For my final paper I’m writing (still….) for my study abroad program in counter terrorism this summer, one of the things we are asked to explore is what would be different about the US approach to terror if we looked at it from the same crime based standard the UK uses.

The UK does not find anything new about terror- they’ve been dealing with it for hundreds of years (hey Guy Fawkes, hey!). And they (for the most part) deal with terrorism under their criminal justice system.

We, of course, do not. And there are a lot of factors that go in to this, but mostly, I just want to talk about one: Fear of the Enemy Other.

When it became clear that it was Islamic Terrorists that committed 9/11, and Bush declared the War on Terror, people reacted out of, well, terror. And they focused on the enemy they could see- which was not “terrorist.” They focused on “Islamic.” And it’s insane, it really is.

Venn diagrams are cool.  Like fezes.

One of the books we had to read this summer was The British War on Terror by Steve Hewitt. In it, he discusses the history of British counter terrorism, and what he thinks needs to be done to lessen the instants of terrorists attacks. And it’s not sweeping legislation, it’s not draconian measures to restrict freedoms- it’s “winning hearts and minds.” (He uses that phrase a lot)

The four suicide bombers in the 7/7/05 bombings in London were all UK citizens. It really shocked a lot of people that UK citizens would do this to their own countrypeople, but there’s an increasing generation of native-born-but-descended-from-recent-immigrants who aren’t citizens of their parent’s native country, but don’t feel like they are a part of the country they were born in.

I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but things like “Drunk man walks in mosque during prayer and urinates on prayer rugs” and “Teens allegedly harrass mosque members” and “Pakistan delegation leaves after being subject to extra security because another passenger was made uncomfortable” can’t possibly make people who are Muslim, or Middle Eastern, or might look like they are feel like they are a part of this country.

So this broohaha over Park 51 is more of the same- ignorant, racist people who, partially because of the “WE ARE AT WAR” mentality need to hate the other, because dealing with a faceless enemy that you can’t see coming is scarier. We’re not going to “win hearts and minds” if we act like this. So seriously, sit the fuck down and shut the hell up.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering where the money came from….? Jon Stewart explains it all here. I tried to embed the clip, but it wasn’t working.)

Which is not say there hasn’t been some glimmers of sanity. Huma (who gallantly takes on the role of educating the masses that want to be educated on Islam, including the finer points of how to say “asshole” in Urdu) (she’s awesome) posted this article: Hate crime at Mosque angers California town. There’s this Rabbi, who raised over $1000, mostly from internet strangers, to help pay for the cleaning of the urinated on prayer rugs. There have been people that have been standing up and saying “OH MY GOD, WOULD YOU ASSHOLES JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP.”

But the idiots are louder. And it’s not, as I’ve seen mentioned in some quarters, cryptoracism. It’s actual racism. And I really think that the US mentality towards the War on Terror is partly to blame- wars need actual enemies, not ideas as enemy. If there’s anything we learned from Inception (other than Joseph Gordon-Levitt in zero-G is the best thing ever) and V for Vendetta it’s that ideas are bulletproof and can’t be killed. This war is unwinnable and has caused much more damage than anyone expected- the kick in the gut is that they should have expected it.