A long time ago, I stopped looking to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to provide security in my homeland. Long before Hurricane Katrina, I knew that my particular homeland was not going to be safer or more secure.

I knew because that Department of Homeland Security was busy looking outside my homeland, looking to borders and airplanes and trains and water treatment facilities and nuclear power plants. That vaunted department was looking to gird up against a repeat of 9-11, and they marshaled all of their efforts to keeping foreign terrorists from bringing terror to our shores.

I don’t mean to disparage the 3,000 lives lost in 9-11. That terrorist attack was heinous and struck at the core of a nation that had been lulled into believing that our imperialism abroad was not making enemies who would give their lives to make us pay. We keep marginalizing the word “terrorist.” The dictionary definition ascribes some political or ideological motive to the terror.

Now, when we think of a terrorist, we want to draw a photo of some wild-eyed Middle Eastern type with a turban who is carrying out some Islamic jihad. But that stereotype is absolutely wrong and counterproductive.

Before 9-11, the worst terror attack in the United States was committed by a white man who drove a truck rigged to be a bomb up to a federal building in Oklahoma and subsequently killed 168 people, including children at a day care center in the building. When Timothy McVeigh was tried on the charges, showing no remorse, he called the deaths of the children, “collateral damage.”

No amount of racial profiling would have picked McVeigh out of a crowd or kept him from boarding any commercial airliner. Yet, when he was executed for his crime he died as America’s greatest domestic terrorist. When a young man loads himself down with four weapons, walks into a crowded lecture hall, and, without warning, begins firing a shotgun into a crowd, his sole aim is to indiscriminately take lives.

His act struck terror into not only that room, but also everyone who has watched the news reports of his act and wondered, ‘WHY?’ Who knows what demons were driving Stephen P. Kazmierczak when he hatched this plan to wreak terror and death upon the students at Northern Illinois University. Who knows what he was hearing in his head that told him it was OK to perpetrate such a terrible deed.

We continue to pigeonhole terrorists as those who commit terrorist acts for a cause. But sometimes, the worst terror is committed ‘just because.’ When six women are lined up, duct-taped, and shot executionstyle, in the head, it is a terrorist act.

There was no political motive, it was just a stupid robbery gone wrong. When over 400 people are murdered in Chicago in 2007, some for the sole reason of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or because they were playing in a playground when two gangs decided to exchange gunfire, it is terrorism. Sometimes it is not the motive, just the outcome that makes it terrorism.

But the Department of Homeland Security has not helped to make our homeland more secure. Ask the students at Virginia Tech if they felt more secure in their homeland. Ask the students at Northern Illinois University if they feel more secure in their homeland.

Ask law-abiding citizens on Chicago’s South Side, or West Side, or south suburbs, if they feel more secure. The Department of Homeland Security has overseen the curtailment of many basic civil rights in the effort to make our nation more secure. President George Bush touts the fact that there have been no more terrorist acts on our shores since 9-11, but he is wrong.

Our neighborhoods have become war zones, with private citizens afraid to come out at night %uFFFD or even during the day. Whole neighborhoods are shunned because they are not considered safe. Stores won’t locate there, and when they do, their insurance is so high that they have to pass those higher taxes on to already victimized residents.

Whether I have to take off my shoes in order to get on a plane, or have to pay the Black taxi driver in advance to get a taxi to Simeon High School, they are both responses to terrorism. On a recent Chicago talk show, a caller stated that he needed his gun and the help of God (honestly, he put them in that order), to feel safe in his neighborhood.

He is being terrorized, and he, like many, many other Americans, doesn’t know how to cope with the terror. We’re looking for terror in all the wrong places, led by the Department of Homeland Security, and ignoring it when it jumps right up in our faces.

If you feel safe and secure in America, send me a note and tell me why. If you don’t, join the crowd.

______ Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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