Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Rage on, you nutty rednecks!
He may be a thoroughly-misguided knucklehead, but I'll say this for Christmas Tree bomber Mohamed Osman Mohamud: he sure has given us something to talk about around the office water cooler! I've had more than one semi-heated conversation with Oregonians (some of them quite liberal) on the topic.
There is not a lot of sympathy out there for Mohamud, but I wouldn't really expect there to be much. After all, to the extent that the criminal complaint filed by the US Justice Department is accurate, Mohamud "attempted to detonate what he believed to be an explosives-laden van that was parked near the tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square." Not exactly endearing behavior.
But for now, I would rather not consider facts or speculate about the methods employed by the FBI, or even weigh the severity of the crime. All those things will be determined in the trial.
Today, I wonder about the anti-Muslim sentiment the case has stirred up, right here in Portland, Oregon.
Out-of-state conservative pundits (who wouldn't know Oregon from their own back yards) are calling for Mayor Sam Adams to "opt in" to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, which our city rejected when we saw that it was yet another tool for Junior Bush to spy on and intimidate law-abiding citizens. And, in the vanguard of such efforts, of course, are all the tea-bagger types who are so rabidly anti-Muslim that they are blind to anything else. The day after Mohamud was arrested, someone tried to torch a mosque he sometimes attended in Corvallis.
I mean, for goodness' sake, we only just had a real terrorist attack in Woodburn in 2008, when Bruce and Joshua Turnidge set off a bomb in a local bank, killing two law enforcement officers. And don't forget about Joseph Stack, Jim Adkisson, James Von Brunn, or Scott Roeder. But nobody seems to be calling for police monitoring of redneck white guys who spout anti-government rhetoric.
One of my conservative friends who applauds the actions taken by the FBI in the Christmas Tree bombing plot explained it this way: "I know there are pockets of crazy Christians out there. I know there are people like Fred Phelps [minister of the Westboro Baptist Church that routinely protests soldier's funerals]. But Phelps doesn't represent the majority of Christians. On the other hand, I can't be sure about Muslims. Are they truly peaceful? After all, there are madrassas where they teach kids to hate America and all that we stand for."
What if I were to turn it around? Let's try this: I know there are crazy Muslims out there. I know there are people like Abdul Rahman Zahed [a Taliban leader]. But Zahed doesn't represent the majority of Muslims. On the other hand, I can't be sure about conservatives. Are they peaceful? After all, they have Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck raging against Muslims, against gays, Mexicans, liberals and everyone else.
Any fair-minded person can see the absurdity of both statements. But the seductive ease of simple hate is a powerful siren song.
Anyway, the trial of Mohamud will reveal many things, I hope. But I'm not fool enough to imagine that facts have the power to change the hearts of bigots.