Wednesday, January 07, 2015

NAACP Building Bombed: Echoes of Extremism Across the Globe

Crime scene tape surrounds the NAACP office in CO
On this freezing January Wednesday just a day after Republican majorities in both the House and Senate officially took office, we're reminded that the voices of intolerance and extremism are alive and well in 2015 - both here and abroad.

The attempted bombing of the NAACP office in Colorado, while repulsive, seems tame compared to the horror that took place in France.

Masked gunmen entered the Paris offices of satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people including four cartoonists and the editor in apparent retaliation for portrayals of the prophet Muhammad that offended some extremist Muslims.

A radio interview about the attacks on the BBC New earlier this morning described Charlie Hebdo as being somewhat similar to 'South Park' in terms of the absurdist kinds of satire it publishes.

Was this extremist attack push-back for the thousands of anti-Muslim extremists who've taken to the streets of Europe lately?

This brutal assault on people and freedom of expression comes on the heels of an estimated 18,000 people turning out for the recent PEGIDA anti-Islamist marches in Dresden, Germany.

Anti-PEGIDA protestor in Germany
PEGIDA is an acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident, a right-wing populist movement that's gained a foothold in Germany recently.

If anything positive can be taken from the PEGIDA rallies it's the overwhelming opposition to the anti-Muslim sentiment expressed by German citizens across the nation, as seen in the picture seen left.

Churches dimmed their lights, chancellor Angela Merkel went on television to urge Germans to repudiate PEGIDA's message of hate - and thousands and thousands of average citizens took to the streets of multiple cities to reject the ideology of hate.

We've obviously got our own issues with intolerance and extremism here in the US too.

On Tuesday, an unidentified assailant attempted to detonate a crude explosive device against the exterior wall of the offices of the NAACP in Colorado Springs, CO about 70 miles south of Denver.

The FBI are calling the device an "IED".

When I hear the word IED (Improvised Explosive Device) images of insurgents in Iraq attacking Coalition soldiers comes to mind, but no; we're talking about the state of Colorado.

This latest act of domestic terrorism comes just two days before the motion picture "Selma" opens in theaters around the nation; the film chronicles the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in support of voting rights.

Is the failed bombing of the NAACP offices connected to that? I don't know.

King's birthday is January 15th and is celebrated as a federal holiday on January 19th - but it's hard to tell with violent American wing-nuts consumed with hatred who's minds have been warped by ignorance.

With the premiere of "Selma" in two days it's a pretty safe bet that the executives responsible for the film are having that discussion. Paramount is distributing the film but it was produced in conjunction with Oprah Winfrey's HARPO Productions and Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment.

Oh and speaking of a divided nation, yesterday the Economic Policy Institute released a report on the growing wage inequality in America that reveals a startling statistic on income stagnation for 99%.

According to the report, since 1979, average wages for the top 1% of Americans grew by 138%, during the same period (35 years) wages for the bottom 99% grew by only 15%.

We all know that's unsustainable for a nation of over 300 million people and worse, that statistic stands in total contrast to the ideals upon which this nation was founded.

Words like "promote the general welfare" and the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" were meant to apply to ALL Americans, not just 1% of us.

It'll be interesting to see how (or if?) the new Republican "super majority" uses their power to legislate to address that glaring statistic; which obviously doesn't bolster their arguments for more tax cuts for the top earners.

But the sad truth about this startling economic disparity (besides it being global) is that it lies at the very root of all this violent extremism we're seeing.

Whether it's an Islamist extremist in France murdering innocent people for expressing ideas and opinion, or a lone American extremist trying to detonate an explosive device outside the walls of an office of one of the nation's oldest civil rights organizations - these individuals share the same traits.

They're unhappy, disenfranchised humans alienated from decent job opportunities, safe communities and basics like decent health care, a clean water supply and even food. And hope.

People who have those things in abundance don't become susceptible to the morally bankrupt ideologies that give birth to the kinds of violent extremist organizations that manipulate the fears and insecurities of those who've been marginalized by society.

No one joins the KKK if they're happy with their life, no one joins ISIS or Al Qaeda if they look forward to getting up and going to work, or seeing their children play; no one becomes a neo-Nazi if they feel good about themselves.

This extremism we're seeing across the globe has many forms, but only one real source; the alienation and degradation of the human spirit caused by the lack of urgent concern for the human condition.

Maybe we all bear some responsibility for that.

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