Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ruth: Home-grown terror

Great hand-wringing ensued after U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released by the Taliban in exchange for five Taliban fighters who had been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than 10 years.

The Taliban fighters were among the worst of the worst, so the logic went, who might return to the battlefield and put American lives at risk. Maybe so.

But as we've learned in recent days, on American soil at least you are much more likely to be the victim of a violent act of domestic terrorism committed by a neo-Nazi poltroon rather than some fundamentalist Islamic extremist.

Fear the potential for a quintet of Taliban to return to their malevolent ways. But save some anxiety for the next time you sit down at a pizza parlor. You might wind up in the cross-hairs of an antigovernment/anti-Barack Obama/anti-American/anti-whatchagot Wehrmacht-lite foot soldier of the lunatic fringe.

Las Vegas police officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo had stopped for lunch at a CiCi's Pizza when they were gunned down at point-blank range by Amanda Miller and her husband, Jerad, who viewed themselves as the Eva Braun and Adolf Hitler of the white supremacist movement.

After draping the bodies of the officers with a swastika banner and a "Don't Tread on Me" Gadsden flag, which has become the symbol of the tea party, the couple fled to a nearby Walmart, where they killed a customer before taking their own lives.

Law enforcement officials have characterized the carnage wrought by the Millers as an "isolated incident." And perhaps it is. But there sure have been an awful lot of "isolated incidents" involving various permutations of neo-Nazi sympathizers over the last few years.

In 2012, Wade Michael Page shot up a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. That same year, authorities busted a ring of skinheads in Central Florida, accusing them of plotting to attack the Orlando City Hall.

There have been shooting rampages tied to the Aryan Nation in Oregon, Washington and California. Interracial couples have been targeted. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was the site of a fatal shooting by neo-Nazi James von Brunn.

Just last week, white supremacist Dennis Marx was killed by police when he attempted to attack a North Carolina courthouse.

Then there are the various death threats directed toward the family of Bergdahl, after talk radio uber-bloviator Sean Hannity recklessly portrayed their son as a deserter. Death threats are never a good thing, especially so for the Bergdahls who live in Idaho, which is ground zero (in more ways than one) for the American Hammerskin Nation neo-Nazi movement.

Of course, these were all "isolated incidents." Don't you feel so much better now?

Just how unhinged were the Millers?

When numerous armed militia groups rallied to the support of deadbeat Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy after he refused to pay his federal grazing fees and was therefore canonized as a perverse patriot-in-arrears, the Millers were asked to go away by the band-of-frothers because they were regarded as too extreme.

Isn't this a bit like Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke being offended by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for being too racist?

It is tempting to dismiss all these illiterate dolts running around in their brown shirts, spouting Mein Kampf and their love for the good days of the Fatherland as a twisted outtake from Mel Brooks' Springtime for Hitler production number.

But they are not. This more closely resembles "Triumph of the Swill."

We fear the return to hostilities of five Taliban bad guys thousands of miles away. But we tend to dismiss the more immediate — and very real — threat of heavily armed delusional antigovernment traitors in our own backyards.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been an 813 percent nationwide increase in hate groups, currently totaling more than a 1,000, since the 2008 election of Barack Obama.

The United States is hardly alone in having citizens who claim a higher allegiance to the Third Reich than to the rule of law.

Recent elections in Greece, France, Britain, Denmark, Austria and yes (gulp) Germany have seen a marked increase in growing public sympathy for neo-Nazi ideology.

Perhaps all this means that Americans are as much at risk of harm from of irrational, paranoid extremism when eating pizza in a strip mall as from five released Taliban fighters .

It is also likely we're in for a lot more "isolated incidents."


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