Yesterday, shots rang out just blocks from my office and reminded me that hate is alive and well. At the National Holocaust Museum, a shrine meant to commemorate lives lost to senseless violence and hate, a life was taken by senseless hate and violence. Security officer Stephen T. Johns was shot and killed by a white supremacist. This comes only weeks after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in the doorway of his church by an anti-abortion “activist”.
So what is the connection between these two tragedies and my assessment of the conservative movement? Ever heard the phrase “the freaks come out at night?” Well night has fallen on the Republican party and the freaks – racist, sexist, homophobic, intolerant right-wing loonies - are coming out all around us.
Back in April, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report drawing attention to right-wing extremism and warned that "White supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat…"
Call me paranoid, but as I look today for ways to channel my heartbreak over Stephen T. Johns death into action (I’m looking here and here), allow me to state the obvious: in a time when conservatives are feeling particularly cornered – outnumbered by progressives that have the will of the people on their side – the right wing extremists are losing their minds and have gone hate-mongering crazy – sometimes with a talk show. Other times with guns.
It is often said that violent acts such as these go beyond politics. Tragedy and the loss of human life is something that all people with dignity – on both sides of the aisle – can condemn. But does that mean there shouldn’t be any exploration into the cause or at least the context for such acts? Absolutely not.
This is more than a random occurrence that would allow us to shake our heads, shed a tear, and go back to business as usual. Its time for conservatives to look within their political leadership, examine their rhetoric and recognize their own role, be it intentional or accidental, in advancing hate and intolerance.
If human identity is part nature and part nurture, let’s take a critical look at the entities and social systems that nurtured these natural-born nutjobs and made them feel welcome. Many of the people that commit these politically motivated crimes of intolerance identify with a set of principles and sentiments (anti-immigrant, anti-affirmative action, anti-choice, anti-gay, etc.) that are shared by the Republican party. Support for intolerant policies + leaders like Rush Limbaugh and Bobby Jindal making racist, divisive comments every chance they get, add water and voila! A recipe for marginalized, isolated, and already deranged people to feel justified.
The racist language espoused by conservative leadership and media about Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, the sickening message sent by a press conference being held today that said that Dr. Tiller’s death will “help the anti-choice movement” makes the connection clear. Change has not yet come to the Republican party….and neither has the love.