The tragedy at the United States Holocaust Museum in which a Black security guard was shot and killed by a white supremacist is just another example of how racism and anti-Semitism continue to infest our nation. The guard, identified as Stephen T. Johns, was simply doing his job and fell prey to a hatred that has infested our nation dating back to its founding and imbedded in its culture through a bloody Civil War and subsequent period of de jure segregation. The fact that the gunman, identified by authorities as James W. von Brunn, a known white supremacist, invaded the Holocaust Museum is no accident. There is an element of mostly white, mostly uneducated, males in our country, who embrace racist beliefs and champion the elimination of Blacks and Jews. It is a sickness that has no cure but one that it is high time we took steps to eradicate.
A dangerous mix of ignorance and tolerance of racist rhetoric and symbols has given license to the type of incident that unfolded yesterday in our nation’s capital. Combine popular messages and imagery rooted in hate with unfettered access to firearms, and the result is what took place in the Holocaust museum. For too long we have allowed elements in our nation whose only intent is to harass and harm Blacks and other minorities to hide behind the First Amendment, and cloak their rants under the protective cover of “free speech.” When all along we know their only intent is to promote white supremacist beliefs that are rooted in stereotypes long dismissed by rational thinkers as the imagination of the deeply insecure. These individuals insist that the Confederate flag is not a racist symbol or that the Holocaust never occurred, and have created a parallel historical frame to support their racial fantasy. In both instances, they are delusional and dangerous.
No doubt, the election of a Black President has sent many of these disturbed individuals over the edge. Most of us assumed that racists were experiencing a slow boil at the sight of a Black man in the White House. Still, we must not succumb to some of the early chatter on the airwaves after the museum shooting that seemed to suggest the ire of white supremacists was raised solely because of President Obama holding office. Nonsense and we should not allow the suggestion that Mr. Obama is the catalyst for the evil of wicked men to gain currency. People such as the alleged gunman, Mr. von Brunn, need no motivation, Black President or excuse to commit such vile acts. It is part of their DNA. If anything, we need to take every measure to root out his kind and use every lawful means at our disposal to remove them from our midst permanently.
We can begin by taking a strong stand on the use of racist and inflammatory rhetoric over the airwaves, particularly when used in the context of news and information programming. A perfect example is the derogatory reference Fox News Channel talking head Bill O’Reilly made about physician Dr. George R. Tiller, who was one of few doctors in the nation who performed late term abortions. Dr. Tiller was murdered by a pro-life fanatic while the physician was serving as an usher at his church. Comments like those made by O’Reilly should be at a minimum subject to harsh penalties under a new decency standard. Likewise, symbols of hate such as swastikas and the Confederate flag should not be allowed to hide behind the Constitution. This is not a case of perspective or point of view. The historical record is clear in how these symbols were used to terrorize Jews and Blacks, continue to be used today for such purposes, and should be banned from public display. Defenders of such symbols engage in historical malpractice when they attempt to justify their use with arguments that attempt to minimize their evil intent. Under no circumstance should these symbols be tolerated and their display should be categorized a hate crime.
How about sensible gun control policy if we are truly going to disarm these racists? We keep hearing that stricter laws will keep guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens. It seems to me that the only people using guns are the insane, criminals and hate mongers. The federal government needs to apply the same aggressive tactics under the RICO statute to the activities of these hate groups. They need to be squeezed in every imaginable way, from the confiscation of their property and assets, seizure and freezing of all bank and retirement accounts of members and immediate family, imposition of mega fines, and stiffer sentencing for crimes with limited opportunities for parole and only after having served a maximum minimum. In addition, they should have of all their weaponry confiscated and destroyed upon seizure of their property.
Sound harsh? You bet. Racism should be an expensive exercise for those who commit such heinous acts.