April 1995 put radicalized right-wing terrorism firmly in the minds of Americans and law enforcement, when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At the time, this was the single largest act of terrorism ever committed on American soil.
Then, in August 1998, two separate strikes against American embassies foretold what would be the new norm in global terrorism -- the rise of radicalized Islamic terrorism in the form of al Qaeda. Three years later, the attacks on September 11, 2001, became the largest acts of terrorism on American soil, sparking the worldwide effort to fight the ever globalizing objectives of al Qaeda.
But as with any movements employing terrorism, the objectives ebb and flow, and already we are seeing a resurgence of left-wing terrorism -- but it's almost certainly going to get worse.
In 2009, the Department of Homeland Security angered many Americans when it released its policy paper on right-wing extremism -- in particular stating that returning vets were often targeted by groups because of the skills they possessed.
There were many claims of bias and unfairness, but in reality, the DHS had already released its policy paper on left-wing extremism, it just fell largely on deaf ears because it wasn't a current problem we were facing.
But almost as if a crystal ball, the policy paper on left-wing terrorism has foretold numerous events -- including the increasing use of cyber-terrorism against companies and governments, and to a degree the rise of violent left-wing extremism.
Left-wing terrorism is a very old concept in America, with one of the most spectacular attacks being the 1920 bombing of Wall Street -- the damage from this attack can still be seen on numerous buildings.
But over the years, left-wing terrorism shifted its objectives and targets -- a 'do no harm' doctrine focused on economic targets as opposed to killing or hurting people. Examples of this are Green Peace's activities in damaging fishing boats, cyber-attacks on businesses, banks, and governments, vandalism and mischief-making, and other acts of civil disobedience.
Left-wing terrorism peaked in the 1980s, during the final years of the Cold War, but died down and became overshadowed by both right-wing and radicalized Islamic terrorism in the 1990s to present.
But modern America has become a new crucible for the re-emergence of left-wing terror, and all too often some of their 'minor' pranks are seen in almost a 'Robin Hood' fashion instead of the prelude to bigger attacks.
Left-Wing Terrorism is Usually About Economics and Perceived Injustice.
The 2016 presidential race, especially Bernie Sanders' campaign, used the hot-button of economic disparity, the shrinking middle-class, and corporate price fixing as something that rang true to millions of Democratic voters.
These have historically been the greatest motivators of left-wing terrorism, but there has to be that final push from political activism to outright radicalization.
Unfortunately, that final push is usually caused by the group's feeling that they no longer have a say in the entire process, that nothing they do matters, or that the system has become corrupt to the point of the 'need' to work outside of it (or at times, even against it).
And so, we have seen the rise of groups directly trying to affect the outcome of a U.S. presidential election by leaking hacked materials to the media -- though strangely this was targeted against the left-wing candidate.
But its not just in the realm of cyberspace, the protests at Standing Rock, North Dakota, largely ignored by the media for months, have taken on the perceived injustice (and environmental dangers) of a pipeline being built across tribal lands.
Are these protesters left-wing terrorists? Not at all. They are still within the realm of civil disobedience -- but what happens when they feel like they've run out of all options, as the police and government try to enforce the eviction order to remove them from protesting?
At some point, we're going to have to face the simple reality that threats of violence are coming from across the political spectrum -- seemingly with one universal axiom ... Nobody's happy with the way things currently stand.
Why Does Everyone Feel Like Their Side is Losing?
This has become the new paradigm in America, that everyone feels like their side is getting the 'short end' of things politically -- that true statesmanship and compromise are dead.
Political hopelessness is always the breeding grounds for political extremism -- and terrorism becomes the 'nuclear option.'
If statesmanship and compromise were dead before the radicalization, they become buried and forgotten once violence starts -- the ability to reason, compromise, and even cease hostilities becomes almost impossible.
In 2017 and beyond, we're going to see wide-scale left-wing terrorism at a level we haven't seen in decades, largely targeting things (cyberattacks, etc), but possibly even a resurgence of violence.
But what are we going to do about it?
Are we going to take a 'wait-and-see' attitude and try to fix things after they are totally broken? Or are we going to start actually dealing with some of the underlying problems in our political process?
Dialog of opposing viewpoints has become a lost art in American politics. We now seem to live under the 'Animal Farm' model of shouting our opponents down, with each side having their 'goats' bleating at full volume to avoid having to engage the other side in true political dialog.
We're going to need dialog, but we're also going to need justice.
Far too many find hacking and cyber-attacks against government as a legitimate public good, instead of the criminal act it is -- rewarding these forms of attacks with honor, praise, and status only emboldens bigger attacks.
It might be a collective good when cyber-attacks uncover a black-ops government program, but what happens when these same hackers start crashing networks, power grids, banks, and committing wholesale identity thefts? At that point, the anarchy of the movement becomes totally apparent, but apparent way too late for most.
Americans need to relearn the value of political engagement, dialog, and compromise -- something we've totally lost in our modern politics.
We simply can't handle a nation where everyone is literally 'up in arms' over the political injustices they perceive.
Because anarchy is never the answer -- and nothing good will come from the ashes of our destroyed Republic if we aren't willing to rescue it from ourselves.