Someone handed me a coin on the front of which, was the likeness of a fearsome terrorist. On the flip side of that coin, I saw very plainly, a coward.
Someone once told me that terrorism was the product of religion. All extremists, they said, were products of Islam, or Christianity, or Judaism. But in reality, all terrorists practice the same religion. It is called “terrorism.” It is a religion with no God save for the terrorist’s own perverted ego. Terrorism is not the product of faith in a God; it is a symptom of a faith that is misplaced or non-existent.
Coward: “One who cowers.” One who seeks to hide him or her self from a challenge. Challenges come in all sizes and varieties; some are real, some only imagined. Some are political; others religious; others, personal. Terrorists are cowards who run in fear from their real challenges. Kind of like the schoolyard bully.
Put a few cowards together, and you have a “terrorist cell.” Put a few more together, and you have a “terrorist organization.” Sometimes a terrorist even fools a country into letting terrorists take control; then the “state” becomes an official instrument of terror.
Then, there are the cowards who act alone.
Terrorists aren’t very bright. Despite what they’ve learned about using explosives, firearms, deception, coercion and any other tools in their arsenal, their ideas and aspirations – whether about right or wrong, good or evil, or about what the world “owes” them – are not strong enough to compete on their own merits with the ideas and aspirations of the rest of us. So, the terrorist stops competing on that basis. The terrorist seeks to end healthy competition and debate by killing their competitors.
A terrorist, of course, will deny all of this. They will seek to justify their perversion in the very things that argue most strongly against them: Philosophy. Rationality. God. The bigger the lie, the easier it is to fool some of the people some of the time.
But we are not fooled this morning, nor have some of us ever been fooled at all. People of good will have always understood the truth about bullies and cowardice. On any level, large or small.
People of good will have always stood shoulder-to-shoulder against bullies. When a terrorist acts, we forget the superfluous things that divide us, if only for a time, and remember – even celebrate – the deeper things we share in common. And the bully, the terrorist – the coward – will never defeat us.