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“Yes, There’s A July 4 Terror Threat From The Right”: I Believe It. But I Bet It’s Not From Muslims

Representative Peter King (R-NY) told us on Wednesday that we need to be afraid, no, very afraid, of Muslims over the July 4th weekend. Why? Well, King, in his typical Muslim fear-mongering style, warned, “Because if there is a threat, if there is gonna be something happening, it’s gonna come from the Muslim community.”

Apparently King only sees a threat by Muslims to America. But while ISIS is a threat, how is he blind to the growing right-wing terror threat we see in this country? I have never seen a more alarming level of “chatter” and acts of terror by people on the right as in the last few weeks.

Here are a few recent examples of what I mean:

1. Calls for violence surrounding gay marriage: After the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that gay couples have the same freedom to marry as the rest of us, Pastor Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church called for the stoning death of any pastor who would perform a same-sex marriage. He also called for the murder of all LGBT people, stating, “I hate them with a perfect hatred… I count them mine enemies.”

And keep in mind we have heard other Christian pastors in recent times also call for gays to be “put to death” and make statements like “homosexuality is a death worthy crime.” Can we responsibly dismiss these people as “crazies” until someone actually heeds their call and kills gay Americans?

2. Black churches are burning: At least two of the six black churches that caught fire last week are believed to have been cases of arson.

This threat is so serious that the NAACP issued a warning this week urging black church leaders to take “necessary precautions” to protect themselves from other attacks.

3. Right-wing politicians’ alarming rhetoric could radicalize people: After the Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriage, we heard the shrill cries of victimhood by some conservative politicians. For example, Mike Huckabee remarked that he expects civil disobedience by some Christians in light of the court decision. Let’s be blunt, this is Huckabee’s attempt to inspire civil disobedience. We also heard Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal describe the Court’s ruling as “an all-out assault” against the “rights of Christians.”

The words of political leaders can inspire people to do good and to do bad. We saw that during the civil rights movement, when the inflammatory rhetoric of people like George Wallace validated the views of scared white people that equal rights for blacks was a threat to our nation as well as to them personally. The response to these words, by some, was violence against blacks and even white supporters of the civil rights movement. Similarly, the constant drumbeat we hear today from some conservative politicians that gay marriage is a threat to our nation and an attack on Christianity could possibly incite a person on the far right to violence.

4. We have 784 hate groups on U.S. soil. Per the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), hate groups have grown by 30 percent since 2000. These groups, as the SPLC notes, include the Klan, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, border vigilantes, and others. In fact, the SPLC is so concerned by the threat posed by these homegrown terror groups that last week it sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to hold “hearings on the threat of domestic terrorism.”

Adding to my concerns is that we just witnessed a terrorist attack on our soil on June 22 in Charleston, South Carolina. And yes, I am aware that the U.S. government has not as of yet classified, and may never classify, this incident as “terrorism” under federal law. (How the assassination of a state senator and the execution of eight black people by a man who wanted to start a race war is not considered terrorism is truly mindboggling.) Putting aside the debate over the T-word, the killer, per his own manifesto was radicalized at least in part by the racist words of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a right-wing hate group per the SPLC.

And keep in mind that domestic terrorists have been killing far more Americans than Islamic-related ones over the past 14 years. As The New York Times reported last week, “since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics, and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.” Dr. Charles Kurzman, a terrorism expert, explained in that article: “Law enforcement agencies around the country have told us the threat from Muslim extremists is not as great as the threat from right-wing extremists.” Consequently, we need to be just as concerned when a person posts images associated with white supremacist causes on Facebook as when a person posts images supporting ISIS.

These facts truly deem the government’s warning of a potential terror attack on U.S. soil that much more credible. Let’s hope they are wrong. But if a terrorist attack is committed by a right-wing actor, we can’t claim there were no warning signs.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, July 3, 2015

July 4, 2015 Posted by | 4th of July, Domestic Terrorism, Muslims, Peter King | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Are All Charged With Pushing Forward”: President Obama Delivers A Speech For History

“This whole week,” said President Obama, “I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace.”

That was the turning point of Friday’s eulogy for Clementa Pinckney, the Charleston, South Carolina minister who was, with eight of his congregants, murdered by a racist terrorist two weeks ago. It was the moment a memorable speech became a speech for history.

“According to the Christian tradition,” the president-turned-preacher explained, “grace is not earned, grace is not merited, it’s not something we deserve. Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God.” Grace, in other words, is that which bridges the gap between creation and Creator, the staircase connecting the soil to the celestial.

