdered and at least five others were shot. Fortunately, he was caught before he murdered anyone else. But there are others out there, and it's unclear how many, who will use violence to stop a woman from exercising her right to have an abortion.
There was a reluctance to use the word "terrorist" for men like this murderer. Salvi's murderous rampage forced the media, the government and the public to re-examine their prior reluctance to call an anti-abortion murderer a terrorist.
This year, these anti-abortion terrorists have murdered at least four people in this country. That's almost as many as the Islamic Jihad killed during the same time in this country. We didn't hesitate to call political murderers terrorists, when their politics deal with the politics of nations or even religious groups. But when it came down to describing the bombing of women's clinics and the murder of anyone connected to a women's clinic, the media and the public used the term "anti-abortion activist." That appellation needed to change, and it looks like it finally has.
I am adamantly pro-choice, so I firmly believe that abortion is a legal option in early pregnancy. I also believe that no one should ever be forced into having an abortion. The choice has got to remain with the pregnant woman. I know there are many real anti-abortion activists, who put their actions where their rhetoric is. They help pregnant women who have chosen to have babies and they help with the adoption of "hard-to-adopt" children. They are generally far too busy behaving in a truly "pro-life" fashion to harass women at clinics. I have enormous respect for these individuals. I would not lump these people in with the terrorist wing of the anti-abortion campaign
As events over the last few years have proven, the people who are most vociferously anti-abortion are not "pro-life." They have become as fanatical as any terrorist faction in the Middle East. And certain leaders in certain churches refuse to take responsibility for the training of these fanatics. Whenever a terrorist event takes place, they wipe their hands of it, saying, "While we don't condone murder, you have to expect this kind of behavior."
No we don't. We have to stop expecting that legitimate protest is being overtaken by fanatical terrorists.
What can we, as a nation, do to help defuse this increasingly volatile situation?
Terrorism can change minds, but it doesn't always go in the direction the terrorists expect. For a few years, my daughter has been anti-abortion. We discussed it some, and I let her know that while I respected her opinion, that we did not agree, and it was pointless to argue the point. So we hadn't discussed it in about a year. Once we heard about the Brookline murders, she told me she was now pro-choice.
For a few years in the early to mid '90s in this country, the terrorism focus was domestic. We had to worry about the Salvis and McVeighs of the country, who caused some amount of disruption. However, we knew the Middle Eastern terrorists hadn't gone away. We knew about the first World Trade Center bombing, about the African Embassy bombings, about the U. S. S. Cole, and about their involvement in the violence in Israel. However, their failure over marring the Millennial celebrations throughout the world made them appear mostly impotent.
That was in the past, before 9/11/01.
While Osama bin Laden and his ilk haven't brought either America or the world to its knees, we've been reminded that the world is a more dangerous place.
If we do capture bin Laden or any of his people, I think we should avoid making them the martyrs they so obviously strive to be. These people are beyond the "everyday sociopaths" like Timothy McVeigh. The best way to handle them is to put them in a brightly-lit box (not in a cave, since they apparently like it that way) and not tell them which way Mecca is. Never let them hear Arabic ever again. Never let them contact a friend or family member. Force them to watch American television 10 hours a day - that would be cruel and unusual punishment without violating the Constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
It is also very important to make Americans realize that these people are not typical Muslims. I spent a few years working in an engineering firm with people from all over the world. I heard many more racist, extremist comments from the American employees than I ever did from the foreign employees, many of whom were Muslim.
America can protect itself against these sorts of attacks without becoming a police state and without denying basic civil liberties. It will require resolve, courage and flexibility. We are up to the task, but it won't be easy. Because the next time bin Laden strikes, it will be in a way we are not expecting (just like he did on September 11).