Most acts of terrorism in this country in the last ten years have been committed by persons radicalized in this country, not newly arriving immigrants or terrorists who have come across our borders. These are people who have grown up in this country. Some are first generation Americans, but many are fifth or tenth generation Americans. But all have one thing in common. They have not been integrated into our society. They have not been integrated into our society not because they rejected us and our values, but unfortunately because in many ways we have rejected them.
Now, understand I am not talking about assimilation, but I am talking about being accepted and supported in our society. I’m talking about the kids who are involved in Columbine or Sandy Hook or the massacre of the prayer group in South Carolina.
I’m talking about the odd-looking white kid who talks incessantly about Star Wars and has no friends, or the adolescent with brown skin who has an accent, comes from another country and practices a different religion, who also has no friends, and who is made to feel that he doesn’t belong here and doesn’t fit in.
These young people need to be taught the skills they need to be integrated into our society. How to connect with others, how to be flexible, how to communicate effectively with others, how to deal with anger and boredom. These are the skills of resilience that we have been talking about in this column for some time.
These young people also need to be helped to feel better about themselves, to find a sense of purpose, to feel they belong. And they need to be equipped with the problem-solving skills that they need to deal with the many challenges that they will face because they are different.
I feel that we are failing them. I feel that this is a problem for our community, not so much for the individual. In the end, both will pay the price for rejecting the other.
Unfortunately, we often abandon, ignore and reject those who are different from us. Bridge the gap between those who are different from us, whether it be the fifth generation American boy who lacks the social skills to fit in or the newly arrived immigrant who has difficulty speaking English and practices a religion we are unfamiliar with.
The most dangerous potential terrorists are already here. Building walls around this country will not protect us. Continuing to wall ourselves off from those who are different will only result in all of us paying the price. It’s our choice.
Ron Breazeale Ph.D.