After Boston Attack: Explaining Terrorism

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For thousands of years, the mankind has longed to reduce or even get rid of such harms as murder, robbery and rape. Various techniques for dealing with such crimes have developed over time but none of those has been as a matter of fact effective over terrorism, which is not a common kind of felony, it is a peculiar category of crime.

In fact most crimes are an effect of greed, anger, jealousy, or eagerness for domination, respect, power. Those crimes don’t involve trying to change Establishments, their actions, or the fundamental structures and ideology of a nation as ends of its plot.

But terrorism, on the other hand, does that, and has inside itself a deep source, which of course cannot legitimate all the pain it causes but which should make us reflect about what issues it originates from.


A common problem that arises every time we need to explain terrorism is how to do that avoiding justifying and accepting forms of violence on the base of any historical, social or political reason. To introduce this issue it could be useful to recall an episode occurred several years ago in the US.
In 2001 Judith Rizzo, at that time deputy chancellor of the New York City schools, said the terrorist attacks demonstrated how important teaching about Muslim cultures is. After that claim, she was denounced by Lynne Cheney, wife of the more famous former vice president. Ms. Cheney, who was also chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, charged Dr. Rizzo with implying that terrorism was America’s fault, a result of our failure to understand Islam.
This example may tell us a great deal about how talking about this controversial topic means too walking on a thin line that could lead to misunderstandable stances. In fact the previous is an emblematic case of what we were arguing above.

Exploring the ideological or historical context of the attacks is what we should want our professors and teachers to do, especially during these days, where Boston bombs have upset the public opinion. Besides, discouraging inquiries into the attackers’ motivation will be of no help to our security, which ultimately depends on understanding terrorism‘s causes so we can know how to reduce its likelihood. Teachers and those who monitor them need to distinguish between excusing horrific acts and explaining them.

Let’s take history teachers who explain to their students that mistakes of America and its allies contributed to Nazism’s rise after World War I, when the victorious powers insisted on reparations so onerous that Germany was left in ruins. ”American History” by Donald A. Ritchie, a textbook used by many schools, says that ”heavy war debts and rising unemployment caused great discontent among the German people and led directly to the rapid growth of two antidemocratic parties, the Communist Party and the Nazi Party.”
Clearly nobody thinks such explanation excuses or justifies Nazism. In case, facing the topic can mean handling it in order to prevent similar dynamics.

We shouldn’t inhibit professors from deepening topics such as Islamic fundamentalism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, how American mass culture is internationally hegemonic or anything else that might help to understand and prevent recurring terrorism. In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s campaign slogan said: ”Tough on crime. Tough on the causes of crime.”

So, the wise proverb that says “prevent is better than cure” has never been more actual, and a good way to prevent evil deeds is .