As a rule, terrorists choose crowded spots full of people that are, at the same time, peaceful and plain. They usually target schools, public services, such as the underground railway, or the Olympic Game premises as a symbol of security. In 1972, Palestinian terrorists succeeded in their attack during the Munich Olympic Games and killed eleven Israeli hostages (Haberfeld & Hassel 206). Considering previous experience, the Olympic security was improved and intensified. However, it also failed during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, when a bomb exploded in the Centennial Olympic Park. Even though the authorities were already warned about it, the security was not organized effectively enough to prevent casualties and, as a result, one person was killed (Haberfeld & Hassel 210). Such a failure of security occurred in the process of intensive preparations for more stringent security measures. Finances were allocated for security, security personnel were instructed, and new security equipment was installed, but it did not prevent an offender from entering the park and leaving his bomb (Haberfeld & Hassel 210). Often, serious delinquents have some social or political agenda on their minds as well as history of dysfunctional families and deprived childhood. Therefore, potentially dangerous people could be found on the early stages and monitored throughout their lives. The acts of domestic terrorism, which are rampant in the country today, have led to numerous deaths, thus increasing the need for Americans to accept the truth and protest publicly against domestic acts of terrorism targeting specific individuals just as the government is committed to combating international terrorism.
Although the American government intensifies security measures and there are ongoing debates on the surveillance, terrorists continue to strike. This summer, America saw a series of assaults and fires occurring in black churches. It began with a racially charge shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. On June 17, Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old white visitor, took part in a prayer meeting, at the end of which he shot nine people who were present there (McLaughlin). Four days later, the other six black churches faced the wrath of domestic terror attacks. In five Southern states, five churches have caught fire (McLaughlin).
Given the demographics of the churches, the assumptions are that these are acts of terrorism based on racial composition of the churches and the cities they are located. However, only Roof was openly racist and had a clear purpose of performing his act of violence. The other cases are being investigated. Meanwhile, the purpose of a racial attack is different from domestic terror. Domestic terrorism is defined as the violation of federal or state law and the process of “intimidating or coercing a civilian population.” Besides, a domestic terrorist wants “to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion” and/ or “to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping” (The FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation). To this effect, a more detailed investigation into the life of a criminal should be made, considering his background, family history, psychological and health state, etc.
The perpetrator of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1962, Eric Rudolph, had a specific agenda on his mind. Being an ex-militant, Rudolph was anti-corporatist and anti-globalist as well as a religious extremist. By this terroristic attack, Rudolph wanted to scare international corporations from cooperation and show the US as unsuitable to such purposes (Haberfeld & Hassel 210). Besides, Rudolph was suspected in anti-gay and anti-abortion activities. Using fear as driving power, anti-abortionists might not necessarily be involved into actual violent action but simply hanging out posters with “the doctor’s picture in a bullseye” might be enough for medical workers to fear for their life (Cohen). In the 70s-80s, anti-abortionists failed to achieve prohibition for abortion, so they resumed their bullying activity.
The answer to how Rudolph developed his worldview lies partially in his family background. His father died early, and, together with his stepfather and mother, Rudolph visited white supremacist organization Christian Identity (Borgeson & Valeri 76). The organization’s credo was that only white Christians would be saved. Believing that “there is a current battle between good and evil taking place on this earth,” church members view abortions and gay rights as signs of the ‘corrupt world.’ Meanwhile, people of the other races and ethnicities are considered unworthy of salvation (Borgeson & Valeri 76).
According to experts, social factors are extremely important in forging identities of future delinquents. Up to 81 percent of delinquents in the US are involved into activities of fundamental and/ or religious groups similar to Christian Identity or the Arian Nations (Borgeson & Valeri 30). Working class is more involved than middle and upper classes, making approximately 78 percent against 17 and 4 correspondingly; additionally, offenders are more often engaged in manual labor (52%) or are unemployed (26). Rarely do they own a business or belong to white-collar workers (4% and 9%) (Borgeson & Valeri 5).
In most cases, potential offenders give themselves ways long before they actually perform something violent. Poor parenting is revealed through school underperformance, extremist thoughts can be detected in social activity. It means that many terroristic acts could have been prevented. In case of Rudolph, factors that motivated him to attack the multitude at Centennial Olympic Park in 1962 were extremist thoughts, poor parenting, and political disharmony with the ruling government on matters such as legalization of abortion and gay rights.
The acts of terror frighten people but they also bring attention to the long-standing problems the society refused to solve. Even though the Centennial Olympic Park bombing happened more than fifty year ago, similar stories continue to repeat themselves. The history of attacks on black churches dates back to 1963 Birmingham bombing at Baptist Church when a Klu Klux Klan member exploded the church building and killed four girls. In 1996, white Americans attacked several churches, including Little Zion Baptist Church in Alabama (Martinez & Shoichet).
Despite many changes that have occurred since then, namely the visible signs of segregation, some people are still racist at heart. A recent shooting at Charleston’s black church reminded that, “Racialized terror should never again be considered a relic of the past” (Martinez & Shoichet). Perpetrator Dylann Roof did not ‘appear unannounced’ so to say. His racial and extremist views were well known to his friends and relatives. Roof had a website where he vented his anger at African Americans and “black on white crime” (Sanchez & Payne). In addition to posting pictures of himself, burning an American flag, Roof proclaimed his intention to restore ‘justice.’ Roof saw the racial relations in the modern America askew and was for the return of racial segregation (Sanchez & Payne). Apart from his website, Roof did not make his opinions public, but his friends were aware of them during his drunken outbursts. Roof let them know that soon he was going to do “something crazy” and that he wants “to start a race war” (Sanchez & Payne). However, his friends and acquaintances did not treat his words seriously.
According to Roof’s relatives, his family was not particularly dysfunctional, but the boy shared his time between his separated mother’s house and father’s flat. His school records were poor and he was known for heavy drinking and using light drugs. Having black friends, Roof was heard saying racist remarks. Before shooting his victims, Roof spent some time with them in the prayer room. According to survivalists, Roof held them accountable for past racial crimes and racial policies in the country saying: “You've raped our women, and you are taking over the country” (Sanchez & Payne).
In addition to unfortunate family background, mass media and unsolved issues of gun control contribute to potential violent delinquency of young people. In Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, Anderson et al. discuss the impact of violent video games on children and adolescents in the United States of America (8). Based on these authors, violent video games and Hollywood movies play an important role in influencing behavior of young people (Anderson, Gentile, & Buckley 21). Concerning gun control, offenders often buy their own weapon with no problems. For example, Roof freely bought a 45-caliber Glock and his family was not aware of it (Sanchez & Payne).
Thus, racial prejudice is still a motivating factor for attacks on black churches. Besides, the whole complex of social issues lies in the base of troubles with violence among young people. Extremist religious view, poor parenting, and gun laws contribute to a new wave of domestic terrorism. In order to stop it, the US citizens should ditch political indifference and review gun laws and social strategies. Both citizens and the government should unite to combat domestic terrorism.