The beheading of a British soldier Wednesday by two militant Islamic men wielding knives and meat cleavers is true psychological terror.
It is one thing—and an unimaginably horrific thing, indeed—to knock down buildings with commandeered jets or to use makeshift bombs to blow up a street corner in a major city.
But it is another when terror takes a form as rudimentary as a meat cleaver and targets no iconic building or event, but simply someone walking down the street.
This, we can fully imagine, could happen to anyone. And, this, we can see painfully clearly is barbarism.
One man dies horrifically in Woolwich, England, and the whole world hears the rant of his depraved killer.
What is more, there is no psychological defense available to stave off the terrible truth: This can happen to anyone having dinner in a restaurant.
This can happen at a bowling alley.
This can happen at a Little League game.
Now, we can really envision the terror it would be for two men to grab a boy delivering newspapers and chop him into pieces in a small town, then make an iPhone video of the event and the religious/political racism that motivated it, send it to YouTube and wait for the police to show up.
Terrorism could always have claimed our kids, of course, but we had the ability to deny the possibility by thinking about the FBI and Homeland Security and police forces foiling plots to destroy landmarks and roil major sporting events. But there is no security that can stop a couple of thugs with meat cleavers or spears.
No one is immune.
This most real psychological terror is also the end of terror. It overshoots the mark. It exposes the perpetrators not as aggrieved warriors of any ideology, but as mundane, murderous beings who, sadly having lost all humanity, are now no different than predatory animals. And it conveys people past fear and into rage.
This is where terror triggers resolve, not retreat. This is where the battle of terror is truly joined by the mass of good and decent people—not by the FBI, not by the CIA, not by Homeland Security, not even by the police forces of Woolwich and London and New York and Boston.
This is where the average British and American citizen gets mad and gets determined.
Extremist, murderous ideologies based on the destruction of others end up, eventually, killing themselves off because they predictably spawn precisely the kind of event as occurred Wednesday in Woolwich—the loose ends of barbarism where all the primitive horror of its adherents leaks out of the quasi-organized military-style movement.
And then we see it, and, because we are good and decent and love our children and love freedom, we organize to end it.