Today, a horrible crime was committed by an extremist who, in cold blood, gunned down a security guard at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. There is no excuse for such a crime, and I have no tolerance for anyone who thinks the same way or supports this act of hate.
I pray for the family of Stephen T Johns, the security guard killed in the attack, and that justice is served swiftly and coldly against this killer.
Within minutes of discovering the identity and possible onetime military affiliation of the shooter, Shepard Smith, of Fox News, made the following astonishing leap of logic: that this shooting validates the contents of the DHS report labeling veterans as potential right wing extremists. A good synopsis of Smith’s statements and their context to the DHS report can be found at Mudville Gazette. In one statement, Smith and Fox News advanced the damage already caused by the original report. Now, the leftist blogsphere is alight with the very kind of rhetoric that has spilled into every channel of media blovating, including now Fox.
Unfortunately for Smith and all of the other people out there who want to desperately believe that those who serve in the military, support the idea smaller government, and believe that people should be able to believe whatever they want even if it offends others, the murderer in this case proves nothing about the DHS report. The murderer was 89 years old, may have never served in the military (the only available confirmation of his service is his own claim that he served), but was an extremist in every other sense. The report, on the other hand, is explicit in its reference to modern veterans returning from places like Iraq and Afghanistan:
(U) Disgruntled Military Veterans
(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A assesses that right-wing extremists will attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans in order to exploit their skills and knowledge derived from military training and combat. These skills and knowledge have the potential to boost the capabilities of extremists—including lone wolves or small terrorist cells—to carry out violence. The willingness of a small percentage of military personnel to join extremist groups during the 1990s because they were disgruntled, disillusioned, or suffering from the psychological effects of war is being replicated today.
Now, it no longer matters what the facts of the shooting are and what the DHS report said. The cultural meme that veterans are dangerous extremists who murder people out of hatred has been created and will continue to persist. Now, people who do not bother to differentiate between those with legitimate philosophical disagreements about beliefs and politics will be even more invigorated in their intolerance of people with differing views.
It does not help that too many people out there in the ether of the internet take their disagreements to extremes when responding to such events on both extremes of political belief. People sending email to Shepard Smith today only reinforced the stereotypes too many people have of the conservatively minded as surely as liberals have done in past instances, only proving how uninformed and reactionary they are themselves.
We live in a time of strong, sometimes even radical, disagreements about the way forward for our nation and for the world. I have been a part of that debate for a long time, and it saddens me more than I can convey with these words that our national discourse has degraded into shouting and increasingly hostile accusations against one side or the other. Certainly, I believe that some of the things being done by liberals are destructive to our country, and I believe it is my place to argue against those actions with the hope that something like the middle ground–and often the best–solutions can be achieved.
However, I do not now, nor will I ever condone violence against those with whom I disagree either now or ever. The threshold for taking up arms in support or opposition is very high, something anyone who has sworn the oath to protect and defend the Constitution should inherently understand.
The distinction between this view and that of the murder in question is rapidly being lost, and with that loss comes the loss of the very things the veterans now being steadily maligned hold dear. I ask the same question now as when this idea first reared its ugly head: what happens when those who have decided that what their nation stands for is worth fighting for are no longer willing to do so because what they believe in has become criminal? How can any nation survive criminalizing a way of thinking? How can any nation survive criminalizing its defenders?
First they came for the Communists but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists but I was not one of them, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews but I was not Jewish so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.
We are sliding down a very slippery slope. God help us all.