Replacing patriotism with tribalism

The politics of grievance and revenge divides us all

Just after last week’s terrorist attack in Barcelona, a pro-Islamic State website posted video from the scene along with a message in Arabic saying, “Terror is filling the hearts of the Crusader in the Land of Andalusia.

Let’s unpack that. “Crusader” is a term jihadists use, pejoratively, for Christians. More specifically, of course, it refers to the Christian soldiers who fought a series of wars, beginning in 1095, to recover Jerusalem and other parts of the Holy Land from the Muslim armies that had burst out of Arabia four centuries earlier.

Andalusia indicates the territories of the Iberian Peninsula that were conquered by Muslim armies from North Africa beginning in 711. The Reconquista, a war waged by Christians to recover those territories, ended in 1492.

Here’s the larger point: To those discomfited by theological or even ideological explanations for most modern terrorism, one alternative explanation is this: The killers are revanchists. Their motivation is to reverse territorial losses.

They have suffered such losses, they believe, in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The want to fill “the hearts” of the “others” now living in such lands with terror in order to drive them out or at least relegate them to inferior status. In other words, these revanchists also are supremacists…

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