“. . . And They Is Us.”

by wjw on June 20, 2015

John Stewart, rocked back on his heels by the horrific events in Charleston, improvising, and unable to come up with a single joke, nevertheless manages more coherence and resolution than I could, even when I have time to prepare.  Which is why he’s the TV star and I, obviously, am not.

Not that I feel like joking or anything.

And it’s not like the thing is new, or even unusual, or something that belongs in another age.  I remember Bill Clinton’s speech back in the mid-Nineties, when something like 45 black churches had been burned in the space of two years.

Every family has a right to expect that when they walk into a church or synagogue or mosque each week they will find a house of worship, not the charred remnants of a hateful act done by cowards in the night. We must rise up as a national community to safeguard the right of every citizen to worship in safety. That is what America stands for.

So far as I know, the arsonists weren’t caught.  So maybe America stands for something else.

And of course the narrative will be corrupted.  There was an attempt to make this not about race, but about the “war on Christianity,” a claim the discovery of the perpetrator’s racist online presence turned as sad and pathetic as it was predictable.   There are photos of Dylann Roof burning the US flag and waving the Confederate battle banner, photos of the Rhodesian and South African flags on his jacket, and of the Confederate license plate on his car— his allegiance was to countries that ceased to exist before he was born.  He educated himself on conservative web sites that showcased black depravity, and when he acted he followed a cultural imperative as old as the United States itself, older even than the burning of the first black church in Charleston in 1822, and the execution of its pastor.

The media are very careful not to use the word “terror.”  But who are the actual terrorists in this country?

According to a survey conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum, the main threat comes from the extreme right.

An officer from a large metropolitan area said that “militias, neo-Nazis and sovereign citizens” are the biggest threat we face in regard to extremism. One officer explained that he ranked the right-wing threat higher because “it is an emerging threat that we don’t have as good of a grip on, even with our intelligence unit, as we do with the Al Shabab/Al Qaeda issue, which we have been dealing with for some time.” An officer on the West Coast explained that the “sovereign citizen” anti-government threat has “really taken off,” whereas terrorism by American Muslim is something “we just haven’t experienced yet.”

Since 2000, 25 police officers have been killed by right-wing radicals.

Since 9/11, an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.

In contrast, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

This is not to minimize the threat from Muslim extremists.  If you added the casualties from 9/11 to the mix, that would obviously skew the survey in a different direction.  And of course the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq probably kills hundreds of people every week— though not, it should be repeated, in this country.

The United States has a Puritan heritage that is essentially Manichean in its outlook.  Culturally, whether we’re religious or not, we’ve inherited the belief in an active principle of evil that moves among humankind, and when we can attach that kind of evil to an individual, that person becomes, pretty well literally, “demonized.”  I’ve seen that demonization happen over and over.  (I remember when JFK was demonized for being Irish, Catholic, and wanting to take away our guns.  They said he wasn’t a real citizen, because he’d been secretly born in Ireland or something.  They said his birth certificate was a forgery!

(Naturally nobody believes that sort of thing nowadays.)

Our Manichean heritage resulted in the U.S. being very comfortable during the Cold War.  We were locked in struggle with the anti-US, the evil empire controlled by demonic forces.

But when we won, when Communism crumbled and the “End of History” was upon us, suddenly we had no one to hate.  It made us nuts.  The 1990s were when domestic terrorism really began to roll.  We had no one to hate, and so we hated each other, 45 black churches burned, and the Alfred P. Murrah building was destroyed along with 168 human lives.

Dylann Roof is a “lone wolf,” not a member of a terrorist organization.  But if a person wants to commit terror in any cause, he can find plenty of support online.  Lone Wolves aren’t alone; they have plenty of enablers.  It’s suggested that Roof is mentally disturbed, but he’s no more or less disturbed than was Osama.  Osama was richer and better at organization, and at getting kids like Roof to do his dirty work for him, but his world view was no less delusional.

But Osama and his lot do not threaten the United States of America.  They can’t destroy this country.

Only Americans can destroy America.  And some of them are doing their best.



Stacy Garrett June 21, 2015 at 11:02 am

Excellent points, Walter. I hope you will put this up on Facebook. There are many people with whom I’d like to share that.

wjw June 21, 2015 at 2:06 pm

I will do exactly that.

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