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Commentary :: Politics
Try Listening
11 Jun 2009
Discussion as an alternative to terrorism.
In recent weeks the media has had a field day sensationalizing what appears to have been three politically motivated murders. On June 1, Scott Roeder allegedly stormed into the church attended by Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor, assassinating the doctor by gun shot. On June 2, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad is alleged to have killed a soldier just outside of a basic training site. He then went on to shoot another at a military recruiting center in Arkansas. And yesterday, a nearly moribund old man, James W. von Brunn, is alleged to have run into Washington's Holocaust Museum and to have murdered Stephen Johns, an African-American in a gun fight. These three events have several things in common. Amongst those common things is that all three events were motivated by hate.

Hate is a normal human emotion. No doubt, hate serves an evolutionary purpose. However, normal hate comes and goes the way other emotions come and go, but the kind of hate that motivated these three men was the kind of hate that takes over one's life and leads to destruction, both of the self and others. While the media revels in demonizing these three hate filled men, people of all political stripes seek to profit from these sad events. These political vultures circle above the carnage, giddy with self satisfaction, as they feed upon tragedy so well timed it almost seems planned. Gun control advocates point to these crimes as a reason to ban guns. Thought police are seizing upon these crimes to advocate the criminalization of promulgating beliefs that contradict the official version of history. The Southern Poverty Law Center is clucking about how its intelligence unit knew of Mr. von Brunn years ago (which seems to have had no impact on Mr. von Brunn's trajectory). In this midsts of this morbid political feeding frenzy, I'd like to point out a few things and then ask a question.

None of these murderers appear to have been sociopaths. All three were assassins with a cause. In a civilized society it is possible to address grievances without resorting to violence. We should ask ourselves why it is that these three individuals, each with a different cause, chose to address their grievances with bullets. Are we a civilized society?

My father is a conservative Republican. I am an anarchist. We do not see eye to eye. Over the years, I've discovered that I cannot discuss politics with him without the discussion turning into a screaming monologue. It is my father who does the screaming. My father is a very intelligent and well informed man. You would think that he could have a civilized conversation about political matters. Since the advent of Fox News, his favorite news channel, my father has become less and less able to tolerate "liberal" views ("liberal" is the conservative catch-all phrase for all views that are not conservative Republican). Fox News has convinced him that the socialists have taken over, that Muslims with bombs lurk around every corner, that gays are destroying the institution of marriage, and that our economy has been over-run by illegal immigrants. All of these beliefs entail hate and desperation.

Shortly after George Bush became President, at the beginning of 2001, I notice the rise of this hateful attitude. When the events of 9/11/2001 occurred, the political hate mongers of the right seized upon the tragedy and circle our heads like vultures for a period of eight years - eight years that seemed like an eternity. In this environment of hate, our Government waged an unforgivable genocide against Arabs and Muslims. A Hell was unleashed upon the world at an expense so great that it destroyed our moral standing, our economy, and our place in the world. The only country that appears to have benefited from this slaughter is Israel, the same country that now demands we attack Iran, another of her many enemies.

It is of little surprise that Mr. Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad would conclude that he, as a Muslim, was at war with the United States. His attacks upon U.S. Military personnel seem to be a logical outcome of our Government's genocide against his brothers. Likewise, is it at all surprising that racist James W. von Brunn, now close to the end of his life, would snap when he sees that his country has become another country's provider of soldiers in a bloody proxy war that has destroyed the economy? I am not saying that either of these men did the right thing. I am not saying that I agree with either of these men. What I am saying is that given the circumstances, it is inevitable that a Muslim man and an old white man would each stand up and take aim at those they believe responsible for horrific injustice. In a world where a Muslim cannot openly express his beliefs and argue his cause without becoming a target of Homeland Security, what do you expect? In a world where a man who disagrees with the official version of history cannot speak freely without becoming the target of the SPLC, the ADL, and countless other thought police, what do you expect? When the free expression of thought becomes impossible under the weight of hate – hate created by dictatorship, hate created by an intolerant and hateful media – violence will become the expression of thought.

Now, let us consider Mr. Roeder. Have you ever attempted to have a discussion about abortion with someone from either end of the abortion-rights spectrum? Few topics of debate seem more polarized than the abortion-rights debate. Each camp takes a "my way or the highway" stance on the issue. The way the debate is framed, abortion is either murder and nothing more or an expression of free choice and nothing more. On one side we have hateful foaming at the mouth Christians incapable of independent thought and on the other side we have hateful foaming at the mouth radical feminists who see half the world as their mortal enemies. Somewhere between the two is the no-person's land of reason, where any rational voice is hated with vengeance. This is to be expected because in the United States there is no space for rational and calm discussion. In the United States, we are all at war with one another. This war is so extremely hateful, that there is no one a conservative Republican hates more than his fellow Americans. Likewise, there is no one an American liberal sees as more contempt worthy than a conservative. Outside of these two viewpoints, the rest of us do not exist.

