The Dance of Denial


danceIt has been very revealing watching members of the Right deny the responsibility of their ideology for two tragic murders that have recently occurred which captured the attention of the Nation.  First came the cold blooded slaughter of an abortionist, Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas followed up shortly by the brutal killing of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

Dr. Tiller’s death is troubling because he had been the target of anti-abortionists’ rage before. The person charged with his murder had been known to stalk and even vandalize  the clinic where Tiller worked in the days preceding his death.  Several people in the clinic have gone on record saying they knew about Scott Roeder’s attempts at disrupting the operation of the clinic and notified the proper authorities yet nothing was done to apprehend Roeder which could have possibly prevented  Dr. Tiller’s death.  Such ineptness on the part of the federal bureaucracy does not mean that even more layers of government are necessary to protect the citizens but rather irresponsible civil servants need to be replaced with more diligent and efficient ones.

The death of Stephen Jones at the National Holocaust Museum at the hands of a white supremacist is a tragedy underscored by the fact his murderer had a long history, easily documented that could have possibly pointed to such a heinous crime being committed by his hand, age notwithstanding, yet he very easily walked down a metropolitan city street with a .22 caliber rifle and shot and killed an armed federal agent.  The reason why I mention again both of these crimes is because of the contortions those on the right are taking to distance their ideology from these two men who claimed to hold that ideology near and dear to them.

Political pundits are taking great lengths to say that these murderers aren’t from the right at all but rather from the left of the political spectrum, despite the fact they, the perpetrators clearly identify with the Right.  Punditry has managed to make actions a mark of political persuasion and not words.  Pundits have told their admirers that death and killing are marks of the political left, terrorism is identified with Muslims and Islam.  The Right claims  any action that is noble and necessary to save America from its enemies upto and including wholesale slaughter and invasion of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan as virtuous, and therefore worthy of being called conservative.

This was the kind of meme advanced by Dick Cheney, more recently, and the entire Bush administration before which reduced all argument to ‘with us or against us’ sloganeering.  In that small universe built by the likes of the triumphant Right there wasn’t anything that we did to  those ‘against us’ that could be considered illegal or immoral behavior.   The concept of “exceptionalism” had been developed to the point that meant even the boundaries of legality didn’t apply to our behavior, or we made every attempt to legalize illegal behavior in order to legitimize our unlawful actions.  This flouting of the law for suspect political aims is a vicious circle we continue to go around when we obscure  the motives of these latest criminals for their criminal behavior.

News accounts and political commentators have taken great pains to classify these murderers as lone gunmen who are completely separate and detached from the environment which they have enveloped themselves.  By doing so they hope to further distance themselves from the effect their rhetoric has on the people who listen, subscribe and eventually act on  it.

In our system of law as it pertains to capital crimes unless there is a conspiracy there is no guilt by association. Conversely there is also no innocence by association. Christian leaders and conservative citizens in general have jumped at the chance to label Mr. Roeder a vigilante, a monster and things far worse.

Regrettably this tactic is only applied to people from the right who spent an entire two terms of a right leaning Republican administration painting with the broadest of brushes entire groups of people based on the actions of individual(s).  This has been a common practice of demagoguery; the politics of the many condensed into the actions of the lone individual.  Cries, which were raised at the turn of the century, of bombing the institutions that are symbolic of political ideology have given way to the absolute negation of ideology and their import on an individual’s actions.   Murderers on the right have suddenly appeared on our political and national landscape to kill their perceived foes because these killers were inherently defective and acting completely on their own.  Conversely the last eights years of a Republican administration were spent literally trying to root out whole communities of conspirators who lurked in every corner of our country waiting for a chance to reap their collective death and destruction at the earliest possible moment on an unsuspecting public that need the invasive protection of a government bureaucracy, because of the actions of a few.

Finally the absence in many cases of condemnation from the people who claim allegiance with right leaning philosophy  for the  murderous tendencies of their co-ideologues is another characteristic of the sudden revisionism going on in Obama’s America.  During the Bush years people were always challenged to condemn the acts of coreligionists or fellow party members whereas today’s America sees there is no need for condemnation because such doing so rarely accomplishes anything and not worth the time spent.

Condemning Roeder doesn’t add anything to the pro-life cause. Pro-abortionists are always quick to remind the Christians of Christ’s rule of not judging or condemning. Why add fuel to the fire by condemning Mr. Roeder, isn’t it just a matter of six of one and a half dozen of the other? Both Tiller and Roeder have One that will be their final judge and he is neither hot under the collar, biased or partial. Why don’t we leave all that to Him?

In many ways such ideas mirror the current glossing over done by the Obama administration vis-a-vis Bush Administration crimes.  The motivation for such an attitude is clear; it absolves ideologues from the  responsibility of their actions of the past or the future while still holding on, in their own minds at least, to a perceived higher moral ground. Gone are the litmus  tests that were applied to every ethnicity before which required a strict adherence to the law on the part of every member of a political, ideological group or the utter abandonment and banishment of that group in the absence of a vociferous outcry and condemnation of any of its members, however tangential that connection may be.

