The tragedy that occurred in Arizona last weekend is utter insanity. But I don’t believe the 22-year-old gunman is as insane as some of us are being made to believe. I am not buying that kind of excuse.
The reality is that Jared Lee Loughner is the product of a political philosophy that espouses violence as a means to an end. He is the definition of a movement that preaches hate, racial intolerance and violence as the answer to addressing one’s own insecurities about current political issues.
What happened in Tucson was nothing short of an attempted political assassination on the life of a moderate voice, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was targeted by the Tea Party for defeat in the November election.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which documents hate crimes and the activities of the Ku Klux Klan, explained on MSNBC how the ideas of Loughner are drawn from past right wing extremist ideologues.
I was glued to the TV all day Saturday afternoon in San Francisco last week after hearing the news of Giffords attempted assassination, the killing of a respected federal judge John Roll, who was pro immigration in some of his decisions, and five other people, including 9-year old Christina Taylor Green who according to her father was enthralled by the Obama candidacy in 2008.
Young Christina, inspired by the Obama campaign, was beginning to take an early role in politics. An impressionable young girl, she, like everyone who was at the scene last week, did not deserve to die.
I watched Christina’s parents struggle to explain on CNN Tuesday night how they bade farewell to their gifted daughter lying dead at the hospital, and it struck me as the father of a young son, the unimaginable horror of losing a child in such a callous act.
Notably in a Dec. 15, 2010 posting, Loughner talked about the “second United States Constitution” and his apparent distrust of the federal government. “Second American Constitution” is very common term on the political right that has been hijacked by White supremacists for the sole purpose of raising objections to the Reconstruction Amendments (the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth), that deal with the freeing of slaves and the citizenship rights of all persons born or naturalized in the U.S.
“In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution I can’t trust the current government because of the ratifications: the government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar. No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver!” Loughner wrote.
Arizona, the place where steep racism and anti-immigrant rants call home, is now being challenged to do better and show the world that the action of Loughner does not define the state. That there are many people like Giffords who mean well and want to see a society free of racism and intolerance.
Perhaps it is also time for Arizona to apologize to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Years after the federal government instituted King’s birthday as a national holiday, Arizona refused to recognize it. Apparently Arizona did not believe then in recognizing a man who called for racial harmony and challenged America to make real on its promises of democracy.
The state gave all kinds of inexcusable excuses for not honoring the memory of King. It stated, for instance, that the federal government was imposing a holiday on the state, citing state’s rights — almost the same argument used by some states now to challenge the federal health care legislation. The state finally accepted the King holiday after a series of successful protests including a call for a national boycott of the state by Stevie Wonder, and the NFL moving the 1993 Super Bowl from Arizona to California.
It is no surprise that right wing extremism and those who espouse it see the demand for social justice, democracy and good governance as antithetical to their quest for control and dominance as the writings of Loughna are now showing.
It was only a year ago that the Michigan Chronicle partnered with the Detroit Jewish News, Latino Press, Arab American News and WDET-101.9FM whose station manager, Mikel Elcessor, led the effort to sound the alarm of the growth of violent right wing extremism in Michigan that is masking under the guise of free speech.
Each of us received our fair share of criticism from those who thought our project was wrongheaded because we dared to call out those dangerous, misguided people who see brandishing their guns and pronouncing violence at political rallies as the best form of democratic exercise. Others thought it was an attack on the likes of Sarah Palin. On her Facebook page she urged her supporters, targeting Giffords and other Democrats who voted for health care, saying, “Don’t retreat. Instead, reload.”
Palin, who in the wake of the massacre in Arizona has said very little, has a lot of explaining to do if she has any future political aspiration regarding her habitual use of violent imagery to advance her political agenda.
But it’s not only Palin but also a number of people in her ilk who continue to use the airwaves for violent metaphors. And when they see the actual violence takes place, as in Tucson, they become cowardly, dancing around the issue and dismissing Loughner as some crazy guy instead of outrightly condemning his despicable act.
Loughner is not crazy. His actions have now been revealed with the note found in his home showing a carefully orchestrated plan. He embodies an idea that belongs to the past but is still alive in 2011: violent right wing extremism.
Honest and diligent people of all races should condemn this act. The media should not be incentivising the diabolical conversation we hear over the airwaves, that in many ways resemble the ideas of the Loughners of the world. Instead, the media should be exposing such for being what it truly is.
This weekend we remember Dr. King for being a peace officer who, like Mahatman Ghandi, used the philosophy of non-violence to address the injustices of the age in fighting for equal rights. He believed that bigotry, violence and hatred have no place in a functioning democracy where everyone should have a voice.
Senior editor Bankole Thompson is the author of the new book, “Obama and Black Loyalty, Vol. 1.” It is a trilogy on President Obama and Black America. Every Saturday at 1 p.m., watch “Center Stage With Bankole Thompson” on WADL-TV38, Comcast Channel 4. You can also listen to his weekly analyses on Thursdays, 11:15 a.m., on WDET-101.9 FM, Detroit NPR affiliate station. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.