A Terrorist Under Every Bush

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"…we
must take care not to lump legitimate groups with terrorists.
To do so would only minimize the very real threats against our
society.”

~
Senator Frank Lautenberg, (Dem. N.J.)

I’m a law-abiding,
middle-class mother and grandmother. But I recently discovered that,
according to Bush and the FBI, I may be a “terrorist." This
came as quite a shock. It’s true that I often speak out against
injustice, because I believe a citizen has a responsibility to try
and make the world a better place. But I’ve never participated in
a physical protest of any kind, unless wearing a T-shirt with a
slogan counts. When the “Million Woman March” was going on, I was
home, watching Martha Stewart bake a pie.

My protests
have always been limited to letter-writing campaigns, but in the
era of the Patriot Act, domestic spying, and abuse of government
power, I wonder how safe that is, even on a major website. In a
recently filed lawsuit, the ACLU has documented the way that, for
political reasons, the FBI has expanded the definition of domestic
terrorism to include mainstream groups who criticize government
policy, i.e., groups such as Greenpeace, PETA, the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the ACLU itself.

Still, I’ve
decided to come clean and just hope the FBI doesn’t show up on my
doorstep.

I confess.
I’m a vegan. I don’t eat meat, eggs, dairy products or fish, nor
do I purchase animal products of any kind. I don’t own a leather
sofa, wool sweater, or use cosmetics tested on animals. And I donate
money to animal advocacy groups.

There, I’ve
said it!

But respecting
the innocent creatures we share the planet with is a peacenik, Gandhi-esque
thing. How does that make me a terrorist? Well, it takes just four
short steps to get there! Pay close attention You, too, may be a
terrorist without knowing it. (Do you support somebody who supports
somebody…?)

Step #1. The
FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence
against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government,
the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance
of political or social objectives."

Okay, I think
I’m safe so far. Admittedly, I’ve tried to convince “segments of
the civilian population” (friends and family) to go along with my
“political and social objectives” (vegetarianism, libertarianism,
etc.), but I’ve never used force or coercion against anyone, unless
you count “forcing” my teenager to mow the lawn.

Step #2. The
FBI has classified extremist animal-rights and environmental groups
among the top “domestic terrorist threats” and says they are making
them an “investigative priority.”

Hmmm. This
could be a problem. What do they mean by “extremist”? Vegans seem
like extremists to many people. Friends think I’m being extreme
when I refuse to put “non-dairy” creamer in my coffee because the
fine print tells me that it actually does contain dairy. And I do
go to “extremes” reading food labels and querying chefs about the
ingredients in their dishes. And I feel “extremely” frustrated,
when I see eleven billion animals being tortured and slaughtered
each year, just to provide humans with trivial gustatory pleasures.

Partly, my
concern is just a natural outgrowth of years of association with
benevolent people who do a lot of thinking about moral issues. I
once lived among Zen Buddhists, who believe that all creatures have
value in themselves, and we don’t have a right to use them for our
own ends, regardless of how much we like the taste when we slather
them with butter and toss them on the barbecue. And my husband is
a philosophy professor, so philosophical discussions about morality
abound in our household.

I think there
are convincing philosophical arguments (even
libertarian ones
) for animal rights. And I think meat-eaters
hold contradictory beliefs. I don’t see any difference between slicing
a drumstick off my beloved little dachshund’s hindquarters and eating
it, and slicing bacon strips from an innocent pig, just as sensitive
and intelligent. But, millions of pet owners who spend billions
of dollars annually to feed and promote the well-being of their
pets and who would cry bloody-murder if anyone harmed them, find
nothing wrong with slaughtering billions of other animals and eating
them or making shoes from their skins. Many people recognize this
tension in their beliefs, but just don’t want to give up that juicy
steak or their latest fashion accessory. I don’t think I’m being
“extreme” — just consistent.

But to label
animal rights advocates “terrorists” seems bizarre. As Senator Lautenberg
has noted, we “must be careful not to proclaim guilt by association.
The acts of one individual do not mean that an entire organization
can be labeled a terrorist group. Timothy McVeigh was a member of
the National Rifle Association. That doesn't make the NRA a terrorist
group.” And he adds, “To date, not a single incident of so-called
environmental terrorism has killed anyone.” Who’s next, he wants
to know, “Right to Life? Sierra Club?”

Step #3. The
Bush Administration has repeatedly “put the world on notice that
we will hold any person or regime that harbors or supports terrorists
as guilty of terrorism as the terrorists themselves.” Now, follow
out the logic:

In a May
2005 Senate hearing
, the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation
Front were designated “terrorist organizations” by the FBI. Evidence
was presented that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
and the Humane Society of the United States have both supported
these groups. So, by Bush’s logic, PETA, with over 800,000 members,
and the Humane Society, with over 8 million, are as “guilty of terrorism
as the terrorists themselves” — though only a tiny minority, a mere
handful, ever takes radical action on behalf of animals.

So, how do
I, a law-abiding citizen, animal-lover, and involved mom — get branded
a terrorist?

That’s
Step #4. The same way PETA and the Humane Society do. I’ve donated
money and supported PETA and the Humane Society, both terrorist
organizations according to the Bush administration’s guilt-by-association
logic. And anyone who supports terrorists is as “guilty of
terrorism as the terrorists themselves."

If you think
this is far-fetched, think again. We’re all terrorists, now!

October
16, 2006

Gayle
Dean [send her mail] constructs
crossword puzzles for all the major media. Her work has appeared
in the Washington Post Magazine, the New York Times,
the Los Angeles Times, Simon & Schuster books, Random
House books, and Dell Puzzle Magazines.

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