Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 6.28.07

Society in Denial
The burgeoning terror front

As I climbed the many steps of the newly commissioned Battleship Eugene (an obscenely expensive and excessive garrison, with all the charm of Darth Vader’s summer home, and only four bicycle parking spots) to attend the first in a series of sentencing hearings for the 10 “let’s paint them terrorist” defendants, I felt cautiously optimistic. I’d seen U.S. Judge Ann Aiken in action a week or two earlier, sentencing some friends who had been polite but unwavering in their antiwar visits to congressional offices there. It seemed hopeful that Aiken would put this whole terrorist matter into a more appropriate context. Probably she’d spell out the difference between youthful monkey wrenchers, acutely cognizant of our planet’s desperate straits and refusing to sink into apathetic denial even as they made extremely poor action choices, and actual terrorists, those who prescribe both targeted and indiscriminate murder of human life in the delusion that it advances their agendas.

Alas, the distinction still requires spelling out, I guess by non-judicial amateurs like me. Real terrorists set out to shoot, lynch, burn and blow up other people. They completely extinguish innocent life because their cause supposedly has such greater importance. The Unabomber is a terrorist. The bombers of N.Y.C., Atlanta and Oklahoma City were terrorists. The KKK and Aryan Nation and all the “pro-life” doctor shooters — duh. And it is very fair to ask, at this point, exactly why the U.S. government is interested in diluting and expanding its notion of what constitutes terrorism.

Are we soon going to have color codes to help clarify the degree of threat from all the new burgeoning terror fronts? The peace terrorists can be pink, since the Code Pinkers have already led the way with their scary presence. And of course, any vicious tree-hugger is now a green terrorist.

In our system, the courts serve to shape and amend social policies as well as enforce existing law. Judge Aiken was handed an historical opportunity to inform the world that while our community is part of the U.S., this is not Alberto Gonzales’ U.S. But instead the judge opted to go with the script, with the result that we now live among terrorists. (How strange that the guy who was one of the most active perps but turned in all his friends lives here free as a bird and somehow is not a “terrorist.”)


Judge Aiken laid responsibility on some of the defendants’ parents, chewing them out for failing their kids. This was not only a cheap shot, it was so off-target as to be a Cheney shot. The judge should have indicted the actual failure here: a society in severe denial, intoxicated by obscene consumerism and threatening the entire planet with its selfish, bloated and wasteful ways. A society so clueless that it takes a Monday off to celebrate one of its heroes yet completely fails to transmit Dr. King’s message about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to social change. A society that has not even begun to educate its own people about nonviolent methods and philosophy. A society that can’t go 10 years without invading and wrecking someone else’s homeland.

It’s always easier to punish and put away the truth-telling provocateurs, to scapegoat the canaries in our coal mine. Easier to pretend that some problem has for the moment been “solved” by labeling and demonizing individuals who are serving to symptomize the problem.

Apparently the judicial branch of our system is choosing to follow the other two (criminal executive and spineless legislative) down the road of failing its people. Failure to see the big picture and treat holistically ultimately will result in a massive systems failure (i.e. death) of the entire social organism. Ironically, this is what actual terrorists have been going for all along.

Vip Short, D.C., of Eugene is a holistic physician and nonviolence trainer.