Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Volatile Combination

Maybe it's because of where I grew up. But, frankly, the only thing about this that surprises me is the fact that it seems to be surprising other people.

I'm talking about a report filed by Jason Hanna for Hanna reports that those who monitor the activities of hate groups have seen an increase in the intensity of their rhetoric in recent months.

"[The researchers] also say that many white supremacist groups have been energized by a sour economy and the election of a black U.S. president," Hanna reports.

Joseph Williams warned last month, in the Boston Globe, that "the inauguration of the first black president ... has set off a wave of violence on the white supremacist fringe, with anti–hate groups attributing six recent killings — including the ambush last month of three Pittsburgh police officers and the fatal shootings last month of two Florida sheriff's deputies — in part to anger over President Obama's election."

And you can add to that yesterday's shooting of a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The 88–year–old man who carried out the attack may be referred to as a Jew–hating neo–Nazi, but the guard was black. Of course, reports also describe James von Brunn as being anti–black, too.

I guess that makes him an equal opportunity hater. Then again, most haters are.

Why does it surprise anyone that racist groups are worked up? The fact that Barack Obama won the election last November did not mean that racists ceased to exist. But they've become more difficult to identify.

These groups aren't your grandfather's hate groups. They have evolved. The group with the greatest name recognition, the Ku Klux Klan, is no longer a national organization. It is a series of small independent groups spread across the nation.

Not unlike reports I've heard about Al–Qaeda. I've heard that it is no longer a central organization but a bunch of splinter groups. Osama bin Laden has no control over these small groups that incorporate Al–Qaeda into their names. They take their inspiration from him, but they act on their own.

Need further proof? The Southern Poverty Law Center maintains an online map of the United States that shows where the 926 known active hate groups are located. Many of these groups are in the South and bordering states, but few states are relatively untouched. Take a look at it, and you'll see all sorts of variations on the well–known themes of hatred.

If anything should be clear from yesterday's shooting, it is this: Law enforcement needs to be on its toes, ever vigilant in seeking to protect Obama and anyone he picks to fill high–profile positions (the Supreme Court nominee comes to mind).

If funding is a problem, perhaps resources need to be reallocated.

But law enforcement ignores this at its own peril.

It is — if you'll pardon the analogy — like pouring gasoline on a fire.

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