And it is amazing. So the heart leapt when, moved by some ephemeral thing cameras could not see, Obama launched into a soulful, heartfelt and, yes, off-key rendition of one of the foundational hymns of the church. “Amazing grace,” he sang, 6,000 voices rising to meet him, “how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

“As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy,” the president said, “God has visited grace upon us, for He has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind. He’s given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves.”

The president named a few of the things to which we’ve been blind, the issues upon which we have been lost. He spoke of gun violence, the hunger of children, the brazen hatred that inspired the alleged shooter, the soft bigotry that gets “Johnny” called back for an interview but leaves “Jamal” job hunting.

Though he didn’t mention it, it seemed not inconsequential that he said these things on the same day the Supreme Court affirmed the right of same-sex couples to marry. It seemed fitting that he returned that night to a White House bathed in colors of the rainbow. One could almost see history making a great, wide turn toward freedom.

And, too, one heard predictable howls of outrage. Sen. Ted Cruz called it one of the darkest days in American history, Rush Limbaugh predicted polygamy, some Southern states, as they did during the civil rights years, declined to be guided by the court’s ruling. But, it all carried a tinny, faraway sound, like a radio station from some distant town, drowned out by the thunder of rejoicing.

This is not to say those doorkeepers of yesterday are without power to interdict change. They are nothing if not stubborn and resilient. It is, however, to say that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. And, moreover, that the genius of the nation founded 239 years ago Saturday by a group of men we would now call sexist, racist and homophobic, was not its perfection as originally conceived, but the fact that it was built for change, built to become better, and continually expands itself to accommodate that long arc.

Are we not tasked with forming “a more perfect union”? It’s the ongoing work of America, work no one speech or court ruling can finish, but which we are all charged with pushing forward. Until one bright day, you look up and are surprised how far you’ve come.

That’s what happened Friday. And it might be the story of John Newton’s life. Newton, who wrote the hymn in which President Obama found solace, was a slave trader who changed by increments over the years until, by the end of his life, he was issuing grief-stricken apologies for his part in that evil business. If the first verse of his hymn is a paean to the redemptive power of grace, its third is a reminder that grace obligates us to push forward toward bright days not yet glimpsed:

“Through many dangers, toils and snares,” he wrote, “I have already come / Tis’ grace has brought me safe thus far / And grace will lead me home.”

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, July 1, 2015

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, Hate Crimes, Racism | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why The Confederate Flag Fell So Suddenly”: A Fully Engaged, Energized Activated Group Of Voters

Within just a few days of Dylann Roof’s racially motivated murder of 9 African-American worshippers and clergy in Charleston’s historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church, a sea change appeared to be under way with regards to the Confederate flag — this after decades of tense and slow-moving debate about whether the symbol deserves any kind of place in modern public life.

In short order, the governors of South Carolina and Alabama asked for the flag to be taken down from their respective Capitol grounds, other southern states showed a sudden willingness to reduce the visibility of the flag, and Amazon and Walmart stopped selling it. All this occurred against the backdrop of a loud chorus of online activists arguing that it was time to take the flag down once and for all — a few days after the shooting, the #takeitdown hashtag was tweeted 12,000 times in one day. Why all the sudden movement on an issue that had been a sore culture-war sticking point for decades? Yes, Roof’s massacre was horrific, but it obviously wasn’t the first racist violence to have occurred in a state where the Confederate flag flies.

“The pace of this change has been quite staggering,” said Dr. Jonathan Knuckley, a political scientist at the University of Central Florida who studies southern politics. The why ties into some basic, vital aspects of how Americans’ political opinions are formed and expressed. Foremost among them is the idea that most Americans simply aren’t all that informed about most policy issues, and when they do form opinions, they look around for highly visible cues to guide them toward the “right” opinion. (The notion that most Americans simply aren’t savvy when it comes to politics and policy may whiff of elitism, but it’s also one of the more durable findings in political science — in 2011, for example, about a third of Americans couldn’t name the vice-president.)

Dr. Timothy Ryan, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, explained that until recently, this was true of the Confederate flag as well. “The typical citizen, if you asked them what they thought about the Confederate-flag issue in South Carolina two or three weeks ago, they would be making up their opinion on the fly in that moment,” he said. “Whereas now people have had some time to think about it, have had a push to think about it.”

