Happy new year! It is 2016 and if you were wishing for a hopeful start to the new year, you may want a do over. Korea claims to detonate a hydrogen bomb, President Obama tries to make some minimal changes on gun control policy only to face immediate resistance, and up there in Oregon a bunch of guys with lots of guns have taken over a building on a federal national park facility because there upset about something, and promise to be there until the laws of the United States of America change. That's 2016 in just a few days.
There is a debate going on about these men and who they are. Are they a militia? Are they civil disobedients? Are they, in Bundy's own words, like Rosa Parks who has a civil rights agenda? Who are these guys and why does it matter so much?
Well the law designates them as something. They aren't just trespassers, they have taken over federal land, they have deprived others of access to that park land and they have upset the area so much that kids are being deprived their right to education as the school districts in the surrounding areas close their doors. That's what they are doing, and in my opinion, that makes them domestic terrorists.
A lot of people may raise their eyebrows and wonder "terrorists? I thought we reserved that title for radical Islamic extremism?" That's only part of the story of what terrorism is. Domestic terrorism has existed in this country since the beginning, and it has a legal definition. It is essentially the use or threatened use of violence for political change or to effectuate political change through undemocratic processes.
You do not have to kill people, you have to threaten to kill people. You don't have to be in an urban environment. Our failure to actually say that these men are domestic terrorists shows how skewed the conversation has gotten about terrorism. Terrorism is reserved to describe the violent actions or threaten use of violence by those who have a political purpose.