U.S. shootings just as dangerous as terrorism?

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I just accepted the bribe of a multi-state summer trip across the U.S. from my parents in exchange for giving up in a long and hard battle for a once-promised solo vacation to Pakistan that they recently refused. While I would love to see more of the United States, what bothers me is the rationale behind their decision: “Pakistan is too unsafe for you to visit on your own.”

My parents are not the only ones trapped by the fear of suicide bombings, U.S. drone attacks in civilian areas, and local conflict between the army and the extremist insurgents — the brunt of which is borne by the ordinary man. I cannot even begin to count how many headlines have screamed the words “Most Dangerous Country in the World” at me with relation to Pakistan — an accolade Pakistanis do not take the least pride in.

However, in the wake of the recent shooting rampages across the United States, are we really in a position to judge if one country is safer than another? I say “we” because I speak as someone who lives in this community and embraces it as her own.

It isn’t just one odd case we’re talking about here. According to a news report on ABC News, about 148 people have recently lost their lives to random killings, for absolutely no rhyme or reason. High schools, college campuses, malls, nursing homes, hospitals, offices, and even churches are the venues of these repulsive crimes. In cases like those of the man who shot dead his ex-wife’s entire family, a mother who stabbed her teenage daughter in the chest, and a young man who beheaded (yes, that “barbaric” practice from Saudi Arabia) his own sister, brutal killings by family members have been committed in the so-called “safety” of private homes.

Worse, the trend only seems to heighten. Even a small, relatively safe college city like Pittsburgh had its share of tragedy last week, when three honorable police officers from the Pittsburgh Police Department were shot dead by a young man when his neurotic mother decided to call 911 because the dog had urinated on the porch.

A look at the larger West shows similar criminal activity ruthlessly claiming innocent lives in the U.K., Scotland, Canada, and Germany. If this isn’t a pure waste of life, then what is? If this isn’t terrorism, then what is? Geert Wilders, a filmmaker from Holland who recently claimed that “although not all Muslims are terrorists, all terrorists are Muslims,” needs to seriously educate himself on this one.

Rhetoric is a powerful tool. I know that this isn’t a phenomenal observation, but it is actually quite amazing how rhetorical strategies and word choices influence the way we perceive people and their actions. The “patriot” versus the “nationalist,” “colonialism” versus “civilizing mission,” or the “freedom fighter” as opposed to the “terrorist” are just some stale instances of masking the ugly truths of our society and exposing those of others. And that is precisely what the U.S. has been doing in the post-9/11 world. How is someone who shoots dead 10 other people and takes his own life different from a suicide bomber? Are violent shooting rampages somehow on a higher moral ground than a massive bombing? Why is this murderer given a fair trial when an “alleged” terrorist is sent to be tortured in a detention camp? Is the only difference that these people aren’t grouped under an umbrella term like “al Qaeda” or the “Taliban”? What makes those bloodthirsty monsters any different from their terrorist counterparts on the other side of the world, and why should they be treated any differently?

The sad truth is that the U.S. has its own very large terrorist base. The sadder and more frustrating truth is that, as opposed to identified terrorist groups in the Middle East and South Asia, the American terrorist can be almost anyone who has a sudden flip of mind from a random sample of Americans. However, while the U.S. has been taking its sweet time devising its own gun control agenda, it does not hesitate for a second in arming extremist groups and militias in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The U.S. contains elements that do not desire peace and freedom, because an infringement of my safety is an infringement of my freedom. So do Pakistan and Afghanistan, with growing extremist influence contaminating their society. But if the U.S. views its growing terrorism problem from this perspective, would it not have to attach the stigma of a “terrorist state” to its own entity?

Before allocating thousands of American soldiers to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Obama administration must commit itself to stamping down its own branch of terrorism and rooting out its own terrorists. And not just the U.S. — the Western world needs to address the terrorism rotting its own society instead of judging the character of Muslim immigrants in their countries. Countries like the U.K., which recently released a report in which almost 200 Muslim children were identified as “potential terrorists,” should be condemned for carrying out such discriminatory exercises.

Whether motivated by an extremist ideology, a sick state of mind, or economic depression, murder is a crime against humanity. And anyone who commits such atrocity deserves to be prosecuted in the same way as an “enemy combatant” would, for the simple reason that these home-grown terrorists within the U.S. are as much of an enemy of the U.S. as any other foreign terrorist organization would be.

The million-dollar question is, what do I prefer? Am I safer when there is a possibility of my being blown up in a ludicrous Taliban plot, or am I better off when there is an equal chance of being shot dead according to some coldblooded psycho’s agenda? It’s one of those questions that make you want to bury yourself under your covers and pretend that these terrorists on both sides of our world are merely figments of your imagination.