Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Knoxville Tragedy and Republican Responsibility

I was deeply shocked by the shooting at the Unitarian church in Knoxville, Tennessee. I used to live in Knoxville and knew people who went to that church. I did not know either of the people who died, though I do know one of the church spokespeople quoted in the report.

Actually, let me rephrase. I am shocked, but not surprised by the shooting. The shooter targeted the Unitarian church because of their acceptance of gays, liberals, and other people hated in Knoxville.

Let's change the scenario a bit. Let's say it was a young kid who did the shooting. He was a disturbed child but didn't have any particular hatred for gays or liberals. And let's say he shot up a Baptist church rather than a Unitarian church. Can't you already hear the Republican talk radio blathering on about the "culture" that allows such things to happen? They would blame heavy metal or television or comic books or some other cultural phenomenon that had nothing to do with the killing but is easy to scapegoat. They would also talk about how liberals hate Christianity and that their secularism made churches a target for attack.

Well, now I am going to engage in some damn scapegoating of my own. I blame the religious right, right-wing media, and the entire Republican Party for the shooting in Knoxville. They have said horrible things about gays and liberals for years. They have painted gays as child-abusing perverted sadists. They have made the word "liberal" into a perjorative. They have said that gays and liberals (and feminists and radicals and abortionists, etc) are going to hell and that we will deserve all the suffering we get. In east Tennessee, I would guess that at least 2/3 of the churches preach this kind of hatred. The Unitarians are a strong exception to this rule. Thus, they became a target for a disturbed person. But this disturbed person was spurred on by the atmosphere of hate one entire political party has used for its own purposes over the past 40 years.

The right covering up its own hate is not an isolated incidient either. If you've visited the Oklahoma City Memorial, you might have noticed a gaping silence over context and responsibility for the bombing. It is interpreted as the act of a couple of loonies. But there is nothing on the relationships between the militias and the Republican Party. There are mentions of Ruby Ridge and Waco but nothing on how the right built on those events to spur a climate of hate against Bill Clinton and the federal government as a whole and nothing on how Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and the Republican leadership fanned the hatred for their own purposes, hatred that created a climate allowing Timothy McVeigh to act.

What do you see at Oklahoma City? Well, you actually get more discussion of so-called environmental "terrorism" as you do of the connections between militias and the rise of the right. Every little incident of some hippies burning an SUV is highlighted to show that terrorism is a real threat to America. Well, terrorism may be a threat to America but I don't think it is from hippie monkeywrenching groups. As far as domestic terrorism goes, the real threat is from right-wing hate groups that have ties to powerful Republicans.

Perhaps I am being unfair by saying that the entire right-wing establishment has a share of responsibility for the Knoxville shootings. There is certainly not any direct connection between Rush Limbaugh and the killer. But I can say this for certain. I am being a lot less unfair than Republicans who make threadbare connections between killers and heavy metal. At least I can legitimately say that a man acted on the hate spawned by the Republican Party and its supporters in a direct way. That hate has taken the lives of two innocent people. The Republican Party, the hate preachers, and right-wing radio demagogues have blood on their hands.