Nel's New Day

June 18, 2015

Victories Accompanied by Another Tragic Shooting

A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled 2-1 in Turkmen v. Ashcroft that George W. Bush officials can be sued for roundups and illegal detentions. Plaintiffs of Arab and Middle Eastern descent were held for three to eight months in New York for being “suspected terrorists” and claim that they were abused and profiled by guards and other authority figures. That decision was presented the day after 78 senators voted against torture. Twenty-one senators favor torture, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was out of town, presumably campaigning.

In a 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Sons of Confederate Veterans cannot force Texas to allow the Confederate flag on car license plates. The astonishing part of the ruling is the fifth justice who voted with the four liberal judges—Clarence Thomas. He also dissented with a majority in Virginia v. Black (2003), writing that cross-burning violates the First Amendment right to free speech because it “has almost invariably meant lawlessness and understandably instills in its victims well-grounded fear of physical violence.” Not all Southern states have the same concern about the state’s endorsement of racism: South Carolina still flies the Confederate flag on state capitol grounds and allows Confederate vanity license plates.

One person with South Carolina Confederate plates is the white man in a hoodie who went to a Bible study class last night in an historic Charleston (SC) church where he killed nine people with a gun he bought from the money that his father gave him for his 21st birthday. The killing was on the same date that Denmark Vesey, a former slave, was targeted for what white Charlestonians believed was a revolt. Vesey was captured on June 22 and executed on July 2.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that the people, all Black, were murdered because they were Christians, and another presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, agreed with Graham. The Fox network and other conservative media are spreading the same word. To them, the location of killings in a church identifies the murder of a “war on Christians.” Fox & Friends also claimed that the deaths could have been prevented if the congregation had been armed, and they pulled in Virginia’s former lieutenant governor candidate to back them up. Known for calling the LGBT rights movement a “cancer” and President Obama as a “radical anti-American” and “anti-Christian,” E. W. Jackson urged “pastors and men in these churches to prepare to defend themselves,” and host Brian Kilmeade wondered if giving pastors a gun could help with “security.” Later in the show, Steve Doocy and Elisabeth Hasselbeck agreed.

Once again Fox spreads the insanity. An analysis of 62 mass public shootings over a 30-year period by Mother Jones found no cases in which an ordinary civilian with a gun stopped an attack although some instances showed that a gun caused the death or injury of that person.

Presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told an audience of social conservatives:

“There’s a sickness in our country. There’s something terribly wrong. But it isn’t going to be fixed by your government. It’s people straying away, it’s people not understanding where salvation comes from. I think if we understand that, we’ll have better expectations of what to expect from government.”

Paul did not give any solutions about curing the “sickness.”

confederate flagThe day after this tragedy, flags at the South Carolina capitol are at half mast—except for the Confederate flag. Gov. Nikki Haley cried at the news conference about the killings but earlier said that she didn’t think that the Confederate flag presented an image problem. Today Haley’s press secretary said that only the General Assembly had the legal authority to do something about the flag. No one from that body has responded to any requests about it. South Carolina is one of five states without a state hate crime law and celebrated “Confederate Memorial Day” last month.

South Carolina has 19 known hate groups, including two Ku Klux Klans and four “white nationalist” organizations. Of course, they aren’t “terrorist groups” because they aren’t Muslims. Six neo-Confederate groups listed include two branches of the League of the South, which advocates for Southern secession and “the advancement of Anglo-Celtic culture.” The Council of Conservative Citizens is opposed to racial integration and affirmative action “and similar measures to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people.” One of its key figures, Kyle Rogers, said, “I don’t see a legacy of oppression. Blacks have always benefited from being in the United States.” Other hate groups include three neo-Nazi cells, a chapter of the racist skinhead movement Confederate Hammerskins, a branch of black separatist organization Nation of Islam, an “anti-gay” church and an anti-immigration protest group called Americans Have Had Enough.

Graham and other conservatives have been spreading the fear about foreign terrorists and claiming that the U.S. needs to go to war in order to be safe. At the same time, these people ignore heavily armed, violent domestic terrorists, many of them supported by the law. How many of these groups exist in the country is unknown because the Department of Homeland Security stopped an investigation into homeland terrorism six years ago.

Daryl Johnson, a top government counterterrorism analyst, spent six years working at Homeland Security, collecting extensive data on far-right extremist groups posing threats to people in the United States. After the first election of President Obama, these groups went farther right, and Johnson reported that radical Islam is just a small portion of the terrorism groups within the nation. He noted that five totally domestic groups considered using weapons of mass destruction during his investigation, and the same warnings were expressed by the two principal non-government groups that track domestic terrorism: the New York-based Anti-Defamation League and the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Last year the SPLC listed 13 major incidents and arrests last year, almost double the annual number in previous years. In 2010, the number of hate groups topped 1,000 in 2010, for the first time in at least two decades.

After Johnson was forced out of his position, President Obama has received an unprecedented number of death threats, hate groups have gained ground, and white supremacist attacks are regularly occurring. In places such as Nevada’s Bundy ranch, terrorists successfully faced down the federal government. Congress holds hearings about Muslim extremism but says nothing about domestic terrorism. Their silence allows the extremist movement to grow as the common statement after tragedies such as the one at the South Carolina church is that the event shouldn’t be politicized and people need to have time to mourn before taking action. The only action that occurs after mass shootings at this time is an increasing laxness of gun laws.

The killer’s license plate had three Confederate flags, and the patches on his jacket were flags of Rhodesia and apartheid-era South Africa with brutal segregation policies. He also shouted, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” That’s racism, not an attack on Christianity. And people with these beliefs aren’t going to change them just because Rand Paul thinks that it’s a good idea.

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