Finally, there is the absence of a cry for governmental insertion in the settlement of accounts for anti-social behavior.  Instead, the right has resume its position they so recklessly abandoned during the 911 era and want no government interference at all in protecting society.  Instead of wanting the affairs of the country to be overseen by a white haired Bush, the right blames a black haired Obama, as if he were the trigger puller of these two most recent attacks on the national consciousness.  The turnaround of the right on a dime as it were, is one more indication of the bankrupt philosophy it harbors.  That no one from that side of the political spectrum can see the sudden hypocrisy of their positions is another indication of just how low they have sunk in abandoning principle.  There is no indication that the Left is or will be any better; their actions to date have only enabled the right to the detriment of us all.

Terrorism-The unequal treatment of two religiously motivated crimes


lady-justiceTwo men, one Christian and the other Muslim, commit murder just one day apart in the United States. Both appear to have been motivated by their religious beliefs. The Christian murderer is Scott Roeder and his victim is Dr. George Tiller, a physician from Wichita, KS who performed late term abortions. The Muslim murderer is Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad and his victims are Pvt. William Long and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula who were new U.S. Army recruiters.

These two murder cases expose the media’s and our legal system’s bias against Muslims. Both crimes seem to fit the definition of terrorism motivated by religious extremism. The media and the legal system, however, are treating these alleged murderers and their crimes very differently.

The Muslim murder suspect, Mr. Muhammad, is charged with terrorism along with first degree murder. Mr. Muhammad’s faith has been front and center from the very earliest news reports. The American-Muslim community’s almost immediate repudiation of Mr. Muhammad’s murder was and still is largely ignored.

On the other hand, the Christian murder suspect, Mr. Roeder, is not being charged with terrorism. His faith has not been the focus of news reports even though there seems to be ample evidence to suggest that Mr. Roeder espouses extreme, right-wing Christian beliefs. And lastly, the media is giving anti-abortion groups ample opportunity to distance themselves from the murderous actions of one of their own.

Let’s start with the terrorism charges. Domestic terrorism is defined as an act that is dangerous to human life (guns were fired in the direction of the victims – this requirement is met) and which is a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or any State (both shootings fulfill this requirement) and which appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by, among other things, assassination (an argument for this element can be made in both shootings).

Mr. Muhammad is charged with 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act. This is in addition to the murder charge. Mr. Roeder is charged with murder but there are no terrorism charges. On the face of both cases there seems to be ample indications that these men committed murder with the objective of intimidating a civilian population or with the intention to influence a government policy.

So, why a terrorism charge in one case but not the other? Both cases are heinous. Both local communities surely want to send the strongest message possible to the public that these crimes will be punished to the greatest extent of the law. And ultimately a judge or jury will decide whether the charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt so the prosecutor runs little risk by adding the appropriate terrorism charge.

The disparate treatment of these two murder cases began right from the first media reports. Most major newswires and major newspapers focused heavily on Mr. Muhammad’s religion very early on.

The Associated Press reported on Mr. Muhammad’s crime by stating that a “Muslim convert with political and religious motives” shot two uniformed soldiers. The New York Times described Mr. Muhammad as “an American convert to Islam.” CNN reported that Mr. Muhammad is a “Muslim convert”.

Let’s compare the reporting by these same news sources on Mr. Roeder’s murder. The Associated Press is mum on Mr. Roeder’s Christian faith. Ditto for the New York Times and CNN. None of theses same news sources make any mention of Mr. Roeder’s religious affiliation or the obvious role his extremist religious beliefs may have played in the killing of Dr. Tiller.

What exacerbates this obvious bias in reporting is the willingness of the media to offer the anti-abortion groups immediate opportunities to distance themselves from Mr. Roeder’s murder while none of them provided a similar opportunity for the American-Muslim community even as they reported that Mr. Muhammad is a Muslim. Major national and regional American-Muslim organizations issued almost immediate statements condemning Mr. Muhammad’s murderous actions so the excuse cannot be a lack of public condemnation of the murder from the American-Muslim community.

To the American-Muslim community this unequal treatment is at the very least annoying and more likely very troubling. The bad news is that this situation is not going to change in the immediate future.

Not enough Americans know what real Muslims are like. There are up to 7 million Muslims living in America. By contrast there are a few hundred million Christians in America. Suffice to say that Americans feel more familiar with Christian values than they do with Muslim values. They don’t realize just how similar these values are – both faith traditions abhor the killing of innocents and neither faith condones the actions of Mr. Muhammad or Mr. Roeder. Plus, the steady stream of news about Muslim extremists killing others and themselves in suicide missions overseas certainly doesn’t help.

There is only one way for American-Muslims to sway Americans’ opinion of Islam. More Americans need to know what real Muslims are all about. While the media can do its job better by giving a voice to the American-Muslim community, American-Muslims need to take matters into their own hands.

American-Muslims need to become civically engaged. They need to get involved on issues of the common good and not just special interest issues. It has to be at the grassroots level with one on one interactions predicated on substantive work that gives non-Muslim Americans a chance to see firsthand what American-Muslims are all about.

President Obama’s message to the Muslim world, including his numerous nods to American-Muslims was great, but American-Muslims need to do some serious, old school, grassroots relational work of their own.

Hat tip to AltMuslim comment.

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