My definition of terrorism has morphed over the past couple of weeks. I came into the class with the perception that terrorism is what happened on September 11, 2001. Al Qaida performs terrorism. They are reckless and use bombs, explosions, and weapons of mass destruction.
After exploring several historical case studies of terrorism, my definition expanded to fit other nationalities, organizations, and time periods, yet I still viewed terrorism as ruthless, politically or ideologically charged violence.
U.S. Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological” (Hoffman 31).
Often, when determining if a violent act is technically “terrorism,” we start debating whether the act was justified. Was there noble intent according to my own ideals? This view is innately ethnocentric. I argue that we should get off our high and justified horse and really examine the word.
Webster’s online dictionary defines “terrorism” as “a systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion.”
I harken back to the days of living in my parents’ house, witnessing my brother unkindly playing with our puppy, and my mom barking “Quit terrorizing the dog!” Is my mother right? Was my brother’s roughhousing an act of terror? It was certainly not politically, religiously, or ideologically motivated. There weren’t even any explosions or casualties. Were my brother doing the same thing to another child, we probably would have called it “bullying.” So are bullying and terrorizing much different? Webster’s Online Dictionary defines “bullying” as “to affect by means of force or coercion.” I suppose that at the very heart, if you strip away all the fluff of official organizations, laws, historical injustices, terrorism and bullying are not very different at all.
Terrorism: Any action that leverages fear to serve one’s own purposes. Violence just happens to be a very powerful means. I can’t say this definition is very practical in the political arena. Because it is so broad, everything that induces fear and results in control qualifies, and laws, policies, and statistics would have no footing. But we as a people need to understand that this is the heart of the issue and accept that even “the good guys” can perform terrorism.

Works cited
“terrorism.” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2010. Merriam-Webster Online. 10 March 2010 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terrorism
Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia UP, 2006. Print.