Last December, I was unnerved by a snag in the fabric of my local society. Antonio Martinez was arrested and charged with plotting to detonate a car bomb in Catonsville, a town in which I used to work and one that is not far from my home. A convert to Islam, Martinez had decided that he would wage “holy war;” as if war were ever holy.
Already on alert when I learned the location of the plot, my eyes widened when I heard the Latino surname. In 2002, Jose Padilla was arrested for conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism. Padilla, burdened by a long criminal record, had become radicalized in the U.S. Daniel Maldonado left the U.S. for terrorist training. Carlos Almonte and Bryant Vinas also found themselves drawn to violence as a way to express their religious fervor. And then, there is the recent case of Jose Pimentel who planned to carry out violent acts in New York.
If he knew of these individuals, Bin Laden was probably pleased. He had, after all, espoused the idea that one way to destroy the U.S. was by using its own people, targeting the “oppressed,” Latinos and African Americans, to wage acts of violence against the U.S. populace. His idea has some fertile ground, apparently. Let us consider the ever increasing U.S. population in prison.
Due to many complex factors including: lack of education, economic disenfranchisement, persistent entrapment of Latinos in isolated, lower socio-cultural-economic communities, undocumented immigration, the number of Latinos in federal prisons has ballooned to be almost half of the total population! Contemplate what that grim statistic foretells about the amelioration of conditions for Latinos within the context of the nation.
Consider the phenomenon of conversion in prison to be a radicalized, distorted form of Islam that preaches and prepares for violence against innocent people. A life of crime and detachment from the public good can become a vehicle for entrance into a pathological relationship with the people around these individuals. It’s not exactly excellent fodder for fostering a prosperous, benevolent, and educated group of Latinos. The well-being of the entire country depends on a smooth fabric of societal peace and prosperity, among and within all groups.
Perhaps forcing the issue on politicians, is a necessary start. Coordinated efforts, on our parts, to demand attention from our representatives to the issues that contribute to the perfect storm of anti-social factors that pose a threat to all, are needed. It behooves us to form our own committees; grass roots to implement change at the local level. We are capable of affecting change in our own communities. A kitchen table is an excellent place to start. Engage with those around us and be ambassadors for Latino Nation, a prosperous and contributing group within U.S. society. Mentor an at risk child.
Our safety is at risk. Our U.S. home – indeed, the planet – is not safe with the draw of so many disenfranchised people to murder and terrorize.
“Imagine all the people….living life in peace.”