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“Weâ€™re still a long way from a civil war, but it is difficult not to also draw links between the murders in Tucson and the assassination of Salman Taseer in Pakistan earlier last week. There, as here, a heavily armed and fanatical minority, backed by well established militarist and religiously conservative forces, is attempting to impose its will on society….”
Author: Joseph Gerson, Disarmament Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee and Director of Programs of AFSC in New England
Published in: DMZ Hawai’i (at http://www.dmzhawaii.org/ ) HuntingtonNews.net (at http://www.huntingtonnews.net/), Bixby Bulletin serving Tulsa, Oklahoma (at http://www.bixbybulletin.com/), BuzzFlash.com (at http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/12204)
Date: January 9, 10 and 11, 2011
For the full article:
Tucson Terrorism: A Deeply Rooted Assault on American Democracy
by Joseph Gerson
Now itâ€™s political assassination and murders in Tucson.
William Faulkner wrote that “the past isnâ€™t dead, it isnâ€™t even past.” I’m a veteran of Arizona. As one of the stateâ€™s leading peace advocates and organizers during the Vietnam War, I had more than my share of death threats, including one left on the accelerator of my car. After President Nixon urged â€œhard hatsâ€ to attack peace advocates, the John Birch Society loosed drunken miners against us, and I was beaten by police and sentenced to prison for the crime of peacefully handing out flyers on a public sidewalk protesting against the use of anti-personnel cluster bombs against Vietnamese civilians.
Once, with my wife and friends, we almost camped on a remote Minute Man militia firing range in the northern part of the state. And, as I write, a dear friend is grieving the murder of Judge Roll, his childhood friend and praying for his other friends who were critically wounded in Jared Lee Loughnerâ€™s terrorist attack on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011.
Regardless of Loughnerâ€™s mental condition, and whether or not the murders were part of a conspiracy, they grow out of historical, cultural and political contexts, some as recent as the vitriol and death threats in response to President Obamaâ€™s election victory and others to still unresolved dynamics of the U.S. Civil War, the colonial settler culture of our Wild West, and our seemingly never ending imperial wars.
Would that Arizona were the only such ticking time bomb set by the extreme right. When the New Hampshire legislature convened earlier this month, its first decision was to mandate that people could carry guns into the State Capitol.
While not wanting to stoke unnecessary fears, as I look to the future, my deepest worst case scenario fear grows out of my experiences in Lebanon as the civil war was beginning there in 1975. I arrived in Beirut something like 15 minutes before that long and brutally murderous war was fully on. In the years leading up to that war, much as is the case here, people obtained guns at a frightening pace. As I recall, word then was that Lebanese gun possession averaged two of these deadly weapons per person. Guns were everywhere and begging to be used in the incendiary environment.
The rhetoric of the right-wing Lebanese Phalange and the Maronite leadership wasn’t much more hateful or racist than here in the U.S., where fears of Latina immigrants pouring into the U.S. â€œto drop a babyâ€ have replaced the 1920s yellow peril hysteria targeted against hard working Asians. In both cases, they have come to the U.S. for many of the same reasons as immigrants from across Europe. And only a few months ago, Jesse Kelly was campaigning against Gabrielle Giffords with double entendres about using of M16 rifles in his failed election campaign to defeat her.
Weâ€™re still a long way from a civil war, but it is difficult not to also draw links between the murders in Tucson and the assassination of Salman Taseer in Pakistan earlier last week. There, as here, a heavily armed and fanatical minority, backed by well established militarist and religiously conservative forces, is attempting to impose its will on society.
After responding to the initial trauma of the Tucson assassination attempt and the murders, there will be the temptation to view it as an isolated event that shouldnâ€™t really concern us â€“ especially those of us living in the more liberal East. In fact, if we are to retain anything like democracy, we must confront and transform the rising racism and the culture of violence which is reinforced by the power and influence of the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex and by wars fought to enforce our societyâ€™s assumption, and the Pentagonâ€™s doctrine, of â€œFull Spectrum Dominance.â€
We have other and better U.S. traditions, values and vision. We honor Martin Luther King Jr. for his vision of what the United States can become and his selfless courage in helping to make our society more just, peaceful and enduring. Instead of going shopping on Monday, we would do well to meditate on the similarities between the assassinsâ€™ bullets in Memphis and Tucson and on the transformative words of Kingâ€™s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech which are equally applicable today:
“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men.”
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Dr. Joseph Gerson is Disarmament Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee and Director of Programs of AFSC in New England.