Tahlequah Daily Press

April 10, 2013

Threats are no laughing matter


TAHLEQUAH — The as-yet-unidentified man who called in the bomb threat to the Cherokee County Courthouse March 27 may have been angry that he had to pay some fines. The source of the menacing letter containing a powdery substance, discovered April 2 in a judge’s office, may have been acting on similar frustrations.

As far as the miscreant who left the note about a bomb threat Monday at Tahlequah High School, it was likely a kid who thought it was funny, or a way to get out of school or homework for a few days.

But whatever the impetus behind these actions, they could be viewed through a certain lens as low-grade, homegrown terrorism – and the community should not stand for it.

There’s nothing amusing about the fear-based disruption of the lives of other human beings. And leveling threats against innocent fellow citizens is no way to settle a score with those who have issued traffic tickets or levied fines against the aggressor. Even with the presumption of “innocent until proved guilty,” chances are good that anyone summoned to court, or handed a citation, did something to warrant it. And even if not, the soapbox of a courtroom is the place to send a return volley – with the help of a defense attorney rather than a weapon.

Even 12-1/2 years after that fateful day, few Americans can think of 9/11 without a sense of outrage, or at least deep sadness. In our collective minds, there’s no way to justify the heinous plan that led 19 hijackers to snuff out the lives of nearly 3,000 people just to send a “message” to our government. But it’s clear to even the youngest schoolchild that the attack on the World Trade Center was a terrorist attack – not so much because of how many lives were lost, but because it came from a hostile foreign source.

Yet the bombing in Oklahoma City of the Murrah Federal Building, on April 19, 1995, was also a terrorist plot. Initial reports suggested a foreign source for this tragedy, so when it turned out to be a couple of homegrown criminals who did the deed, the “terrorism” label wasn’t applied quite so liberally.

But “terrorism” it was – and though it may seem an exercise in hysterics to use the word, it could apply to Tahlequah’s recent rash of threats, as well.

Merriam-Webster defines terrorism as the “systematic use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population and thereby to bring about a particular political objective.” Certainly the threats at the courthouse struck fear in the hearts of employees and people with business in those corridors. And the angst must have been even worse for parents of THS students until they safely retrieved their kids.

Was there a “political” motive? That might depend on how one defines “political.” But it’s not much of a stretch to suggest such threats are designed to bend the wills of other people to one’s own, and the line between political agenda and personal grievance can sometimes be very nebulous indeed. Even the prankster out to get some laughs from a rude shock knows his action will cause “terror” for many of his victims.

Taxpayers have every reason to decry these acts and demand that they be punished. Bringing in bomb squads, explosives-sniffing dogs, an array of emergency services personnel, and a crew of investigators, is a costly endeavor.

Temporary shutdowns of facilities and the peripheral movement of people also requires expenditure of time and money. Both the funds, and the time, can be put to better use in this tough economy.

We believe we can speak for the entire community in saying we hope the perpetrators are caught, and subjected to the harshest punishment allowable under the law – regardless of who they know, or what families they were born into.

Threats are no laughing matter, whether they be in New York City, Oklahoma City, or Tahlequah.