It is St. Patrick’s Day morning as I pen this; (a belated happy St. Patrick’s Day to all my readers of Irish ethnicity and the millions of other who celebrate the holiday!) I awoke to the news that the death toll from Friday’s massacre in New Zealand had hit 50. That tragedy is not in a vacuum and America’s President Trump has been gasoline on this ugly fire. Let’s explore.
I have been an agnostic for decades. For all intents and purposes I left the Catholic Church in my teens. That notwithstanding, I am an American and believe in religious freedom as guaranteed by the First Amendment to our Constitution. There is something special about a place of worship and if there is any safe space that certainly should be it. Recently there have been four major mass shootings in religious sanctuaries perpetrated by white supremacists. I feel they had little or nothing to do with religion but everything to do with what the perpetrators perceived as skin color. Furthermore I will establish a pattern of white supremacist behavior that has experienced a renaissance in part due to the political ascendency of Donald Trump.
In order to follow my hypothesis you have to remember that in the minds of white supremacists Jews are not white. While that argument is ridiculous I will not take it up today; simply accept the reality of that being the mindset of the white supremacists.
It is difficult to say where white supremacy began. The earliest American examples I can think of are slavery and the three-fifth clause. The leaders of the Confederacy in the American Civil War were true believers in white supremacy and saw it as a justification of slavery and succession. The Confederacy may have lost the war and the Constitution has been amended but that doesn’t mean the mindset has changed.
During World War II we experienced the Holocaust (which many on the radical right deny) during which millions of Jews were exterminated. The leaders of their killers (and in many cases the actual executioners) believed them as sub-human in part because they did not perceive them as white. They were somehow lesser and “the other”.
In September of 1963 the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham Alabama was bombed resulting in the death of four young girls. The bomber had nothing against Baptists; he hated blacks.
The bottom line is that white supremacy goes way back. It took a low profile for years until the rise of the extreme right wing which began around 2009 in large part in reaction to the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States. While far from confined to America, after Obama’s election we almost immediately saw the rise of the Tea Party and the birther movement. Trump was one of the original birthers and its most prominent spokesperson. It was the Tea Party’s takeover of the Republican Party that left it in sufficient disarray for Trump to secure its 2016 nomination.
In August of 2012 a Shik temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin was attacked resulting in six fatalities. Shiks are almost exclusively non-Caucasian.
In August of 2015 a white supremacist gunman opened fire on worshipers, killing nine, during bible study at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. All victims were African-American.
Last October a white supremacist killed 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Friday’s attack took place at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. As of this writing it took the lives of 50 worshipers. Almost all Muslims are non-Caucasian. Details are still emerging but it has already been established that the primary perpetrator cited Donald Trump in his racist writing.
The first step in solving a problem is recognizing it exists. Trump not only refuses to recognize it exists; he enables and inspires the perpetrators of violence in the name of white supremacy. He is not the only world leader to do so; in fact he was not the first. Vladimir Putin loves the disruption in the West! The primary goal of terrorists is to spread terror. When you have cause to fear for your safety in the sanctuary of a house of worship where do you feel you are safe? Democracy and terror cannot cohabitate. Trump may not be the entire problem; but he has made himself into a significant part of it,
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