We've heard a lot about "Terrorism" and "Terrorists" over the last ten to fifteen years. Almost nightly on the news you hear the word, but what exactly does it mean?
Pondering this, I went to the 1828 Webster's Dictionary to find the definition of the word, and I found an interesting thing--THAT WORD WAS NOT IN THE DICTIONARY!
In fact, that word was not in common use until much later. Rather, the terms most commonly used at the time were "Tyranny," and "Tyrant," and "Despotism" and "Despot."
Thus, the word Terrorist is a modern word, only entering into common use in the English language in the last 100 years or so. So, what exactly does it mean?
Studying it out, I found an interesting thing. The word "terrorist" usually means different things to different people! It all depends upon the world-view of those who are perceiving the labelled "terrorist." To some, it's a good thing to terrorize certain people, while to others it's a bad thing. The classic line in one of the Rambo movies illustrates it nicely: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter!"
A simple definition of a Terrorist is: "Someone who FIGHTS for something, usually a specific cause or ideal that is very dear to their heart." And whether or not the person is truly a "Terrorist" depends upon how he is viewed by society.
A good example of "terrorism" would be that of Nazi Germany. Most of the world viewed the Nazis as Terrorist Thugs, who used violence for world domination. But if you were a Nazi, you thought the true terrorists were the Jews, who were viewed as money-grabbing, uncaring, mongrols who raped your country and your land and stole all you had. Which world-view was right?
Clearly the Jews were not the terrorists, but they were demonized to be so by the Nazi Government. And today we look back on the Second World War and clearly see the Nazis as the bad guys. But what if they had won? What if they had taken over the entire world? Then would not the official position be that the true terrorists were the hated Jews? And would not the government propagate this lie, claiming their rise to power was a "just cause" in order to wipe out the terrorists?
A "Terrorist," then, is defined by those who either demonize or idolize the person who fights for his cause. There are, therefore, two sides to terrorism. One in which the person is viewed as EVIL for instilling terror in the hearts of others, and one in which a person is viewed as JUST for fighting oppression.
A great illustration of this would be the American Revolution in which a Tyrannical King in England was pillaging the American Colonies, and seeking to oppress them even more by taxing them exceedingly. In retaliation, the Founding Fathers fought against this tyranny. But in so doing, they too engaged in acts of terror like the Boston Tea Party. To the King, they were terrorists who needed to be brought to justice, but to the colonists, he (the King) was the Terrorist who terrorized them by bringing his troops to their shores. Who was the RIGHTEOUS and who was the EVIL in this scenario? For years, we Americans have believed the KING was wrong and the COLONISTS were right. But we only enjoy the privilege to believe this because the colonists won the American Revolution. Had they lost, the King undoubtedly would have said he was right and they were "terrorists" rebelling against his authority. (Sadly, this is what many people believe today in our country. I've even heard certain modern law-enforcement instructors saying things like: "The Founding Fathers were the TERRORISTS of their day.")
So who was right? Who was the real terrorist? Who was evil and who was just?
About seventy years later, there was another war on America's shores. (The "Civil War.") This time it was not an international war, rather a war within its own borders against it's own citizens. And it was about the exact same issue: No taxation without representation. The North desired to tax the South with the Morrill Tarriff upwards of 40%. The South viewed this as oppressive DESPOTISM and outright TYRANNY, and seceded from the Union. When Lincoln's warships went to Southern soil, they viewed this as a "Terrorist" Act of Agression, and they took back Fort Sumter from the yankees after having given them ample time to vacate the premises. The North looked at this as an act of Terrorism, and an ungodly, costly, and bloodly war insued. You know the rest. The North won, so the official story today is that the terrorists were the Southerners who rebelled against the Union. But ask any a true Southerner who knows anything about that Un-Civil War, and they'll tell you the real terrorists were the North, who raped, pillaged, plundered, and burned the South to the ground, AGAINST the rules of war. And through TERROR they ruled the South with carpet baggers and oppressive leadership. So who was the true terrorist?
Often it's more than just a moral issue of right verses wrong. Often it's an issue of finality. That is, if a person is captured and imprisoned, and his cause falls to the groud with no one else to champion it, then he was a terrorist who fought against the statas quo. However, if the person fights and gains ground and eventually triumps and his cause is accepted world-wide, then he is not a terrorist at all, rather a "freedom fighter" and a "conqueror" who fought valiantly for his righteous cause. (Whether it was truly righteous or not. Always remember that the Victor always writes the history books, and they can make their cause seem just, especially if they win).
Thus, the terms "Terrorism" and "Terrorist" are terms that can be either positive or negative to people. And often they are terms used only to label one's enemies. Who is the real Terrorist is often hard to see.
The real question to ask is: "Is it right to ever use terror?" This is a moral question that needs be answered. That is why both sides in the issue of terrorism should be scrutinized, as often there are two sides to a coin. It's not always clear cut which side is right and which is wrong. Sometimes both are good. Other times, both are bad. And yet in other times, one side is good while the other is evil, or vice versa.
It is interesting, however, as I found in my study of the word, that today the words terrorism and terrorist are often used by governments in a political sense. And they are often used to curb free speech and intimidate people into submission.
One website defines TERRORISM as:
"the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal."
Another defines it as:
"Systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective. It has been used throughout history by political organizations of both the left and the right, by nationalist and ethnic groups, and by revolutionaries. Although usually thought of as a means of destabilizing or overthrowing existing political institutions, terror also has been employed by governments against their own people to suppress dissent..."
Here, the term is used in such a way of one's one government using terror against it's own citizens to scare them into submission to it's oppressive policies.
Thus, even though the true terrorist is the political regime, the people who won't go along with their oppression are labelled terrorists in order to capture them and silence their opposition. Such an oppressive regime is not only sad, but very immoral and ungodly.
Yet, we see the other extreme in our day with Muslim extremism, in which radical Muslims blow up themselves and others in their attempt to terrorize non-believers.
Terror whether it is by individuals, governments, or religions, is always a sad thing. And who pays the most? Those who are hurt or who are forced to give up their liberties.
This is why it's important to define the terms "Terrorist" and "Terrorism." For it's important to know that just because someone says that someone is a Terrorist doesn't neccesarily mean they are. It's quite possible they have been labelled by the real Terrorist group. And, it's possible that they just might be a true freedom fighter. This is why it's important to practice discernment and look at the person, group, religion, or government, that has been labeled terrorist. What are they preaching, teaching, pushing. What are their ideals, dogmas, policies?
If they are trying to take away one's liberties and oppress them them, they are most likely Tyrants and therefore Terrorists. If they are fighting for liberty, then they are most likely Patriots.
The definition of terms are so important.