During a CNN interview, Jake Tapper stated, “Our worst threats come from home-grown terrorists.” Journalist Peter Bergen added, “Every lethal terrorist attack in the United States in the past fifteen years has been carried out by American citizens or legal permanent residents, operating either as lone wolves or in pairs, who have no formal connections or training from terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda or ISIS.”
If the United States needs a preventive network to avoid producing those who would harm us, perhaps, no better place exists than our own public schools. Possibly homegrown terror begins with angry, disenfranchised, vengeful young people who believe life in the US has short-changed them. Vulnerable young people can easily become targets of outside propaganda.
What might cause young adults to become so engorged with venom that they turn against their own country?
Anger From Lack of Racial Equity—Starting with the treatment of Native Americans, our ancestors from Northern Europe tromped through our history with cruelty and lack of regard for every minority in their path. Saying to Black Americans, “Get over it,” does not indicate even an ounce of human understanding. I fear that slavery only began the atrocious journey of our Black citizens. Today, immigrants, particularly Muslims make up our newest scapegoat population. New deportations now alarm young Latinos who fear for themselves, their friends, and family members.
When a teenager or young adult feels like his life sits in a pit at the bottom of a steep hill, that young person finds it almost impossible to believe that a level playing field might ever be possible. “The sins of the fathers do indeed visit the sons — and their sons — and on it goes for literally centuries. Many angry, discouraged young people come from low-income minority populations. Of course, they feel victimized and forgotten.
Hopelessness Caused by Lack of School Finances
I have observed vast differences in schools situated in low-income neighborhoods from the schools across town in more affluent areas. The poverty trap snaps shut bringing students, parents, teachers, and administrators down to the lowest common denominator. “Separate but equal” remains a myth. Any politician, minister, or educator will proclaim that our greatest resources lie with our young people. Yet, most of us shut our eyes to schools with toilets that do not flush, asbestos in the ceilings, inadequate heating, and cooling systems, and a curriculum that teaches beliefs rather than historical or scientific facts. Our children and teens rightfully recognize false messages from empty words of concern. No wonder many young people become angry victims of radical recruitment.
According to Tapper, we do more to evoke homegrown terrorism than all the countries we have been advised to fear. Are we actually incubating terror in young people in our schools? I believe the following:
When individuals truly believe in the worth of our young people, we will transform expressions of concern into obvious actions to improve individual lives and public education.
When we look beyond fear abroad long enough to recognize the pain we perpetuate through neglect of our own damaged youth, we will do everything possible to stop producing our own terror attacks.
The terror we fear lives and breathes in our own homes and in our neighborhood schools. Yes, terrorists across the globe exhibit atrocious behaviors. How easy to condemn those from other nations. How painful to look at our own distraught young people and ask, “What can we do to heal their pain?”
Rigorous attention to terrorists abroad shall continue, as it must. I wonder what would happen if our nation matched military dollars spent to combat terror abroad with funds designed to rehabilitate the angry, vengeful young people sitting in our own crumbling American schools? We get enough threats from outside groups. We really do not want to promote our own destruction through the neglect of individual students and public schools.
Bergen, Peter. “The Real Terror Threat in America Is Homegrown.” CNN Oopinion. June, 13, 2016.
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Burton, Tara Isabella. “Steve Bannon Shares a Fascist’s Obsession with Cleansing, Apocalyptic War. And Now, He’s in the White House.”The Telegraph News. February 7, 2017.
Kane, Thomas. “The Cost of the Charter School Cap.” CommonWealth. Oct. 5, 2015. http://commonwealthmagazine.org/education/the-cost-of-the-charter-school-cap/
Luke, Charles. “Debunking the “Civil Rights” Rhetoric of Private School Voucher Promoters.” Texas AFT: A Union of Professionals. Oct. 3, 2016. http://www.texasaft.org/debunking-civil-rights-rhetoric-private-school-voucher-promoters/
Smith, Morgan. “Abbott, Patrick Boost Charter Schools at Rally.” The Texas Tribune. April 29, 2915. https://www.texastribune.org/2015/04/29/abbott-patrick-boost-charter-schools-capitol-rally/
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“Vouchers Hurt Students and Our Communities”. Texans for Strong Public Schools. 2017. http://texansforstrongpublicschools.org/issues/inadequate-funding-puts-texas-students-at-a-disadvantage/
Weingarten, Randi. American Federation of Teachers President. Interviewed on BOXBUSINESS. Oct. 2015.