COMMENTARY | We’re no longer talking about a theoretical “war of words.” We are now talking about a war of death, and it’s time to drop the pretense.
When an “alleged” white supremacist, former military member gunman entered a Sikh temple and killed six, gravely wounding a police officer before killing himself, he was precisely what an analyst predicted in a Department of Homeland Security report, issued in 2009: A member of the armed forces, vulnerable to right-wing influence.
When that report came out, reports Wired, Republicans reacted to the political ideology listed and not the substance and repudiated the report. It’s not that the information became any less true, as Sunday’s senseless slaughter of innocent people showed.
It’s that it appeared politically disadvantageous.
Now Bryan Fischer, a fundamentalist Christian radio host, is claiming that the shooter must have been a liberal, as he didn’t like former GOP contender Herman Cain, according to Raw Story. Of course, as Raw Story points out, Fischer’s assumption kind of ignores Cain’s race, an important point considering the whole premise of “white supremacy.”
Hours and hours of anger and bigotry on talk radio, the senseless dehumanizing terms used by people like Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, have an effect. They are meant to stoke, and though the intention may be to stoke enough anger to keep listening, the truth is that the embers of hate that they fan can, in some, become roaring, raging fires.
People always like to pretend that words are just words, that they are formless, ephemeral things that cannot bridge the void between the hypothetical and the real world. They like to imagine that the ideas attached to the words can be severed, can be entirely separated when they don’t like the action the words become.
But pretending that the reality of the risk of members of the military becoming radicalized is somehow non-existent because you think it looks bad for your political party goes beyond simple politics. It transcends the push-and-pull of political gamesmanship.
And in this case, the refusal to take the report seriously for purely cosmetic political reasons may have directly led to the death of six innocent people.
What if Republicans had acted on the information, instead of taking the DHS report as an affront to their political strategy? How can we continue to normalize extremism, knowing that, at its height, it has nothing to do with political perspectives and everything to do with eliminating the people you don’t like, through any means?
Was the gurdwara — the name for a Sikh temple — shooter mentally unstable? Though it’s possible, it’s curious that it’s a question we never ask when the person who allegedly carries out a killing for political motives has dark skin or subscribes to a minority religion.
But the world is populated with people who might die for a cause or kill for a cause. We have to stop bickering about whose cause, exactly, it is, and take in the reality of the situation. Until we do, the next mass shooting is, sadly, around the corner.