We are socialized to respect human life. Regardless of one’s faith (or lack thereof), people around the world are taught it is wrong to kill. It’s codified in our laws. In fact, when a person is in a kill-or-be-killed situation or on a jury voting for the death penalty, choosing to take a life – even of a person who has committed a horrific crime or when one’s life is in danger – often leaves psychological scars. So how can terrorists do it? They, too, were taught right from wrong. How can they kill people they do not know, who harmed neither them nor anyone else? How can they kill innocents?
By objectifying them. Terrorists do not think of their victims as mothers and fathers, as beloved children, as people going about their daily lives. To overcome their deep aversion to killing, they can’t think of their victims as human beings. Instead, they become “the man,” “the bureaucracy” or a cultural, religious or ethnic slur. The terrorists depersonalize their victims. Only then can they commit violent acts for their political or social causes.
My protagonist is a good man pushed to his limit. He feels he has exhausted his options, and the only way he can draw attention to what he believes is an injustice is to commit a violent act. It’s a decision he struggles with, and only by objectifying his victims can he bring himself to act.