This morning I woke up to a New York Times headline of Drive-By Attack Leaves 7 Dead in ‘Work of a Madman’. The Times went on to say Seven people were killed and another seven injured on Friday night in a bloody drive-by shooting on the crowded streets of a small college town near Santa Barbara, as what police described as a mentally disturbed gunman methodically opened fire in a 10-minute spasm of terror. Of course he was mentally disturbed, he killed people at random; that could be one of the definitions of mentally disturbed.
A month, or so, ago, an old white man named Glenn Miller, killed three people at random. He was trying to kill Jews only because they were Jewish. The killing of people because they are all identifiable – preferably self-identifiable as well – as a distinct group, is terrorism. Group isn’t the right word, but either is race or religion – maybe an identifiable other is the right way to put it – but terrorism is the right word. When Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people on that April morning in 1995, only because they happened to be in Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, it was an act of terrorism.
When Miller, 73 and the founder of a Ku Klux Klan group called the White Patriot Party, killed people with a gun nobody said he did it because he is white and nobody called it an act of terrorism. McVeigh was a Roman Catholic and a Gulf War veteran. Nobody says that McVeigh’s behavior typifies Catholic behavior. When a Christian kills 168 people, he does not do it because he is a Christian, he does it because he is fucked up.
When two Muslim boys blow up a bomb, killing people in Boston, it is also terrorism. But they did not do it because they were Muslim, like McVeigh they did it because they were fucked up. It was no more about Islam than McVeigh was about Christianity.