…Apparently, by the world’s most unwitting terrorist.
As I drove toward downtown Kansas City on my way home, I saw the news choppers hovering over the skyscrapers. I was listening to news radio. The report was that the bomb squad was investigating a threat at the downtown federal building. Streets were closed. People were evacuated.
Strangely enough, there were simultaneous scares in Austin and in North Dakota, creating a geographical straight line of bomb threats through the center of the country.
As I neared downtown, heading straight past the mess, I wondered how strange it would be if the supposed bomb went off right there in front of me. And with two other threats happening, for a couple of hours, it looked like it might be a coordinated effort…to strike America’s flyover land.
But as the day unfolded, and the story of our hometown terrorist unraveled, it made me think of just how we deal with people who we consider threatening.
The Real Story of the KC Bomber
The real story of Friday afternoon in Kansas City (according to the local paper) is that Wahed Moharam emigrated to the U.S. years ago, and is a citizen, albeit with a definitively foreign name and broken English. He’s a small business owner.
But when he testified in the investigation of the original WTC bombings, he was placed in witness protection.
Unfortunately, Moharam seems to have a penchant for blowing his cover.
He’s blown his cover at least twice. Years ago, he became known to Chiefs fans as “Helmet Man” for dressing up in face paint and a custom jersey at games. When the Chiefs found out who he was, they revoked his season tickets.
A week ago, he was pulled over and was informed he was on the terror watch list. So what does he do? He goes to the federal building downtown, parks his car (he stopped on the way to grab a bag of fertilizer), and demands to know why he’s on the terror watch list.
Apparently, the reaction was “You’re on the terror watch list? You’re coming with us.” And so, his cover is blown again, and half of downtown was shut down for an afternoon, while a bomb-bot pulled trash out of his car.
Later, Moharan called the newspaper, saying “Everything mistake, everything mistake.”
World’s Worst Terrorist
On the one hand, the guy doesn’t seem to know what “witness protection” is all about. It seems to me that once you’ve blown your cover three times, maybe they should just say three strikes and you’re out. No more witness protection for you. You probably shouldn’t get on the local news at football games. You probably shouldn’t shut down half the city.
On the other hand, the guy is an innocent, if not hapless guy who probably loves America. I don’t think most of us really believed he was a terrorist. Terrorists don’t show up and say “I’m a terrorist!” (That was the original report.)
It’s easy to get an impression of a group of people by watching the news. It’s easy to look at the riots happening in thirty countries right now and ask “why?”. Because of a low-budget film on YouTube? It’s easy to think that all the people in those places are a bunch of savages, who hate everything.
It’s easy to look at a guy with a foreign name and broken English, and assume he’s “one of them.”
Dealing in Caricatures
I ask you, what messages are the people on the other side of the world receiving about all of us? Probably nothing at all accurate. Nothing representative of how you and I really live and believe. They get a caricature of Americans.
To make it more personal, if you were a total non-Christian, whose only contact with Christians was through TV, what would you think of Christians? You might think at best we’re a bunch of charlatans, a worst a mob of hateful racists, bigots, wife beaters, homophobes, and superstitious scare mongers.
If TV were my only exposure to Christians, I would never want to be a Christian. I would hate Christians.
When you out yourself as a Christian to someone, they likely have all kinds of assumptions about you. Some of those assumptions are deep seated. You might as well have brown skin, a funny name and broken English. I’ve had people assume that I think they are going to burn in hell, and I’m glad for it. People assume my politics, my values, my family life, and it’s all a caricature.
Have you ever been in this situation? So how are you going to change their minds about you, and the God you represent?