Rather than continuing this blind shit-fest, I ask you this. Why is it impossible to ask, in this country of ours, whether Mr. Muhammad, Mr. von Brunn, or Mr. Roeder may have a grievance that could have been addressed? Is Mr. Muhammad completely wrong in seeing our Government as genocidal with respect to Muslims? There is evidence that says he is correct. That evidence shows that President Bush went to war with Iraq to fulfill what he saw as Biblical prophesy. For Bush, this was a holy war and killing Muslims was one of its objectives. According to this Bible prophesy, this war was a war to protect Israel. As I mentioned above, only Israel benefited from this war. In that sense, Mr. von Brunn was not without a grievance. This particular grievance, whenever expressed, inevitably results in attacks. It is a fact of life that we are not permitted to discuss whether Israel was the cause of this war. When a person with a strongly held belief cannot speak his grievances without suppression, violence results. Moreover, Mr. von Brunn disagrees with the official position on the holocaust. Personally, I have no idea whether or not the official position is correct. It seems likely to me that most of it is correct, but I cannot understand why it is that a person cannot question the official story on any topic without being classified as a criminal. Isn't it likely that the suppression of Mr. von Brunn's beliefs had something to do with his violent rampage at the Holocaust Museum? Those who are not allowed to express their dissent resort to violence. Perhaps it is not the denial of the holocaust that leads to violence but the suppression of denial of the holocaust that leads to violence? If the official position is correct, or even nearly correct, the facts alone should be enough to fight off the views of those who agree with Mr. von Brunn.

And now we come to Mr. Roeder. Mr. Roeder targeted one of the only doctors in the United States performing partial birth abortions. There are strong non-religious arguments that partial birth abortions are akin to infanticide. It is difficult to argue that some magical thing occurs that confers rights upon a viable fetus when it is moved a few centimeters outside of its mother's womb. Whatever rights a viable fetus has outside of its mother, it has inside its mother, at least logic would lead one to believe so. Once again, I am not arguing that what Mr. Roeder did was correct. I believe that Mr. Roeder is a murderer. However, his belief that Doctor Tiller in particular was engaged in murder is not an insane point of view. Perhaps there should be room to consider early abortion a right and late abortion something that is only done if the mother's life is threatened by giving birth. Combined with that, perhaps we need a means to ensure that a woman who discovers late in her pregnancy that she is pregnant will be cared for through the process of birth and that her child, if she does not want it, will be given to someone else. Why can we not have laws that protect a woman under such circumstances and provide her with the means to give birth without destroying her life? Naturally, making such a statement puts me in the cross-hairs of both poles of the abortion debate because in American you're either with one intolerant group or another.

Just as international terrorism will not be ended by repression, domestic terrorism will not be ended by shrill denunciations, sweeping accusations, political opportunism, or fanatical mutual hatred. If we wish to oppose the rise of white nationalism within the United States, we should attempt to understand what drives it and ask ourselves whether, somewhere in the trash heap of hateful rhetoric, there is a real grievance that catalyzes the hate. If such a real grievance exists, then it should be addressed.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have naïve attempts by well meaning leftists to "come out and fight" against neo-nazis and other fascists. Every time a group of white racists throws a concert, calls to shut down the concert go out on alternative media. I find it difficult to believe that these actions discourage racists or cause them to give up their hate. There are better ways to deal with hate. Rather than fighting them, why not debate them? Rather than stop them, why not try to befriend them and reach them on a personal level?

Back in 1988, I was living in Garden Grove, California, close to Little Saigon. My wife and I were working on opposite sides of the country at that time. She is Vietnamese and I am white. One day, when leaving the house I was renting, my white next-door neighbor, a man who did not know I was married to a Vietnamese woman, was working on his truck. We made some small talk and he went off on a tirade about "gooks" and how "gooks" were taking from all of us white people. I could have took him to task, but I ignored his remarks and waited until my wife came out to visit me. My way of fighting his racism was to make out with my wife in front of him while he was working on his truck. He never made a racist remark to me again.

My point is simple. Let us not be stirred up by politicians and the media about the recent hate attacks. Rather than responding with more intolerance, derision, and more hate, let's work towards open discussion of all grievances, even those of white males and Muslims. Telling people to shut-up does not make people shut-up, however it does make people violent.
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