When I first moved into my cozy condo, located in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood of Germantown, Tennessee, I was in heaven on earth. But I soon had an eerie feeling that I was not alone.
Then it hit me like a thunderbolt when I got up in the middle of the night to get a drink of water. I turned on the kitchen light, and staring at me was a giant cockroach. Most roaches scatter when you turn on the light, but this guy just stared me down, as if it were daring me to do something. This roach was so big I almost offered him my wallet out of fear.
The next day I called the exterminator to get an emergency visit. I was told by a company representative, "Areas with a lot of trees will have roach problems." In other words, I just had to live with them, which I found unacceptable. The lady on the phone called them "American roaches," which were harder to kill than the typical "German roaches."
Call them what you will, but both versions are awful. I don't have to live with them. Any word that involves the name roach is ugly. It is the same thing with the word "terrorist."
The recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, have given those with a political agenda an opportunity to exploit fears by insisting on attaching the words "radical Muslim Islamic" to terrorism. I'm just going to assume if you are a terrorist, you are a radical, but calling all Muslims terrorists does a great disservice to the six million American-born Muslims in this country, and to millions of peaceful people who worship Islam.
The subdued nature of President Barack Obama is an affront to Republican presidential candidates and other conservatives, who foam at the mouth as they call for war. Right-wing regulars are seizing on the tragedies to put pressure on the president by asking, "Why won't he call them 'radical Islamic terrorists'?" As if semantics were the main concern in this case.
"I think that fear and uncertainty are extremely powerful motivators for humans, certainly including voters, and candidates know this," University of Memphis political science professor Doug Imig says. This is evidenced by the fact that the events in Paris and now San Bernardino are being used to dominate the 2016 election.
Donald Trump was way out in front on the immigration issue when he first announced his candidacy. His most recent outrage is a plan to deny Muslims entrance into the U.S., which is an idea he refuses to walk away from.
Despite his high number of what would seem ordinarily to be gaffes and his inability to stop himself from throwing mud on everyone at large, Trump's numbers continue to outpace the rest of the field as shown by the latest polls. Those voters don't care.
"As a Muslim living in America, I get worried that Mr. Trump's language and rhetoric might be contributing to the rise of Islamophobia and hate crimes," says Mustafa Hmood, president of the Muslim students' association at Christian Brothers University.
"Fortunately, and thanks be to God, the majority of the people here know and understand that terrorism has no religion. Terrorist groups like ISIS commit crimes in the name of Islam, but people know better than seeing them as representatives of 1.6 billion Muslims," Hmood says.
To spread lies, fear, and hate are un-American. Being American means setting aside your prejudice and yes, I am suggesting this, getting behind our president, for once.
Let's make a real effort to stop the name-calling. Like it or not, our world is evolving. It is a dangerous, scary place. But we are in this thing together.
There are no "American roaches." There are no "German roaches." They are just roaches to me. There is no "radical Islamic terrorist." They are just terrorists.
If we send our troops there to fight without a massive coalition, our enemy will scatter and blend into the environment much like roaches do. We will return home bloodied. Some good people won't return alive, and we will be left with another costly quagmire in the Middle East.
My new pest control company got to the root of the problem. Maybe our nation's leaders can follow suit. The roaches are gone. Problem solved. But I remain vigilant, as every American should.
Mark Woodall is an Army veteran and a graduate student at the University of Memphis.