4 Ways America Has a (White) Terrorism Problem

In a move that surprised everyone from Every to One, Patty Hearst won her category at the Westminster Dog Show this week. Technically, it was Patty's shih tzu, Rocket, who won the award for "most ridiculous," but who's counting?

Mary Altaffer/AP
His name is actually GCH Hallmark Jolei Rocket Power.

Now, for people of a certain age, this was just a story of another rich blond lady lavishing what most of us would consider multiple years of rent money on an animal that evolution should have wiped out decades ago. For those people's parents, bringing up Patty Hearst is like bringing up Jane Fonda on Veteran's Day, and I'm just now realizing that analogy probably doesn't work, so let's start over. Bringing up Patty Hearst is like bringing up Macklemore at a Drake party: Everyone is going to be uncomfortable about it and check out their shoes.

Stewart Cohen/Pam Ostrow/Blend Images/Getty Images
Their dope, sick-ass shoes.

Here's why: In 1974, Patty Hearst was a teenage heiress going to college and living a totally normal life, other than the being the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst part, when out of nowhere, a loosely organized, mostly incoherent group of homegrown terrorists kidnapped her. Two months later, Patty was filmed holding a semiautomatic gun during a bank holdup, and no one knew what to think about her, especially because she was now calling herself "Tania," and anyone who took two glances at her knew she wasn't a Tania. A "Tammy," maybe, but not a Tania.

You're kidding no one, Patty.

Multiple bank robberies and shootouts later, Pat-Tania was arrested and tried for her crimes, and she gave the very plausible and totally reasonable defense that she was brainwashed by her captors. She was convicted anyway. After almost two years of her multi-decade sentence, her sentence was commuted. A few decades later she was totally pardoned, and here we are: Patty Hearst's shih tzu wins hearts and minds (?) at Westminster. Only in America!

Literally! Only in America could a convicted criminal participate in the country's most elite dog show and have everyone be like, "Huh, OK, I guess." But I don't think Patty's case is totally a one-off news-of-the-weird story. The Patty Hearsts of the American criminal world are often welcomed back into the mainstream if they play by the right rules. Here's why:

#4. Americans Have a Weak Spot for White, Liberal Terrorists

Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Let's be clear: Patty was brainwashed. But so is every other terrorist out there, from what I can tell. Very few people are born with an innate desire to utilize beheadings to achieve their political and religious agenda. I mean, I know like six people born that way, but they were really bad babies. And three of them were mine.

Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images
This one is hiding a detonator in his fat rolls.

The difference between Patty and, say, I don't know, terrorists with brown skin, is that her conversion time was insanely short and she looks like white America. During her trial her defense went back and forth between her having Stockholm Syndrome and her being "forced" to rob banks and drive getaway cars while her comrades shot civilians dead. Both are bad news for everyone involved, but you couldn't really tell where Patty stood ideology-wise. Especially because she looked like the thousands of young upper-class American girls who were wearing their boyfriends' letter jackets and cheering at the big homecoming game one year and smoking pot and hitching to California with their new Moonie cult the next year.

So when Patty came back to regular, normal life, it was like your own prodigal daughter coming home to eat the fatted calf. She got married, had children, appeared in John Waters movies, did all the things normal middle-class women do as they grow older. Now, let's contrast Patty's story with another lady criminal of her generation.

#3. The Most Wanted Female Terrorist in America Is Tupac's Aunt

A year before Patty went rogue, Assata Shakur, black activist and aunt to a newborn Tupac, straight-up shot a trooper during a routine traffic stop. She was arrested for her crime but escaped from jail with the help of the unironically named Black Liberation Army. From there, Shakur escaped to Cuba and has been there ever since. On the 40th anniversary of her victim's death, the FBI got sentimental and put Shakur on their list of most wanted terrorists. They tried to send her roses, but she quickly realized the flowers were a trick to figure out her address.

So the differences between Patty and Assata are obvious: Hearst didn't actually pull any triggers, and she quickly denounced the ideology that took over her mind. Assata still considers herself a political exile, not a murderer. In fact, she calls herself a "20th century escaped slave," and Kanye West is punching himself at this moment for not thinking of that phrase first.

For young, educated white girls, political radicalization is seen as a phase meant to be outgrown, like purple hair streaks and bisexuality. Everyone else: Tread lightly with angry political ideologies, because you will be seen as a threat to the world.

Do you think I'm kidding?

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Kristi Harrison

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