One of my colleagues, who I am sure would call himself a conservative, posted a link on Facebook to a John Hawkin’s article titled “20 Questions Liberals Can’t Answer” posted at Townhall.com. Along with the Facebook post, my colleague said, “I would love for some of my very intelligent friends to answer a few of these!” Despite my not meeting the very intelligent prerequisite, I am going to answer them anyway. I’ll address one question per post. Before I get to the first one I want to briefly talk about the liberal and conservative labels.
The questions in Hawkin’s article, and most of the conversations about politics in the U.S., assume that American political thought can be reduced to the dichotomy of “liberals” and “conservatives.” These two words might help you predict the probability of how someone might view a given issue, but of course it is a probability, not a certainty. These two categories are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually exhaustive. In short, they ignore the multidimensional nature of political thought. More on that in future posts.
I am labeled a liberal by most people who know me and identify themselves as conservatives. They do so almost exclusively because of my view of the necessity of strengthening public assistance programs and support of politicians who share the same view. My more conservative views on other issues seem to not be enough for them to even view me as a moderate or centrist. So I am not defending the amorphous group they would call liberals, I am simply responding as someone they would see as a member of that group. So on to the first question posed by Hawkins.
Hawkins: Liberals don't care that the Boston bombers are Muslims
- A few days ago, we were hearing that the Boston Marathon bombers COULD BE conservative, which proved that the Right is evil. Now, when we know that the terrorists are Muslims, how can the same liberals be saying that it means nothing?
ANSWER: The Boston bombers could have been non-Muslims. And they could have also been on the conservative side of a given issue. I think many people, myself included, quickly thought of the fact that it was April, and more specifically it was the 15th. Both the Oklahoma City bombing and the Branch Davidian siege occurred in April, and three years ago a guy flew his plane into the IRS building in Austin, TX citing frustration about taxes as one of the reasons. But April has also had it’s share of violent events seemingly unrelated to views about government, like the Columbine and Virginia Tech shootings. An article on CNN.com from 2011 lists some of the violent events that have occurred in April. It was also Patriot’s Day in Boston, so it could have just as easily been someone with an anti-American motives.
Many people objected when the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued reports on the threat of right-wing terrorism. But I imagine if I lost a loved one in Oklahoma City, I would welcome an attempt to try and prevent future events from terrorists with anti-government motivations. The Southern Poverty Law Center has a partial list of all acts of terror from what they call the "radical right". Then there are those from the far right that think the U.S. government planned the Boston bombing or are covering up the true culprits. Cue Glenn Beck.
Next up is Alex Jones, who has numerous popular conservative supporters. By the way, he also thinks that 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing were carried out by the government.
Of course anyone could have done this, and any number of reasons could have been stated by the bombers (or affiliated groups) or deduced through investigation. Answering the who or why question cannot, of course, reverse the deaths and physical and emotional injuries caused by the bombers, but the who and why answers will hopefully help us to reduce the frequency of events like this.
I was hoping the bombers were NOT connected to any religious motivations
I will confess, as others have, that I was hoping the bombers were not Muslims. Many have vehemently criticized this kind of sentiment. Let me explain my own motives.
As a person of faith, I highly value my religious liberty as a U.S. citizen. The Puritans came to Massachusetts to find religious liberty. Paradoxically, many Native Americans did not experience that liberty. Since the attacks of 9/11, there has been an increase in overtly expressed Islamophobia. Unfortunately self-described liberals and conservatives alike are attacking religious freedoms. The Obama administration has trampled on religious liberty in the area of requiring some religiously-affiliated employers to provide insurance coverage of contraceptives/abortive medications. They have done that in the name of secularism, while others are only interested in protecting the liberties of their religion, not others. We must protect liberty for all religious and spiritual expressions that do not infringe upon the rights of others.
Of course, as soon as the identities and probable motives of the bombers were revealed, there was no shortage of proposed solutions to the problem of Jihadist acts of terror. Here is one from Bryan Fischer, the Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association (AFA). He says that belief in the Quran should be the only question we need to ask in determining whether or not someone should be allowed to immigrate to the U.S.. To be clear, the AFA is not some fringe organization. According to their website, they own more than 200 radio stations across the nation and their websites receive more than 40 million hits per month.
Consider the tweet from Fox News contributor and WorldNetDaily (WND.com) columnist Erik Rush who suggests we should kill all Muslims.
A threat to any religious freedom is a threat to all of our religious freedom, so yes I was hoping that the bombers did not express religious motives for their cowardly act. I was equally hoping it was not the likes of Eric Rudolph, Scott Roeder, the KKK, or Westboro Baptist Church who all expressed their Christianity motivated/and still motivates them to commit acts of terror. I don't want any of that bunch to be seen as examples of most Christians. Just as I know that the vast majority of Muslims don't want Jihadists to represent them.
From my cold, dead hands
Of course not all of right-wing extremism comes from religious motivations. Let me preface this one by saying that I consider myself a gun rights advocate who supports the preservation of the 2nd Amendment. After the shootings at Sandy Hook, James Yeager, a private tactical firearms trainer from Camden, Tennessee (just up the road from me), threatened to "start shooting people" if his gun rights were infringed upon. Yeager has since removed the threat from his original video, but you can see it on the bottom of the Raw Story page. Prior to that incident, I subscribed to Yeager's YouTube channel, and I still watch his videos occasionally because most of his videos are very informative in matters related to personal defense and disaster preparedness. But he shocked me on this one.
I also quickly assumed the recent ricin-laced letters were related to gun rights extremists as many had called out Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) for voting to end the gun control bill filibuster. Turns out it was an Elvis impersonator who has a history of writing letters about organ harvesting. So 0-for-2 on prognostications for me. Glad I made mine amongst my short list of "friends" on Facebook and around the water cooler, rather than on national media outlets like some did.
Right-wing extremists and Jihadists who threaten violence should both be exposed
Well I think the above examples show that there are people on the FAR right that verbalize violent threats. That's true of the FAR left as well. It is also clearly true of extremist Jihadists. The fact that bombers turned out to be Muslim Jihadists is important. It tells us which groups of Muslims to follow closely. It tells us what issues they think justified such evil acts. We can learn from this and try to reduce the number of future attacks through better intelligence and through a clearer representation to the world of the values that make this country great.
So in short, Hawkins is wrong to assume that everyone that thought the bombers could have been right-wing extremists also think that the fact the bombers are Muslim Jihadists is irrelevant. It breaks my heart that one way we have responded to acts of terror like this is to begin to blame each other for it, rather than the violent fringes that exist in almost all political ideologies. I am sure that terrorists of all types love to divide and conquer.