In my modern history class we have been reading the book In the Name of God and Country by Michael Fellman. It argues that terrorism has been a constant and crucial driving force in America from the Civil War to the present day. This thought sits like a lump in our throats. We don’t want to think about the ways our ancestors have used violence aimed at inspiring terror in order to impose political agendas. Even now, Americans tend to relate terrorism to foreign nations, an act conducted only by our enemies. Americans prefer to see terrorism as external to the “American way.”
In Theory Toolbox, Nealon and Giroux’s explain modernity’s ordering logic as “the desire to classify and distinguish, to set things and people apart through acts of segregation and discrimination- to master and subjugate.” (238). This is exactly what motivates terrorism in America, more broadly recognized by wider patterns of social inequality and domination. One example of this is how Christians justified political violence by making distinctions between civilized modes of fighting and savage warfare. By placing moral and legal constraints on violent acts, it was acceptable to many in America’s history to treat any non-white, uncivilized, or unchristian person as inherently “unnatural.”
Nealon and Giroux challenge the idea of “natural” and “unnatural” as fixed concepts. They instead point to nature as a kind of mirroring reflection, revealing much more about the observer than what is objectively out there (236). When deconstructing these terms as inherently meaningful, it’s very clear how different perceptions of “natural” have shaped human action and behavior toward it. It seems that race and class dominion are very much linked to the cultural perception of what’s natural. In society, nature is made to fit the interests of security and stability (237). Nealon and Giroux write: “How nature is theorized over time and in different cultural contexts has everything to do with how the natural world is acted upon by humanity.” (235). It’s so important to reflect on how we understand “natural” in our society today. Without stepping outside these walls we may be doing some of the very same things early American settlers did.