The backlash to Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall’s Twitter musings about the propriety of expressing national delirium over the death of Osama bin Laden was swift and brutal.
He was vilified by many angry Americans. But Mendenhall was well in bounds to call into question the professed Christian virtues of compassion and forgiveness of those who cheered the death of one man, no matter how heinous his acts.
In fact, many expressed the same concern that the bin Laden killing should be a time for reflection and dialogue on just what makes human beings so ready to kill or celebrate the killing of others.
In fact two major polls found that while the overwhelming majority of Americans felt a mix of joy and relief at the killing of bin Laden, a sizable percentage of Americans did not see the killing as a cause for flag waving, let alone unvarnished joy.
Yet, with the 9/11 terror attacks, the suffering of the families of the victims, and the decade long memories and trauma that followed — it was just too much to expect that compassion and sober reflection would trump emotions and the thirst for revenge against the man who symbolized so much evil. Worse still was the ugly racism which has largely flown under the radar with regards to the bin Laden killing. That hate had nothing to do with the desire for closure, or emotional release, and it certainly had nothing to do with expressions of patriotism.
The ugliness was the racism that was on full display on websites, blogs, and in the avalanche of tweets that spewed the most vile, racist, and anti-Muslim remarks.
It was on ugly display in the insulting remark by a Houston teacher who told a Muslim student “I bet you’re grieving” for your “uncle” (meaning bin Laden), and a few reported threats and a reported attack against a Portland, Oregon mosque.
Put bluntly, the bin Laden killing was yet another excuse to spew racist venom tossing out the full and familiar storehouse of racial epithets that openly linked race and religion.
This is an all too familiar pattern. In the immediate aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, talk show hosts, writers, and commentators, bombarded the airwaves with shrill venomous borderline racial slur against Muslims, and even African-Americans before one fact was known about who did what and why in the bombing.
Then President Clinton sensed the peril of the building racial ugliness underneath the outbursts and quickly staunched it with appeals to reason and to wait until the facts were in.
Mercifully, the quick fingering of Timothy McVeigh, and the revelation that the bombing was the act of a deranged, home grown, white, anti-government loon, took the wind out of the racists’ sails.
But that was only for the moment. The 9/11 terror attacks brought racial slurs, harangues, threats, and even physical attacks on innocent, law abiding Muslims, and mosques, and even those who weren’t Muslim but had dark skin and accents. President Bush, as President Clinton, sensed the same ugly racial peril underneath the attacks, and took pains to publicly denounce the attacks.
He sternly warned that the attacks should not be used to launch witchhunts against Muslims, and non-whites, and that such racial and religious vendettas would not be tolerated.
President Obama sensed the same danger and in his remarks on the bin Laden killing made it clear that the killing should not be cause to finger-point Muslims.
He made it clear that the targeting of bin Laden was purely a national security priority, and placed it in the context of the war on terrorism.
But as with Clinton, and Bush, it fell on deaf ears among those who can’t resist the opportunity to imprint a racial hate stamp on anything that’s perceived as anti-American.
Then try to pawn off this warped view of patriotism as a legitimate expression of American pride. True patriotism recognizes the respect for human rights, diversity and tolerance which are the strengths and values that have made America truly great and separate us from those that hate those values, and will do anything to destroy them up to and including mass murder, in short the bin Ladens of the world.
But to voice that hatred perpetuates an endless cycle of hate and violence. Even Obama felt it amidst the near universal public acclaim for his action. Instead of nonpartisan unity there was the pathetic refusal from the virulent pack of professional Obama loathers, and even a would-be presidential candidate, to give due credit to Obama for his leadership in this affair.
The bin Laden killing brought to a close one sad, tragic, and painful episode in American history. The widespread relief that that horrendous era had attained some closure with the killing of the presumed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is totally justified.
But to smear it with racial muck, insults not only the memory of the thousands who lost their lives in the heinous terror attacks, but it also insults what true American patriotism should and must stand for — and that’s certainly not hate.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/earlhutchinson
August 19, 2012 //
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