Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hopelessness and Patriotism.

"I've always wondered why I was put on this earth. ... I've been feeling helpless on the war on Terrorism but I realized I could engage the terrorist allies here in America."

"I thought I would do something good for the country. Kill Democrats until the cops kill me."
It was a simple plan, constructed out of the primary ingredients of fascism: hopelessness, patriotism and a desire to follow orders.

On July 27, 2008, a middle-aged man walked into a children's performance of Annie at the Tennesee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church with a 12-gauge shotgun, 78 rounds of multi-shot ammunition, and an intent to kill as many people before being killed himself. Through some extraordinary actions by the entire congregation, he managed to kill only 2 people before he was held down and arrested a few minutes later. The American equivalent of a suicide bombing, his action that day represented an act of pure terrorism.

I have no doubt that if Jim David Adkisson's name was Mohammed Zibakalam and the religion of his youth was Islam instead of Christianity, then virtually all of the news media -- mainstream and extremist -- would have been on this action as an example of the necessity of our "war on terror", much would have been written and broadcast about whether or not the shooter deserves a trial-free sentence of indefinite length in Guantanamo, or whether he should be summarily executed.

But Adkisson was raised in a Christian household. And he is not of middle eastern descent. And he reads and recites the words of O'Reilly, Hannity and Savage, not bin Laden. So, outside of UU circles and and local coverage in the Knoxville area, his actions that day have been largely forgotten in the six months since his attack. As of today, Adkisson has no Wikipedia entry, and the whole shooting event has a fairly short page devoted to it. Most Americans have no idea that the event even happened.

Last week Adkisson pled guilty to all charges. He had left a 4 page suicide note/manifesto on the seat of his truck, and the local paper just posted it. Here's a copy (.pdf), in Adkisson's own writing. The writing is both chilling and incredibly sad. Each time I read it, I cry. I'm crying now as I write this. The opening quotes on this posting is from this note, as are these pieces of "wisdom", under the "Know This If Nothing Else" section:
  1. "This was a hate crime"
  2. "This was a political protest"
  3. "This was a symbolic killing"
And of course, there is a page all about the Unitarian Universalist Church itself, which he summarizes up in this statement: "They embrace every pervert that comes down the pike but if they find out that you're a conservative, they absolutely Hate you. I know, I experienced it".

Some people will read Jim David Adkisson's manifesto and see the rantings of a madman. I do not. I read the manifesto and see the writings of a soldier who understands orders and wants to demonstrate his willingness to follow them. I see someone who desperately wants to be part of a larger movement and to show the people whom he admires that their words do make a difference. And make no mistake. The people whose books he read and whose voices he heard understand his motivations, and will never denounce them. The Goldbergs, Coulters and Savages will continue to write books and to speak words of division. And IF they denounce him or his actions (and that's a big 'if' -- more likely they'll pretend he never existed), they will never denounce Adkisson's motivations. In fact, his manifesto could have been written by any number of conservative voices whom we hear on mainstream radio and television. Every. Single. Day.

In 1994, thousands of Hutu extremists listened to radio stations that encouraged a cleansing of the countryside of all those citizens who would not think the right way. Those people were soldiers, willing to fight, to kill and to die for a movement based in racial and ideological cleansing. They listened to the Interahamwe voices of authority on their radios and they followed orders. Jim David Adkisson also listened to the "conservative" voices of authority on the radio as they promoted a movement based in racial and ideological cleansing. He read their books, and educated himself in their movement and understood his role in that movement. He would follow orders. Like the thousands of Rwandans who killed everyone for an ideology of hate, Adkisson became a person whose life now had meaning.

"I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life ain't worth living any more don't just kill yourself do something for your country before your go. Go Kill Liberals!"

The Interahamwe would be proud.

Note: All items in italics come directly from Adkisson's manifesto (pdf link).


Spocko said...

I read the manifesto and see the writings of a soldier who understands orders and wants to demonstrate his willingness to follow them. I see someone who desperately wants to be part of a larger movement and to show the people whom he admires that their words do make a difference.

Well said! And they are still broadcasting. My goal is to ensure that they are also not getting rich doing it.

spocko said...

Here is a longer post from by blog about the hosts that actually go farther than Savage, Hannity and O'Reilly!

Robin Edgar said...

Jim David Adkisson is not Christian. Indeed, based on what I have read about him, he may well be as anti-Christian as he is anti-liberal. Most ironically the anti-Christian Jim Adkisson would have found himself to be quite welcome amongst the "fundamentalist atheist" faction of "Humanist" U*Us if not U*Us more generally. U*Us, including you, are quite self-righteously pointing the finger at right-wing hate speech as being the prime motivating factor of Jim Adkisson's attack on Knoxville Tennessee U*Us, but what about the fact that Adkisson's manifesto makes it clear that he believes that he was subject to capital 'H' Hate by anti-conservative U*Us? Don't you think that the anti-Republican and broader anti-conservative intolerance and bigotry of U*Us, some of which does seem to sink into quite absolute capital 'H' Hatred of conservatives was also a motivating factor? How can you point the finger at right wing hate speech without seeing the fingers pointing back at the hate speech of the U*Us?

Robin Edgar said...

Thank you for posting my counterpoint comment Tyler. A good number of U*Us would have suppressed it, although it does seem that there are fewer U*Us censoring and suppressing my legitimate critical comments than in the not so distant past. Maybe I am gaining a measure of respect amongst U*Us these days.

I had a very good mutually respectful discussion about the anti-conservative hate speech of the U*Us being a possible, indeed quite probable, motivating factor for Jim David Adkisson's attack on the TVUUC with Humanist U*U minister Rev. Cynthia Landrum on the Love In The Face Of Hate Crimes post of her Rev. Cyn blog. I would recommend reading the whole thing.


Robin Edgar

UUbuntu said...

From Robin Edgar: Jim David Adkisson is not Christian. Indeed, based on what I have read about him, he may well be as anti-Christian as he is anti-liberal..

I see no evidence in his manifesto that he was anti-Christian. Mostly he was anti-Unitarian. A little googling did show that while he did not self-identify as Christian, he was raised in a "strict Christian" household.

I updated the blog entry to clarify this point, and no longer say that he was Christian.

As to the larger issue of "anti-Republican/anti-conservative intolerance", I respectfully disagree. While I would never speak for Unitarian Universalists in general, the blogs of the members of my church (the list is on the bottom left of the page -- there are 4 of them, including mine) reflect the *wide* range of political and cultural views held by its members. This person was raised in our church, and her parents remain prominent members. Our church is a small, ordinary New England UU church whose members include atheists, agnostics, Christians and non-Christian theists. Our minister is Christian, and her family includes both a non-religious sibling and a sibling who is fundamentalist Christian and extremely conservative, spiritually, politically and culturally. From her sermons, it's clear that she loves them both, even if they share little theological common ground.

I read your interaction with Rev. Cyn, and find that I agree with her points. I will also say that my tolerance of alternative viewpoints ends when those viewpoints violate core principles of mine. I have lived with conservative Christians and have had generally positive interactions with them, with valuable political and theological discussions.