I Come from a Family of Terrorists

I have carefully read the definitions under Canada’s proposed Anti-Terrorist Act to determine what is “terrorist activity.” First, it is clear that no existing government can be guilty of a terrorist act, no matter what it does. That is why all the governments of the world, including the United States, China and Russia, are passing similar legislation. Only those who oppose existing governments can be guilty of terrorism.

Under the Canadian legislation terrorist activities are committed for political, religious or ideological purposes. These include acts to intimidate governments or compelling them “to do or refrain from doing any act.” Terrorist acts include causing death or violence or causing “substantial property damage, whether to public or private property.” Guilt covers those belonging to a conspiracy to do such acts, counseling people to do such acts, or belonging to any organization that gives any kind of support to people doing such acts.

On reading these clauses in the act, I realize that there have been a lot of terrorists in my family. My mother’s father was a member of the Order of Cincinnatus, a political group of people who descended from officers who fought in the U.S. revolutionary war against England. Captain Robert Brown took up arms against the British at Lexington and was reputed to have participated in the infamous Boston Tea Party.

My mother’s family was from southern Ohio. Family members were direct descendants of one of the many sons of John Brown, the notorious Christian preacher who supported the abolition of slavery. Indeed, he and a few sons went off to Missouri, where they formed an armed group that attacked plantations in order to free slaves. They killed some slave owners who resisted. Having little respect for private property, they burned down the homes of some of the slave owners.

In one famous case, Brown and a few of his rebel group marched from Missouri to Virginia to attack a particular plantation. They were determined to free two slaves who had escaped to the North but had been returned to their owner under the terms of the Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brown and his rebel organization also led a large group of slaves they had freed on a long march from Missouri to Ontario. Lax Canadian immigration officials admitted them. Brown and his men were even carrying weapons! They settled in Cornwall, and that is my connection to Ferguson Jenkins.

John Brown is best known for his attack on the Harpers Ferry armory, an act that some say triggered the American Civil War. He hoped to get weapons to lead a slave uprising. Most whites did not like him, because he had this warped view of Christianity, that blacks were equal to whites. He was a very famous terrorist. The U.S. government hung Brown.

My mother’s other relatives came from Germany to escape political repression after the failed revolutions for democracy in 1847–1848. They had participated in some sort of peasant revolt. They arrived at Ellis Island with no passports, no visas, no money, and only the skills known to poor farmers. Lax immigration authorities admitted them, too.

My father’s family came from Menteith, in Scotland. As part of the Graham clan, they had fought with Wallace against the English at Stirling Bridge and Falkirk. Later, they fought with Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.

My Warnock ancestor moved from Scotland to Ireland to fight as a gallowglass with the O’Neill’s against the English. He stayed in Ireland. The English eventually seized his land in County Down, and he moved to County Donegal to work as a tenant farmer. The flax his family grew paid the rent, and the potatoes were for survival. When the blight came in 1846, the landlord paid for the Warnock family to go to the New World. They arrived at the dock in Philadelphia without passports, with no visas, no money and no skills except farming. Again, lax immigration officials let them in the country.

Some of this family history has apparently rubbed off on me. While a university student in the early 1960s, I supported the end to racial segregation. I belonged to a conspiratorial group, the Congress on Racial Equality, and even participated in a sit-in at a Maryland bowling alley, which did not serve non-whites.

I immigrated to Canada in 1963. Before I had been granted citizenship, I was a member of a conspiratorial group. In 1965, this group organized a large demonstration at Suffield, Alberta opposing the Canadian government’s participation in the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons. The group also protested the testing of Agent Orange for the U.S. government, which was using it as a defoliant in Vietnam. There is no question about it, we were trying our best to intimidate the Canadian government into changing policy.

I was granted Canadian citizenship by a lax Ministry of Immigration. My terrorist activities increased. I joined a group that gave aid to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. I supported Church groups that aided refugees from the dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador. Most recently, I have given financial assistance to a non-government organization in Mexico that supports poor peasants in Chiapas, many of whom are classified as terrorists by the Mexican and U.S. governments. I gave financial support to a Roman Catholic human-rights organization in Chiapas that openly supports peasants charged with terrorism and opposes free trade.

Currently, my e-mail messages to friends in Ireland do not get through. Perhaps the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service or the U.S. Security Agency are already monitoring my e-mails and the Websites I visit.

This Christmas, I plan to make a donation to a group giving support to refugees in Afghanistan. John Brown’s warped Christianity has affected me. I am crazy enough to believe that a child in Iraq or Afghanistan is equal to an American who works in the Pentagon or for a financial organization in the World Trade Center. Perhaps some time in the near future, after Jean Chrétien’s anti-terrorist bill becomes law, I will hear a knock on the door and get a visit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

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