How I Became Radicalized
I saw the masked men
Throwing truth into a well.
When I began to weep for it
I found it everywhere.
I’m not exactly sure when I became radicalized, but it was sometime in the mid 1980s. I purposely use the term radicalize because, with the rise of globalized insurgency in general and al Qaeda and now ISIS in particular, the word has become a favorite in the media, especially for those on the right, though the New York Times uses it as does Chris Mathews. Sean Hannity at Fox likes to talk fast, and he uses the term over and over like a mantra that sounds good to him.
The problem is they all misuse the word. When it pops up these days, it’s in reference to young American or European "lone wolves" recruited on-line by violent Muslims to join a jihadi organization or, specifically, to be recruited to work for ISIS in Syria or Iraq. The more accurate word for this behavior would be to use the term extremist. Radical refers more to ideas and how someone thinks, while extremist refers to behavior, what someone does.
I’m a radical; but I’m not an extremist. Using myself, I'd distinguish the terms this way: I think Henry Kissinger and Dick Cheney should be in prison for mass murder, but since this is obviously not in the cards I don't advocate violent actions be taken against either man. My understanding of the history of the Vietnam and the Iraq Wars is radical in that I refuse to go along with selective propaganda about those wars; I choose not to willfully forget the damning facts about those wars. In this country, that’s a radical frame of mind. The word radical comes from the Latin word radix, which means root. The roots of both those wars are damnable and, if there was real justice, men like Kissinger and Cheney would be prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned.
The facts are clear that the roots of the Iraq war are tangled with premeditated dishonesty and misuse of power; there's plenty of criminal malfeasance if there was a prosecutor to prosecute. Bringing this radical view right up to the moment, I guarantee (I'm confident saying this) that without that war and the horrors it unleashed in Anbar Province there would be no such thing as ISIS. What the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld war did was extremisize the people now unleashing violence and fury in Anbar Province and surrounding areas. (Don't bother looking up extremisize in your dictionary, because I just made it up.)
So how did I become radicalized? And why wasn't I extremisized?