When I say the word “terrorism,” what do you think of? Do you think of hot, abandoned deserts in the East? Do you think of masked men parading weapons around the streets? Do you think of melted steel beams and hundreds of lives lost? Yes, these can all be related to terrorism, but I’m going to throw an idea at you that might not be very popular, or patriotic, but it is the truth. Hold on to your hats.

When we ask Americans what they picture when they think of terrorism, we get answers such as “Muslims” or “ISIS.” But when we ask other people around the world what they picture when they think of terrorism, most of them will say Americans.

“Not all Americans are bigoted!” some of you will cry. “It’s not fair that we are portrayed that way!” others will holler. But let me ask you this: How do you think those who are portrayed as terrorists in our culture/country feel? We generalize and ostracize an entire race of people because we think we know them based on the actions of a select few. In truth, these “select few” are often extremist groups who rarely follow usual rules and regulations of the religion or culture. They are not a good representation of what that culture has to offer, yet we assume the entire culture must be similar because that is all we see and all we choose to believe.

Let me give you an example: Many believe that in the Muslim religion, it is the sole purpose of practitioners to wipe out all peoples who are not of the Muslim faith. This is just not true. The Quran is less violent than the Bible, but many choose to ignore that fact because it does not help argue their case against Muslims.

Let’s go back to the first few images I gave you in this article. The Middle Eastern desert, the frightening men brandishing weapons designed to take out entire cities at a time. I was not talking about ISIS or any other Eastern-based “terrorist” group. I was talking about the United States Military. We are the ones invading homes and wiping out cities; we are the ones waving our big guns around like they are our shiny new toys. When it is our boys down in the desert, shooting and violating and killing, it is patriotism. But when it is someone else’s boys, doing the exact same thing for the exact same cause – the maintaining of their beliefs and rights – it is terrorism. Can you see how this starts to break down what society has built up to be our stable black-and-white morality system?

The question remains to be, how do we stop terrorism? My response would be, Exactly. Let me say this: While it is difficult to judge others as terrorists and justify our own horrific actions, violence for the sake of peace is not peace. The only way to stop “terrorism” is to stop war itself, and we have a long way to go before we ever get there.