Letter to the Editor

FARESPITHE THOUGHTS ON A SHOOTING AND HATE GROUPS

(FARESPITHE stands for faith, religion, spirituality, theology:  “fare” like fair; “spithe” like with)

     The vast majority of all Americans know that hate is horribly wrong, and that violence because of that hate is completely and totally unacceptable, and solves absolutely nothing!  All of us among that vast majority must now be even more vigilant in resisting such hate and violence, and calling out anyone in the public arena who uses inflammatory language that is inciting or supportive of such hate and violence!  In doing so we must be very clear about who it is that has been the primary, most often victims of that hate-fueled violence—African-Americans, Jews, Hispanics, women, LGBTQ persons, and other minorities, including more recently Muslims—so that we focus on the truth of the actual reality of such violence!
     This past week I asked 30 well-educated, well-read, politically active liberal/progressive persons who meet weekly if they could name any currently active left-wing organized hate group that advocate for, or has done, violent action against others.  Not one could be named.  When you do a search for left-wing hate groups, the primary source for naming them is a very conservative ultra-right group, the David Horowitz Freedom Center (hereafter DHFC).  However, the names it lists are not any that have ever actually been associated with specific advocacy of violence, or doing violence.  The first name that it lists is The Southern Poverty Law Center (hereafter SPLC). 
     Most who know the history of that organization would be surprised it is listed, since its essential purposes over the years of its existence are to list and monitor any and all hate groups, and advocate for poor and politically disadvantaged people through legal action in the courts—thus their stated three pronged strategy of fighting hate, teaching tolerance, and seeking justice— without any advocacy for any kind of violence whatsoever—ever!  I suspect hardly anyone specifically connected to the SPLC has ever been accused of any violent action against others, let alone against those of the right.  It is often used as a resource for any and all who are seeking to learn about hate groups, and it lists the DHFC as a hate group, quoting the actual words of Horowitz to demonstrate why, including exceedingly ugly comments about Obama, along with harshly anti-Muslim comments.  That seems most likely why DHFC lists SPLC as a hate group.  SPLC lists what might be a leftist group of “black separatists”, though only one person on SPLC’s “extremists list” is African-American.
     The next on the DHFC list is Black Lives Matter, whose leaders again and again have strongly appealed for non-violence in all the protests they have organized or supported.  That violence has erupted in some of those situations is due to the volatile nature of the situations where deep anger at the death of African-American persons is certainly understandable, even while the violence is completely deplorable, and totally counterproductive.  But to blame that violence on people who are simply trying to stop the killing with protests is to be disingenuous, whether or not you agree or disagree with the group’s goals.  The New Black Panther Party is also listed, along with a number of groups who advocate and support Muslim-Americans.  That most would have never heard of any of these underlines the reality that they are not responsible for any hate-fueled violence.
     The SPLC lists 917 hate groups currently active in the US.  The list is far too long to seek to give a number of how many of them actually have advocated or participated in violence against others, but the KKK, several neo-Nazi groups, several white nationalist groups, several racist skinhead groups, and some neo-Confederate groups have advocated for violence, or have had members/participants who have committed violence against others.
     The reason I have started this commentary mentioning hate groups that advocate violence is because of the claims that the shooter of Congressman Scalise, two capital police, and two staffers was someone from the left demonstrating the first “organized” kind of violence from the left since the 60s.  This claim was made by a representative of a violence monitoring think tank in CA—on MSNBC no less—though I did not get the name of that leader or that think tank.  Since it has not been reported anywhere that the shooter was actually a part of any organized left group advocating violence against anyone from the right, these claims make no sense whatsoever!  However it must be stated that it has been reported that his social media Facebook connections included two groups:  “Terminate the Republican Party” and “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans” (though I know nothing about either and frankly did not want looking them up to be on my internet search record).
     (Have others of you noticed that when guns are being advocated as being more needed in the hands of more people, those who are encouraged to buy them are considered brave, patriotic citizens, but that when someone with guns kills or wounds others in some “mass shooting” event his [almost always a male] act is called an “act of cowardice”—even when he bought the gun “legally”?  How do the “brave” deal with the fact that presumably one of their own when he bought the guns suddenly become a coward when they use them for such grotesque purposes?  And have you noticed that when more guns are advocated to help “stop” such mass shooting situations no one ever mentions anything about how many more might be wounded in all the crossfire that results?  If several others had started firing in that wide-open baseball field situation, at who would the capital police have known to shoot?)   
     That social media has sites and individuals that use hate-filled and inflammatory rhetoric, including some advocating violence, is exceedingly well-known, but that does not mean any of them can necessarily be judged as an organized hate group advocating violence—even though that distinction might be meaningless in terms of their effects.  Thus, I also focus on the hate groups because of the many reports of very conservative, ultra-right people on radio talk shows and social media who have blamed Obama and/or Clinton for this shooting, as well as blaming all liberals/progressives, saying their hate rhetoric was the cause—without any evidence whatsoever for such a claim!  And we all know there is a very big difference between strong critical language (even loud and angry critical language) and hate-fueled rage that also advocates, or seeks to do, violence!
     However, it must be asked:  who is the only candidate for president of a major political party over the last 50-75 years who has advocated violence at several campaign rallies?  We all know that it is our current president!  Does that mean he is responsible for all the hate-motivated violence since he was elected?  No, of course not, even though many have called his too often inflammatory rhetoric completely unhelpful, even including one Republican Congressman.  Yet the very day after the shooting he tweeted that he was being investigated by “bad, conflicted people”, even though Mueller is one of the most respected justice department officials ever—confirmed 100 to 0 by the Senate when he was continued past his ten year term as FBI director.  Does that tweet sound like anything that tones down the harsh, judgmental, inflammatory rhetoric of others?  Such rhetoric should be beneath any president with any worthwhile ethical, moral principles.  But that does not mean he deserves to be hated or have violence threatened or attempted against him! 
     I state again:  The vast majority of all Americans know that hate is horribly wrong, and that violence because of that hate is completely and totally unacceptable, and solves absolutely nothing!  All of us among that vast majority must now be even more vigilant in resisting such hate and violence, and calling out anyone in the public arena who uses inflammatory language that is inciting or supportive of such hate and violence!  In doing so we must be very clear about who it is that has been the primary, most often victims of that hate-fueled violence—African-Americans, Jews, Hispanics, women, LGBTQ persons, and other minorities, including more recently Muslims—so that we focus on the truth of the actual reality of such violence!
     And we must also state, even though it is an entirely different issue, that what is being proposed in the “reform” of the healthcare system will likely, or nearly, do every bit as much physical damage as hate groups to the pre-existing condition vulnerable, the poor and near-poor, the working class, the lower middle class, and elderly is this country.  Which means while we are all rightly concerned about violence advocated and done by hate groups or hate-filled individuals, other kinds of something at least akin to violence in its effects can and will be just as seriously problematic. 
     I suspect most all of us know that there are several other examples of proposed legislation, and already signed executive orders, that will do, or are already doing, serious damage to people all over the country.  The likelihood of decreased anger and less loud appeals for this to stop is not very good!  Nor should strong criticism of what actually hurts people stop, though doing it without inflammatory or hate-advocating rhetoric should be the authentic effort of all of us!

Love, grace, hope, joy, compassion, peace,

Rodney Noel Saunders
United Methodist Pastor, Retired