Our American history is rich with stories of people who came here from all over the world, who assimilated with great enthusiasm, becoming proud Americans while maintaining aspects of their traditions and cultures.
Not so since the Internet. Now, one’s daily life is bombarded with images and often contrived perceptions from around the world. One thing for sure, though…the notion that terrorists are impoverished, desperate, and turn to religion as their only alternative to feel connection or power is…baloney!
Our friendly neighbor, Faisal Shahzad (who allegedly wanted to kill all Americans unlucky enough to be in Times Square when he tried to detonate a car bomb), was a naturalized citizen, lived in a three-bedroom suburban home with a wife and two kids and had a Facebook page, an MBA and a job as a financial analyst. He is the son of a well-off family in Pakistan.
Since 9/11, almost 150 American Muslims have been publicly accused of planning or carrying out Islamist violence, according to Duke University. Most were born in America, or were naturalized citizens or legal residents.
While many try to comprehend their motives, for me, it seems simple. There are those personalities who are so weak that they need the attachment to something seemingly powerful to feel strength – similar to women who become groupies and sex objects to sports and movie celebrities. It isn’t about what they have, it’s about how they perceive themselves. Being angry and being able to take punitive measures towards someone or something outside of personal responsibility is an empowerment in some minds. There are ready-made scapegoats all along in history: Jews, Americans, white Europeans, gays, etc.
When I was in college in the 1960s, the women’s movement very strongly depended on anger towards anything male as a major part of its core.
Second, there is the guilt factor. Success often brings self-doubts and guilt. The self-doubt has to do with one’s sense of deserving the success; the guilt has to do with realizing that you have risen above others (and are enjoying American freedoms), and they might hate or reject you. A lot of self-sabotage motivation comes from self-doubt and success guilt, which, in the case of some Muslims enjoying America, leads to acts of terrorism to maintain their connectedness to what they perceive they’ve left behind.
We have seen this before in the Ku Klux Klan-type groups who blamed blacks and Jews for the problems in life, and bullied and killed their way into history.
Hate and murder are empowerments. The cultures or religions which lean heavily on these factors gain the support of many who want to become meaningful and strong the easy way.