What's in an "ISIS"? The Islamic State conquers our fear glands through four-letter word

A constant paranoia and fear grips the hearts of the American people. Since the World Trade Center attacks of 2001, the United States has dehumanized people of Middle Eastern ethnicity. There have been several bogeymen figures in this war on terror. The hit list has included the names of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein. But recently the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Levant (ISIL) elevated the ethnic label of "Middle Eastern" to a new level of infamy.

Al-Qaeda was, for a time, tattooed into the minds of United States citizens as the very worst terrorism had to offer. They attacked the country on its own turf. That surely was an unexpected and unthinkable act of cold hate in a time of readily available atom bombs and military response.

In the eyes of the West, Al-Qaeda is the end-all, be-all enemy of American freedom and democracy. Most immediately know of Al-Qaeda to be something bad once they hear it on the news, without even really knowing the situation in Iraq.

And yet, ISIS’s ruthlessness is somehow so much worse that Al-Qaeda wants nothing to do with them.

ISIS is so terrible, in fact, that the mere mention of their name has become taboo. The adult-oriented animated television show “Archer”, a show about the normal day-to-day machinations of a secret spy agency, also named “ISIS”, which stands for “International Secret Intelligence Service” lasted five seasons with the name before the show's creator Adam Reed decided to replace the company name with the easier-to-recognize, and safer, CIA.

The vehemently negative connotation attached to the name prompts people to react a certain way when they hear it in any given situation. A rock band named Isis, named so since its inception in 1997, has been under attack on Facebook in recent months due to confusion between it and the Islamic terrorist group. Obviously, people are not bothering to check whether this band is some outlandish supporter of the group or just a band with the same name. People would rather writhe in fear of a word and condemn anyone who may appear to be associated with it.

This begs us to pose the question: why worry about the name? It’s understandable that the country be worried about the latest updates with news concerning Syria, Iraq, ISIS, and our other favorite real-life prime time villains. But somehow, allowing them to infiltrate pop culture by making them taboo seems like an even bigger violation.

However horrible their methods may be, groups such as ISIS are rooted in human nature and are limited by human capacity. Yet we choose to take these very human groups and make them into something to be reviled and feared, like they are the real-life versions of Lord Voldemort. Soon, upon utterance of the name “ISIS”, people will hiss and claw and remind you not to speak of "those who must not be named”.

It’s absolutely crucial that the nation remember that the enemy we are facing is not a force of pure brutality and evil, but one of misplaced righteousness. These people operate on a moral compass that is unlike our own, but it’s necessary to acknowledge that they are humans too. This is a complicated conflict we're dealing with, not a battle against evil. Thus, we should do research on the conflict with ISIS and instead of operating like we're on a red scare, witch hunt, in an attempt to dissolve a very human conflict.

OpinionJose GutierrezComment