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Rebels and Terrorists: Two Different Breeds

 article about terrorism

This article belongs to Terrorism theme.


I remember when the movie Independence Day came out in theatres. It was a decent success—the plot was heroic enough. I watched Independence Day for what was probably the fifteenth time in 2002. I'd grown older, though my affinity for Bill Pullman (who portrayed President Whitmore in the movie) had only grown. However, I felt wrong about really liking the movie any more.

In one dramatic scene, the alien spaceships completely destroy Washington, D.C., including the White House. The likeable president escapes with a massive explosion in the background. Every time I had watched this in the past, I'd gotten this whole ‘screw the man, blow it all up!' feeling—yet when the Americans eventually decided to lead a coordinated international attack against those bastard aliens, I cheered even more.

This time, in 2002, seeing the White House get blown up was in no way funny. On September 11th, 2001, I was attending college in Maryland, and went to school with many students whose parents worked at government buildings in our nation's capital.

I'm far from what most people would think of when they think of an American patriot in a pre-Obama world, but seeing the fictional death of an American symbol just hit me a bit differently than it had before. I don't really watch the movie too much any more.

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We were rebels, labelled terrorists ourselves - and I include myself in that.
September 11th changed me in a way I couldn't have predicted. I was more against the Bush Administration than ever, but very protective of symbols of America and what they meant to me. I slowly realized that it was okay to assign my own meaning to various landmarks. I live in Philadelphia amidst many historical landmarks, and found myself immediately revisiting them to find this new meaning.

It turns out that terrorism made me think intensely about the origins of the United States. We were rebels, labelled terrorists ourselves - and I include myself in that even though most of my ancestors were still in Europe at the time because I believe in even ‘terrorist' acts which defined, delineated, and eventually completely separated America from the British Empire.

In a modern world, I believe these acts are reprehensible. While I consider myself an Irish nationalist with strong republican leanings, I cannot condone violence against others in Ireland. On the other hand, I see why it happens. After eight centuries of being ignored politically, what other choice did the IRA have? They did, however, have a choice in terms of targeting civilian targets and pubs.

Terrorism is a complicated issue. I recognize that it's in my blood and my culture—it founded the United States and is essential to many who are proud of their particular brand of Irish Americanism. It's an evil, it can occur in different extremes, and I will admit that sometimes it's necessary.

Coming back to the sickening feeling I get each time I watch Independence Day, I am reminded of those extremes, and how there is a difference between rebels and terrorists, and how that terminology switches depending on cultural tolerance and the horrific nature of the acts involved. A rebel takes out military targets; a terrorist hits civilian and economic targets.

Terrorists are criminals, but rebels are necessary—and inherently American. If we continue to let terrorist acts dictate the treatment of all dissent with extreme suspicion, then the terrorists have won.


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