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?
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.
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:
Americans Have a Weak Spot for White, Liberal Terrorists
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.
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.
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?
White Lady Radicals From the '70s Are Professors Now
If the circumstances are right, you don't actually have to be completely repentant to get back in with mainstream America after a few years of political terrorism. You just have to look like you're not a threat to anyone. One of Patty Hearst's roommates in her terrorist club was Wendy Yoshimura, a tiny Japanese-American woman with a gift for pipe bombs. Where's Wendy today? Painting watercolors in San Francisco, free as a bird.
To be fair, who could stay mad at that face?
Bernardine Dohrn, one of the founders of the Weather Underground, a group that actually bombed the Capitol and declared war on the United States government, spent over 20 years as an adjunct law professor at Northwestern University. Her co-terrorist, Kathy Boudin, was involved in a robbery that resulted in the deaths of three people, including two cops. But unlike Assata Shakur, Boudin isn't hiding out in Cuba. She teaches at Columbia now. Another member of the Weather Underground, Cathy Wilkerson, used her dad's New York townhouse as a bomb factory. Three of her friends were killed when one of the bombs accidentally detonated in 1970. She teaches math in Brooklyn now.
If it wasn't so bizarre, it would be offensive: Americans refuse to be intimidated by white or Asian women, even when they're crazy women who blow things up.
No One Takes White Lady Terrorists That Seriously
When 19-year-old Shannon Conley was caught trying to join ISIS, her judge, once again, had mixed feelings about what to do with her. He said, "I'm not saying that her decisions were all a product of mental illness. ... But she's a bit of a mess." In the end, he sentenced her to four years in prison but also agreed with a psychiatric evaluation that determined "she is not a terrorist." Apparently, she just wanted the attention.
That's a weird accusation about someone who was once caught sketching pictures of the interior of a pro-Israel church that congregants thought she was going to bomb. It wasn't a kooky whim from some stupid Christians who didn't know any better -- Conley was casing the exact room where a gunman shot kids in 2007. Oh, and she went to church there so she could argue with the staff about Israel. If it was a different year and Conley was a different nationality, she could have found herself at Guantanamo for the next 10 years. But here, she's a silly, mixed-up girl who needs some psychiatric care.
Fifty-year-old Colleen LaRose, who goes by the stage name "Jihad Jane," didn't have the excuse of youth when she was caught conspiring to kill a Swedish artist who drew Muhammad's head on a dog. Since she couldn't work the "I'm a dumb young girl" defense, she went with "I have psychological problems," to which someone should have responded, "Don't we all, sweetheart?" but didn't because that would have sounded sexist. I can say it because I'm a girl.
Yes, LaRose got 10 years, but she could have gotten life. Her blond lady-friend recruit Jihad Jamie got eight years after her team described her as "a 32-year-old single mom from a small town in Colorado," going through "an extremely stressful and overwhelming situation." Which is probably true, but also true of every other person who has knowingly joined jihad. Jihad itself is a "stressful and overwhelming situation," I'm guessing.
The difference between LaRose, Conley, and all these white women dabbling in terrorism and every other terrorist out there is that society will probably conclude that they were only dabblers temporarily brainwashed by their evil brown-skinned boyfriends. But once they do their time and properly make amends with society, they might find themselves at a university teaching your kids, or at a dog show, making your dogs feel bad about themselves. There's practically no limit to what you can accomplish if you're an American girl terrorist!
For more from Kristi, check out 6 Vintage Ads Companies Would Never Get Away With Today and Ferguson, Eric Garner, and Why Death Should Outrage Us.
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