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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Enough is enough


Okay, I'm no 'fraidy cat' by any stretch of the imagination, but this is getting serious, folks.

You may have heard or read about the FBI raid on the Hutaree Compound in Southern Michigan the other day. The Hutaree is a "civilian militia group"

The above 'clip' from Rachel Maddow will help you understand who they are. Religious Dispatches has a really fine article worth the read. ‘Christian Warriors’: Who Are The Hutaree Militia And Where Did They Come From?' which gives a very fine history of Christian apocalypticism and fundamentalism

I understand that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified at least eleven militia groups in Michigan - the most notorious of which was connected with the Oklahoma City bombing in the 90s.

No, wait. I don't understand that. Michigan? Really?

Anyway, even the eleven identified militia groups in Michigan have distanced themselves from from the Hutaree.

The Hutaree have been described as the "wing nuts' wing nuts". Unlike some of the other Militia Groups, however, this group does not seem to be driven by overt racist motives. Indeed, it is reported that they have driven off those who post Anti-Semitic and Racists messages on their web message board.

What makes them unique, reportedly, is their theology. They believe they are preparing to fight a 'second civil war' against 'the Anti-Christ' and that war is immanent.

The Anti-Christ of their understanding is "the government" - which oh by the way, happens to have a Black Man as President. Indeed, they were hoping to set off a war in April by killing a police officer and then bombing the funeral which, they anticipated, would be attended by police officers from around the country.

I know. I know. It's easy to dismiss them simply because they are the "wing nuts' wing nuts". I wouldn't do that if I were you. Not when you understand that part of this movement is also part of the Tea Bagger segment of the Tea Party Movement.

Just the other day, I was listening to FRESH AIR on NPR. Terry Gross was interviewing Mark Potok, the editor of the investigative journal INTELLIGENCE REPORT, a publication of the Southern Poverty Law Center. You can read or listen to that interview here.

Here are the money quotes for me:
Potok points to race as one of the reasons "anti-immigrant vigilante groups [have] soared by nearly 80 percent" in the past year. He also notes a "dramatic resurgence in the Patriot movement and its paramilitary wing" in the past year — jumping 244 percent in 2009. Potok says that these groups' messages are increasingly moving into the mainstream.

"I think it's very clear that you see ideas coming out of all kinds of sectors of the radical right, from the immigrant radical right, from the so-called Patriot groups, the militias and so on — and you see it spreading right across the landscape at some of these Tea Party events," he says. "I think it's worth saying that much of this is aided and abetted by ostensibly mainstream politicians and media members."

Part of the issue, Potok says, is not what politicians say — but what they leave unsaid.

"I think a lot of these ideas start on the radical right, but they are also being flogged endlessly by Republican officials," he says. "Even those who are sort of considered [to be] responsible Republicans have completely abstained from any kind of criticism of this talk. So even way back when, when Sarah Palin was talking about Obama setting up death panels and so on — what we heard was a deafening silence from the mainstream of the Republican Party."

A new poll from Harris interactive finds that 40 percent of American adults think that Obama is a socialist; 25 percent believe that Obama was not born in the United States and is therefore not eligible to be president; 20 percent say Obama is doing many of the things that Hitler did; 14 percent say Obama "may be the Antichrist."
You can find the SPLC's Intelligence Report "Rage on the Right" here.

Here's another money quote on how some politicians are using the same rhetoric as the radical right:
"After a man flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, [Rep.] Steve King, who's a Republican out of Iowa, basically excused the attacks. [He] said, 'Well, basically the IRS is a terrible thing. If it had been gotten rid of as I thought it should some years ago, this never would have happened' — which to me sounds an awful lot like saying, 'If that person wasn't standing in front of the murderer's gun, they never would have died.' "

"In February we heard Tom Tancredo, a former congressman from Colorado. When he addressed the Tea Party convention in Nashville, Tenn., he made an incredibly off-color speech in which he talked about the problem: Obama was a socialist and so on. He was destroying the country. The problem was that fools had elected him and what we needed was a literacy test. And this, of course, in the context of attacking a black president. Given our history, where we had literacy tests for something like a century to keep black people from voting, I think that's plainly an openly racist attack."
And this, friends, is why we need to be concerned.