As a result of this push, these voters will use whatever available cues come to mind to generate an opinion — a news segment they saw, a recent conversation with a friend. And those who sit somewhere in the middle and who are giving serious thought to the Confederate-flag issue for the first time are awash in anti-flag sentiments, whether delivered via Twitter, on news reports of anti-flag protests, or on radio spots covering Walmart and Amazon’s decision. These days there are tons of cues to draw upon, and very few of them would nudge one to support the Confederate flag.

Perhaps the most potent of such cues is the now-infamous photograph of Roof posing in front of the Confederate flag. “It doesn’t take much to process,” said Knuckley. “It’s kind of one of those gut, visceral, I-don’t-even-have-to-think-about-this-issue [images].” This cue, and others like it, affects voters on both sides of the issue. “The other side of that coin — it becomes a lot more difficult to be for [the flag],” said Knuckey. “Just a month or so ago, someone could have made a perfectly, in their mind, rational argument. It’s the kind of issue now that’s difficult to be in favor of.”

That doesn’t mean that support for the flag is now going to drop to zero, Knuckey emphasized. Ryan agreed. “I bet you haven’t changed so many minds among the people who are really strong, meaningful supporters,” he said. But that’s not the point — the point is those folks on the middle, say, third of the Confederate-flag-opinion spectrum. Those who supported the flag, but just barely, are now seeing all sorts of highly visible cues indicating that the country is turning against them,while those who were just barely against it will have their preference intensified.

The end result? A shift in polling, perhaps (there haven’t yet been any surveys released that allow for apples-to-apples comparisons on the flag issue from before and after the church attack), but, just as important, a group of “antis” who are much more engaged and vocal than they were before the shooting — in part because they’re feeding off the sense that, nationwide, people are moving against the flag. Political scientists call this “preference intensity,” and it’s incredibly important: A minority of citizens who are stridently opposed to a new bill can, in the right setting, “beat” a majority of voters who are slightly for it but don’t care all that much.

To Knuckey, all this negative attention will likely affect not just voters being surveyed, but southern legislators themselves. Those legislators have always been aware that they represent a loud contingent of pro-flag folks, but now, in the wake of the A.M.E. shooting, they have to factor in the existence of a fully engaged, energized activated group of voters on the other side of the issue as well. So all the negative attention the flag has gotten “makes a vote to take it down easier now than it would have been a month ago,” he said.

In the long run, of course, the AME shooting will fade from the news. And David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which just released a poll showing the nation to be about evenly divided on the question of whether the flag is racist — it was the first time Suffolk had polled on this issue, and results therefore can’t give any sense of the trajectory of opinion on this issue — said that there’s a chance that opinion will bounce back in favor of the flag. That is, fewer cues could mean a reversion to old, less strongly held opinions.

In the meantime, though, what we’re witnessing isn’t just a shift in opinion, but policy change — albeit minor ones, in some cases — on the part of multiple state houses and huge retailers. Even if public opinion reverts back to where it was before the shooting, a new status quo is in place and it’ll be difficult, in those places that have responded to this sudden surge in anti-Confederate-flag sentiment, for the flag to once again be raised — or sold.

 

By: Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, July 1, 2015

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Businesses, Confederate Flag, Emanuel AME Church | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Even NASCAR Won’t Defend The Confederate Flag…”: The Debate, For All Intents And Purposes, Is Over

Those of us who are obsessed with politics often fall prey to paying too much attention to what politicians do, and too little attention to what is happening around us culturally. In terms of the Confederate flag debate, that means paying a lot of attention to what Southern governors like Nikki Haley say and do, and not enough to what more influential icons and institutions do.

On that front, the fact that even NASCAR has condemned the Confederate battle flag is pretty definitive that the debate is for all intents and purposes over:

“As we continue to mourn the tragic loss of life last week in Charleston, we join our nation’s embrace of those impacted,’’ the statement read. “NASCAR supports the position that South Carolina governor Nikki Haley took on the Confederate flag on Monday.’’

“As our industry works collectively to ensure that all fans are welcome at our races, NASCAR will continue our long-standing policy to disallow the use of the Confederate flag symbol in any official NASCAR capacity,’’ the statement read. “While NASCAR recognizes that freedom of expression is an inherent right of all citizens, we will continue to strive for an inclusive environment at our event.’’

