Is this what Jim David Adkisson carried as he drove up to the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church on Sunday with a shotgun and 76 rounds of ammunition? After all, any person with an Internet connection can buy this bumper sticker and proudly place it on their vehicle of choice.
There is some denial amongst conservative blog commenters (I haven't read much from more "official" conservative columnists regarding this, but I'm sure we'll hear from them in the next few days) regarding Mr. Adkisson. To them, he is simply a deranged person, and the rhetoric promoted by conservative commentators had nothing to do with his actions on Sunday. When and if the Coulters, Hannitys and O'Reillys (and their many "second string" talk radio surrogates) refer to the shooting, I'm sure that they will be shocked -- SHOCKED -- to learn that their writings and broadcasts were part of Adkisson's motivation to "visit" the UU church. In fact, they will take offense at any one who could think or say such a thing.
I wish those commenters were correct. I wish that conservative writings and broadcasts have no bearing on an attempted massacre at the church. But the widespread rhetoric against "liberals" as enemies in a culture war -- much of it quite incendiary -- leads me to believe otherwise.
A little over a year ago, David Neiwart (of the Orcinus blog) posted an appendix to his outstanding (and long) series called "Eliminationism in America", where he documents many quotes by best-selling conservative authors (like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage) and mainstream conservative broadcasters (like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly). Rather than reprint much of the statements made by these very powerful people, I recommend that you visit that site now -- Click here right now -- even if it means you never read the rest of this blog entry.
In fact, even if all you read are the book titles (and they're all bestsellers), you can easily guess the poison contained within them:
- Ann Coulter: Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism
- Sean Hannity: Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism
- Michael Savage: Liberalism is a Mental Disorder
- Jonah Goldberg: Liberal Fascism (complete with a cute picture on the cover)
I find it especially interesting that this politically motivated attempt at mass murder is not called "terrorism" in the mainstream media. Part of the problem is that the term "terrorism" has no simple definition, and that the use of the term itself connotes a politically-motivated action which is based on misguided political principles. In other words, if the action is based on honorable principles, then it is -- by definition -- not terrorism. And to the conservative media outlets, violent elimination of "America's enemies" is one of the highest principles to which a soldier can adhere. The moment we label an action as "terrorist", we impugn both the action itself as well as the political motivation behind that action.
It is for that reason -- good motives but bad actions -- that conservative commentators will not label Mr. Adkisson's actions as "terrorist". On the other hand, I have no doubt that if Mr. Adkisson had spent time reading bin Laden's writings before walking into the TVUUC, then the very same action would be so labeled -- repeatedly -- by every media outlet in the country.
So while conservatives will agree that Mr Adkisson's entry into the church and shooting up the congregants was bad action, they basically agree with much of his beliefs behind that action. In the eyes of many conservative broadcasters and writers, we are in a culture war and the enemies of the good consist not only of the people who wish to kill Americans, but also those who will refuse to view people
Almost 7 years ago, G. W. Bush spoke these words "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror". Since that time, conservative authors, commentators and even administration officials have said that liberals and terrorists are -- essentially -- on the same side in this "war" (yes, Karl Rove said that in front of a applauding audience of several hundred in 2005).
Mr. Adkisson's actions on Sunday were those of a domestic terrorist. He acted as if he were under orders, and those orders were to eliminate liberals. It's not hard to find statements by many prominent people -- repeated over and over -- that in our "culture wars", liberals are the "true enemies of America", and that the responsibility of every "freedom-loving citizen" doesn't stop at the elimination of their leaders. It means "taking out some of their supporters too".
But what is truly sad about the whole incident is this. Because the beliefs and principles of UUs lie at the core of our liberal religious tradition, Mr. Adkisson will probably receive more kindness and compassion by the congregants of the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church -- the people he considered "enemies of America" -- in the coming months and years than he will by any conservative columnist, author or broadcaster -- the people he probably considered his "friends" only 3 days ago.