I used to write about terrorism in the U.S. every spring. My articles began with the domestic terrorism of the Oklahoma City bombing more than twenty years ago on April 19. That’s when I became the community/media liaison for Oklahoma’s Tulsa Jewish Federation. It was shortly after the bombing destroyed the Murrah Building and so many lives were affected. I felt compelled to investigate what led to the deadliest bombing, prior to 9/11, on our native soil. The violent hatred that I saw has not only continued, but has expanded globally, and now, it encompasses the entire year.
The traffic was fierce on Martin Luther King Boulevard as people flocked to the community-wide interfaith service at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Olivet, had grown from humble beginning in the 1920s to one of the city’s largest African-American churches. Yet, the church was packed, overflowing with elected officials, police officers and FBI, military veterans, and media among the diverse crowd of Black & White, Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Together, we prayed over the loss of four marines and a wounded sailor, who would die just hours later. We prayed over the trauma to our entire community inflicted by lone gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Nine people were killed by Dylann Storm Roof in Charleston’s historic black church and the debate about how to categorize his actions is fierce. Is it domestic terrorism or mass murder? Is it a case of drug-induced mental illness or a hate crime? The debate embraces some of the most controversial issues of our time: guns, race, alienated young men, and the confederate flag. The question before us should not be which of the labels and issues are relevant and correct. Rather, the question should be how to address the volatile mix now surfacing in terrifying blasts with increasing frequency.