Terrorism By Any Other Name

By Barbara Santee, Ph.D

She had worked in the building for years, knowing the entire time that it could be a target for terrorists. It had happened before in the form of a bomb that came very close to bringing the building down. But, thankfully, it hadn't, and they had built back, determined not to be let terrorism rule their lives. The staff still came to work every day, ignoring the threat and doing their jobs, as she did. Still each day as she got to the office, the thought in the back of her mind gnawed at her, "Will it happen today? Will this be the day I die?"

She knew there had been hundreds of threatening phone calls and illiterate, hand-scrawled notes filled with religious babbling. The only way to survive with her sanity was to presume they were bogus, but still, precautions were taken. The staff discussed what to do in case of violence. But it was so hard to plan a defense when you didn't know what you were defending against, when you didn't know when or from where the violence might come. They had contingency plans, but would the plans work? Would it be another bomb that could shatter, maim or kill everyone in the building? Would it be a biological attack anthrax or ebola that would cause an agonizing death, not only for everyone in the building for perhaps thousands of others? Would it be an attack that would come so swiftly she would not know what hit her, like a bullet in the back of the head?

The threats came from religious extremists zealots who ignore the basic precepts of democracy or even civilization. In their minds, they are not subject to the mere laws of man. They answer to their sole constituency God. Or their version of God. The perversion of their religious beliefs gives them the excuse to commit atrocities in the name of God. None of the normal rules apply to religious extremists. They will do anything to impose their will on others anything. They think nothing of slaughtering people who disagree with them people they call heretics, infidels, non-believers, the spawn of Satan. Names they coldly use to dehumanize their opponents to make it easier to hate them and to convince others to hate them. Their version of religion is not based on love of humanity. It is firmly rooted in hate, a hate so strong it propels them to do unspeakable acts, like bombing the marine barracks in Beirut or unleashing nerve gas in a crowded subway in Tokoyo. Hate feeds their fanaticism, and nothing can penetrate the wall that protects their beliefs from the intrusion of the real world -- the world the rest of us live in.

She arrived at the building, looking cautiously around her. The bullet-proof vest cut into her shoulders, but it was one of the precautions her husband agreed was needed. The escort rushed to open the car door. "Good morning, Dr. Callahan." She smiled at the friendly face. "Good morning," she responded, and then hurried up the sidewalk to the entrance of the Women's Reproductive Health Clinic. One last glance behind her at the gaggle of hate-filled faces spewing vile garbage at her, then she entered the clinic. She had patients to take care of.

Dr. Barbara Santee is the executive director or Oklahoma NARAL. Written in 2002.


Does it seem like terrorism to you?

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