Not afraid. Concerned. Deeply concerned.

Enough to take some action.

Because of the theological underpinnings of this violence and racism, Christians, I think, are especially charged to take some action.

I'm starting locally, and I encourage you to do the same.

I'm going to make it my Holy Week discipline to write to my local Republican leaders - starting with those in my town, working up to the state and yes, calling upon our new Republican governor - citing some of the statistics in the Intelligence Report.

I am going to encourage them to continue to maintain their Republican, conservative perspective as integral to a healthy democracy.

However, I am going to ask them to speak out against violent rhetoric. I'm going to ask them to speak forcefully against racist rhetoric. I am going to ask them to call for civil discord in our public debates and insist on peaceful demonstrations.

And, I'm going to send copies of my letter to all my Republican friends and ask them to do the same - to write to their Republican leadership and ask them to stand up against this violent, racist movement that is nothing more than a bully hiding behind the Altar of God, draped in an American flag..

I will post a copy of my letter here which you are free to copy and use to send to your local elected officials. I'm hoping to send it out on Good Friday.

It starts with me.

It begins today.

Enough is enough.

7 comments:

Mary said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. Our staff here has been talking about your "To Kill a Mockingbird" post ever since I read it. We are in a city not far from the hometown of Harper Lee, where the play is produced every year for tourists and others. I have not read it since high school. Your take on the other 'isms' in the play were as much a surprise to me as they were to you!

Now, after the NPR interview with Mark Potok, I am worrying a lot more than I already was. We are eaten up with wing nuts here, but so far no violence. I will be proud to follow your example with letters to local and state Republicans. (I often write our senators, one of whom always sends his form letter reply telling me why he can't possibly do the things I ask, and addresses me as "Mr." Oh, well.)

Thank you for all that you write.

Fr Craig said...

This is the end result of Nixon's 'southern strategy' - playing on the racial fears of traditionally democratic voters in the South by stressing 'family values,' and the hatred of anything 'liberal' - read mainstream well educated voters. Fact is clear, that the vast majority of these folks are DUMB and poorly educated. That's no sin nor condemnation, but these folks also tend to be poor and are easily convinced that folks are out to get them. I lived in the Midwest most of my life, and have seen it over and over again. The shameless lack of condemnation from the GOP is disgusting.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

Hmmm. I recall you saying in a previous thread, "Someone's gonna get hurt..."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This seems to have rattled a few cages in the brave ranks of the "Anonymous" - making lots of slurs as well as veiled threats.

Must be so hard to feel so inadequate.

MarkBrunson said...

Well, you know, Elizabeth; big guns, small . . .

At least, I live down in the South, and that's what their wives, girlfriends, and occasional boyfriends say.

Dale said...

We are a blue state here in Michigan, we have legalized medical marijuana, we have miles and miles of pristine beaches--more shoreline than the state of California. It IS quite lovely here, there's no place more beautiful in the autumn. OK, so we do have this unseemly little...err...problem, yes, problem, thats the word I am looking for with a lunatic fringe... but Michigan itself is quite lovely once the snow melts.

Bateau Master said...

Fear not the groups. When two Klansmen meet a third, you can bet one of them is an FBI informant or agent. The militia group in Michigan was stop by an informant. I'll bet dollars to donut holes that Holder has the Tea Party well infiltrated.

It's the loan nuts that succeed: Oswald, Sirhan, Ray, McVeigh (to an extent), et al. The American right to be a nut is the price we must pay for freedom and the reason to maintain eternal vigilance.

Stay alert but not fearful, and if legal, properly equipped - we need those can think sanely to be able to take action when needed.