It’s not just that NASCAR is synonymous with good old boys and Southern cultural machismo. It’s also that NASCAR in many ways is facing the same problem as the Republican Party: it depends on a shrinking, increasingly isolated demographic for its fan base, and desperately needs to broaden its appeal beyond just Southern white men. That includes having more minority drivers and race car owners.

In that context, the statements by former NBA star Brad Dougherty, the only African-American racecar owner in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series, are telling:

“I’m a different egg or a different bird, I’m a Southern kid,’’ said Daugherty, who wore No. 43 during his basketball career in honor of his racing hero, Richard Petty. “But to walk into the racetrack and there’s only a few that you walk into and see that Confederate flag — it does make my skin crawl. Even though I do my best to not acknowledge it or to pay any attention to it, it’s there and it bothers me because of what it represents….”

It’s so unfortunate that it took nine lives there at the AME church to really get this debate heated up enough that there’s serious questions about whether the flag should be flown over the state capitol,’’ Daugherty said. “I find that a little bit appalling and even absurd. The old heritage vs. hate thing, in my mind, is ridiculous because that flag to any African-American person does not represent any type of heritage. It 100 percent represents hate.’’

That it does. Nikki Haley knows it. NASCAR knows it. And we’re at a point in this country where it’s not just appalling and unacceptable, but it’s too damaging even to organizations like NASCAR and the Republican Party to tolerate it anymore even though they depend on a large number of bigots for their fan base and support.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 28, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Confederacy, Confederate Flag, NASCAR | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Enlightenment On Confederate Flag Was Long Overdue”: This American Swastika Is Unfit For Human Consumption

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

That’s an observation widely credited to Winston Churchill, though it’s one he may or may not have ever made. Whoever said it, the truth of the axiom has seldom been more obvious than now, as we watch the fall of the Confederate battle flag. It is too early to say whether this will prove lasting. But the signs certainly point toward a seismic shift.

In South Carolina, where the Confederacy was born, a motion to allow debate on removing the flag from the grounds of the state Capitol passed by a vote of 103-10. Alabama has already removed its flag. Meantime, a number of major retailers, including Amazon, eBay, and Arkansas-based Walmart, have announced they will no longer carry the flag. Perhaps most amazing, Valley Forge Flag, a 133-year-old flag maker in Pennsylvania, has said it will no longer manufacture it.

We appear to be on the verge of a long-overdue national consensus that this American swastika is unfit for human consumption. And to think: All it took was the blood of nine innocent people.

Ever since 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof shot up Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the ground has been shifting beneath that flag, so beloved of the white, conservative South — especially after images emerged of Roof posing with one. “God help South Carolina if we fail to achieve the goal of removing the flag,” said South Carolina senator and presidential aspirant Lindsey Graham last week. He said this just days after telling CNN the flag was “part of who we are.”

The suddenness of the change in attitude toward that flag is bracing, reminiscent, in an odd way, of when the Berlin Wall fell: Nobody saw it coming — it happened. That said, it is hard to be wholly invested in cheering what is happening here.

Consider: The Confederate battle flag was not somehow made more racist by Roof’s alleged rampage. Notwithstanding claims by Graham and others that it has somehow been misused as a racist symbol by the likes of Roof, the fact is, the thing was used as such from the moment the first thread of the first flag was sewn in support of a treasonous regime that was, to borrow Mississippi’s words, “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.”

The flag was certainly understood as racist — that was the whole point — by those who resurrected it to signal massive resistance to the civil rights movement. It is still understood that way; why else is it ubiquitous at white supremacist rallies?

So what happened at Emanuel did not change the flag’s meaning; it only made that meaning harder to ignore. And while its fall is significant, you have to wonder if it really marks a fundamental change in the mind of the white, conservative South. Particularly since you can’t turn around in Dixie without running into some road, bridge, statue, or park honoring some individual who took up arms against the U.S. government in the name of perpetuating slavery — or without meeting someone eager to rationalize that, hiding behind abstracts like “honor” and “duty” to avoid admitting what the Confederacy really was.

The tragedy at Emanuel has forced a moment of clarity into this fog of cognitive dissonance. In days to come, we’ll see just how much that’s worth in terms of real change. Because at some point, the people of the white, conservative South must themselves take responsibility for their own racial education, for facing — and growing from — the truth about their beloved Confederacy.

Consider that it took an act of mass murder before they were willing to reckon honestly with their flag and its meaning. Yes, one is pleased to see that finally come to pass.

But the price of enlightenment seems awfully high.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 29, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Confederacy, Confederate Flag, Slavery | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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