I woke up this morning to the news from Suruc, Turkey that at least 27 people were killed in what has been called by the Turkish government a terrorist attack. For those of you without quick access to a map, Suruc is in the “No Man’s Land” between Turkey and Syria that is under siege from not only Kurdish factions with some help from the terrorist organization ISIS but also from Syrian rebels looking to fight those two factions off and take the area over for themselves. The death toll in this attack could rise as about 100 more people were injured in the bombing.
With this said, we in the United States are mourning the loss of five military members, four Marines and a seaman, killed in a senseless attack on a recruiting depot in Chattanooga, TN last week. The four Marines were killed immediately in a hail of automatic gunfire, the bullet holes pockmarking their office windows like a sinister form of Swiss cheese. The shooter, a Jordanian man in his mid-20s, was gunned down by authorities as he attempted to continue his shooting rampage at a military support depot located near the recruiting center; as of yet, it hasn’t been determined if it was an act of Islamic terrorism or another case of a mentally deranged man lashing out at a bastion of our country.
The deaths of these servicemen is extremely saddening, especially as some of these men had come through the Hell that war in the Middle East is and has been and lived to tell the tale. To then come home, back to the United States, and supposedly be “safe” in the fact that the battles were over, it is particularly cruel for them to have died in this fashion. Unfortunately, it has become the new reality in the United States: the potential for terrorism exists, even in our supposedly “safe” country, and not on an occasional basis but a weekly and, dare we say it, daily one.
We have joined the international world in that terrorism fraternity, with other countries holding membership for more than a millennia. We are no longer insulated against the senseless attacks that seem to plague the Middle East, Europe and other locales around the world. It used to be that, when there was a terrorist attack of some sort, we could mostly look across the Atlantic for the location and occasionally the Pacific. That was part of what made the United States – and, to some extent, the entirety of the Americas – feel more secure is that we were “removed” from the turmoil, strife and senseless bombings and killings that sometimes bubbles over in other areas of the world.
For almost 500 years (counting from Christopher Columbus’ voyages to the New World), the Americas were an isolated outpost from the Old World. That began to change with the advancements in warfare during World War II. Technically, the first “terrorist attack” against the United States was the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. You could argue that there were other incidents, but this act of war in December 1941 was the first time that attacks from foreign sources were able to alight on U. S. soil.
Since that time, there have been fits and starts as to further acts of terrorism in the U. S. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was an attack by Islamic extremists that turned out to be a test drive for the 2001 tragedy that galvanized our nation. There’s been acts of “domestic terrorism” with Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the 1996 attacks by Eric Rudolph during the Olympics in Atlanta all the way up to Dylann Roof’s racial murdering of black churchgoers just last month in Charleston, SC. It’s gotten to the point where you have a sigh of relief when there isn’t a mass killing or bombing in the United States, a breath where you say “we made it through another day.”
The thing is we have to get used to such occurrences. In the Middle East – be it Iraq, Israel or some other country – they pause for a moment to reflect on the situation and then return to their daily existence. It isn’t that these people don’t have emotions regarding the situation, it is that they know the only way to counteract those terroristic intents is to demonstrate that it had no effect. It is remarkable the level of recovery that those people have reached in that a despicable mass killing may have been committed but, the next day, the surrounding area of that shooting has been cleaned and repaired and looks as if nothing has happened.
Europe does this too, as shown after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France earlier this year, and Asia barely blinks if such an atrocity occurs. We here in the United States, however, normally end up clutching our collective chests and letting out a Nancy Kerrigan-like “WHHHHHY!” wail that can last for several months or even years until we start trying to figure out what laws to put into place “so that it never happens again.” The resulting discussion of any way to try to “fix things” uses its own terrorism in shutting down any solution or solutions.
If acts of terrorism on the shores of the U. S. is that prevalent, then many ask what should be done about it. The answer? Nothing. The countries of Europe and the Middle East have extremely Orwellian methods of counter-terrorism, including facial recognition software to visually identify militants, infiltration of subversive groups, restriction or observance in travel, arming of troops walking the streets of major cities, racial profiling and stifling of opposition speech (just to name a few). To implement these measures in the United States would violate pretty much every tenet that the country was established on and that is expected out of a free society. While we can weep and mourn, we shouldn’t exorcise what helped build the United States.
Although tragic, the shooting in Chattanooga is simply the latest example of the changing reality in the United States. While once secure from such situations, it is a new time (and not for the best) in our country that we have to be prepared for the potential for terrorist attacks, be they foreign or domestic. It doesn’t mean, however, we have to enact draconian measures in the untenable illusion of “safety” that violate the very essence of what the United States is. We just have to learn how to handle them better on a mental and emotional level than we have in the past.