Parker: The terror of not knowing
Apr 25, 2013 at 8:30 AM
Excerpt: As the manhunt for the Boston bombers reached its climactic conclusion, Americans of all hues and backgrounds heaved a sigh of relief. Thank goodness it wasn't ... fill in the blank:
A white Christian from the South;
A dark-skinned Muslim foreigner;
An illegal Latino immigrant.
The marathon terrorists it turns out were of a Chechen background. Huh? Is that, like, in Czechoslovakia or something?
If many Americans had forgotten or never known where Chechnya is -- or that Czechoslovakia is now the Czech Republic -- they were not confused when it came to the Muslim connection. The mere fact that the brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were connected to Islam was sufficient for some to justify holding all Muslims in suspicion.
The relief, meanwhile, was that "our" demographic group wouldn't this time be blamed. Even darker-skinned Muslims, familiar with group demonization following 9/11, reportedly were relieved.
As police pursued the bombers, a friend asked me which I would prefer: A domestic or foreign terrorist? Putting aside the unfortunate nature of the question (obviously one prefers neither), I answered foreign, explaining: "Foreign enemies unite us; domestic enemies further divide us."
This blurted observation has been proved true enough times in the past to qualify as a reasonably defensible proposition. But even domestic terror now divides us. Us-Them has become far more complicated as we have become far more diverse. The Tsarnaev brothers have shuffled our templates into something that eludes easy characterization and denies us the unifying enemy that at least provides a sense of something that can be fixed.