Buford Rogers Mug Shot

The FBI said “the lives of several local residents were potentially saved”

Back when I was in high school, we had bomb threats.  There’s a rumor that somebody once actually left a pipe-bomb on the tennis courts.  That might just be a rumor, though.

Kids blew up mail boxes, too.  I even remember a rash of house windows getting blown out with dry ice bombs by kids.  When I was in college, I knew another kid who loved to blow things up in an empty field with gun powder.  I suppose you could call his contraptions “bombs.” Or dismantled fireworks.  Either way they went “Boom!

When I say kids, I mean idiots in their late teens and early-twenties.  People about to graduate high school or college and move on to being the unproductive adults everybody always knew they would be.  People with names like Bob, Ken or John.  Idiot, spoiled guys from well-to-do suburbs.

They blew stuff up.  Nobody called them terrorists.

Then Tim McVey blew half of the federal building in Oklahoma City apart. I remember watching CNN right after it happened.  The place was still smoldering, and we were told that some sort of middle-eastern terror expert must be behind it.  Had to be terrorists.  Guys from middle-class ‘Merica don’t blow stuff up, right?

Except it wasn’t.  It was some dude named Tim.  And, he wasn’t a terrorist.  He was some sort of para-military militia man.

Tim got us really angry at all of the so-called Militias.  Remember when the Michigan Militia was the bad guy?  Those scary dudes and their scary guns, preparing for scary war.  We needed to keep an eye on them.  Militias weren’t terrorists, though. Militias were those of us we didn’t like.  The terrorists are them that we don’t like.

Then they put a bomb in the basement of the wold trade towers.  It messed some stuff up, but not as bad as they wanted.  So they came back and finished the job on 9/11/01.  They were terrorists, without a doubt.  We were so scared, we’d do anything in the name of fighting terror.

Even 12 years later, terrorism is a tremendous sell.  There’s nothing you can’t sell with terrorism.  More surveillance, changed banking laws, and even more equipment for your local fire department- all in the name of fighting terrorism.  See, we’re scared of them and willing to do whatever we can to prevent them from doing this again.  And, if your favorite politician can’t pass whatever law, or your favorite police department can’t get a grant for armored personnel carriers, then, dammit, the terrorists have won.

Today, police in Minnesota arrested Buford Rogers in a rural area.  He’s suspected of having guns and stuff that goes BOOM!  He’s suspected of being a potential danger to “several local residents.”  I’m guessing the majority of homes in rural Minnesota have guns.  They probably have the stuff to make pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails, too, as those are made of fairly common things.  Buford, however, is being called a terrorist.

“Buford the terrorist.” It has a nice ring to it.  I wonder if they read him his Miranda rights, or claimed some sort of national security exception?

I don’t know if Buford is a terrorist. Sometimes Buford is just Buford like Bob was Bob and Ken was Ken.  Not everybody who commits a scary crime is a terrorist. Even when his name is Mohammed.  Horrible as it sounds, sometimes potentially saving the lives of several local people is just thwarting a fool and not obstructing a terrorist mastermind.

I’m not saying Buford shouldn’t have been arrested- I know little of the case. I am saying that not everybody with explosives is a terrorist.  They didn’t used to be, and they shouldn’t be now.

Buford can be arrested.  And Buford can be charged.  Buford can even be convicted.  Buford can very well go to prison for the rest of his life.  All of this can happen without inciting the passions of a frightened nation by calling a hilljack with a Molotov cocktail a “terrorist.”

Because when you keep using the word “terrorist” to ensure we are scared of them, then maybe you’re using scare tactics, too.  I’d like all of you to stop.

Matt Haiduk is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who doesn’t think every Buford is a terrorist.  He has offices in Kane County and McHenry County, Illinois.  Feel free to add him on Google+ and follow him on twitter.