Politics and Terrorism
We can neither comprehend nor explain the terrorism of Paris, France, Bamako, Mali, San Bernardino, California or Colorado Springs, Colorado. And we offer no solutions for eradicating such monstrous evil. Still, we cannot help but notice the vast difference in how we have responded to the horrors recently committed on our shores. Consider for example the following.
Media Coverage of Islamic vs. Christian Terrorism: The media coverage of the San Bernardino Islamic terrorism has exceeded by leaps and bounds that of the Colorado Springs Christian inspire outrage. For example, the issue of whether Islam is a religion of peace has been hotly debated, the Face Book page of terrorist Tashfuen Malik has been analyzed for Islamic radicalization and the home she shared with fellow terrorist Sayeed Farook has been opened to the press.
The families of the shooters have appeared on T.V., scores of Islamic terrorism experts are prominently quoted and Muslim Americans have been required to publicly denounce radical Islam for fear of being labeled terrorist sympathizers. See for example, “Muslims in America Condemn Extremist and Fear Anew for Their Lives” in the December 5, 2015, edition of the New York Times, p. A-17.
Far fewer concerns have been expressed about the radicalization of the Christian faith and no demands have been made of Christians to denounce their radical brethren. In fact, even though Christian fringe groups like the KKK, white supremacist and Dylann Roof who murdered 9 African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina have killed more Americans since 9/11 than groups who claim to be Islamic, conservatives have dismissed the influence of Christian terrorist as overhyped,. http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/12/01/3727084/yes-the-planned-parenthood-shooter-was-a-christian-terrorist/.
Domestic Politics and Gun Control: The Muslim inspired shooting in California has materially impacted both the Presidential campaign and the issue of gun control. As of December 3, 2015, the date of the San Bernardino tragedy, there have been 1,052 mass shootings in 1,066 days. Such is the extent of America’s gun crisis. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/oct/02/mass-shootings-america-gun-violence.
“[I]t is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that people can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection.” See the New York Times article referenced above. Yet, we do nothing to abate the problem, the ever-increasing acts of gun violence and mass shootings notwithstanding.
Concerning the Presidential campaign, the California matter has boosted the campaigns of alleged tough guys like Trump, Rubio, Graham, Cruz and even Hillary Clinton. And many conservatives have seized on this particular shooting as proof of the looming terrorist threat and the President’s weakness in the face of radical Islam. Ironically, the shooting at the abortion clinic has had no such political impact.
Abortion and Domestic Terrorism: After the Colorado shooting Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina accused the public of using “typical left-wing tactics” to link the anti-abortion movement with the Planned Parenthood shooting. “[T]his is so typical of the left, to immediately begin demonizing the messenger because they don’t agree with the message,” she argued.
However, it was Fiorina who advanced the falsehood that the heavily edited Planned Parenthood videos depicted employees selling fetal body parts. She also ignores the fact that the Colorado shooter, Robert Lewis Dear, was motivated by this lie. When asked what motivated his attack, he reportedly told the police, “no more baby parts.” Planned Parenthood tweetedhttp://www.refinery29.com/2015/11/98515/carly-fiorina-planned-parenthood-shooting-abortion
In fact, a strain of Christianity in the United States has never accepted Roe v. Wade, which made it a woman’s right to have an abortion. And for decades abortion clinics have been the target of domestic terrorism by fundamentalist Christians.
In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was relentlessly shot to death in church by Scott Roeder who insisted that the good doctor was satanic because he performed abortions. Dr. John Britton was murdered in 1994 on similar grounds. Property has been destroyed and other abortion providers have been shot and killed.
Not accepting abortion or any other medical procedure for oneself is a perfectly acceptable matter of conscience. But not accepting it for other people is a form of coercion aimed at depriving those who disagree of a legal right. http://www.juancole.com/2015/11/christian-terrorism-candidates.html.
Ethnicity, Terrorism and Mental Illness: Fiorina wasn’t the only GOP presidential candidate to make an off-putting statement about the Colorado shooting. In a Meet the Press interview Donald Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the anti-abortion shooter was “mentally disturbed.” http://www.refinery29.com/2015/11/98515/carly-fiorina-planned-parenthood-shooting-.
We have no doubt that anyone who commits mass murder is mentally disturbed, regardless their nationality, color, motivation or religion. Nonetheless, America has no monopoly on mental illness. Moreover, gun violence and terrorism are often questions of anger management rather than mental illness. The primary problem is too many guns in the hands of too many people many of whom are angry rather than mentally disturbed.
The photos of the anti-abortion Christian terrorist and those of the anti-American Muslim terrorist also bear mention. The bug-eyed mug shot photo of the abortion clinic shooter makes him appear wild and crazy while the dark and swarthy image of the California slayer makes this terrorist look foreign, sinister and frightening.
In conclusion, how we respond to terrorism depends in large part on the identity of the terrorist. The double standard of said response shows that we take Islamic and foreign inspired terrorism, far more seriously than we do domestic, Christian motivated acts of mass murder. We would do well to respond equally to both types of atrocities.
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum