Yesterday at a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear shot and killed 3 people, one a university police officer, and injured five other police officers and four civilians. While television pundits and law enforcement officials look for motive, let’s just call this what it is: terrorism perpetrated by christian fundamental extremism, toxic masculinity, misogyny, bigotry, and hatred.
While Republicans and even some Democrats look to close our borders in a futile attempt to curb the possibility of a terrorist attack, they ignore the increasing number of our own home-grown terrorists: white males with guns and other military weapons. The danger isn’t out there somewhere, it is right here in our own neighborhoods.
During the past 30 years, all but one of the mass murders in the U.S. was committed by men, 90 percent of whom were white. Sociologist Michael Kimmel has worked for decades, conducting extensive research, to illuminate the relationship between race, hyper masculinity, homophobia and violence. As he put it after the Sandy Hook shooting,
White men… have a somewhat more grandiose purpose: they want to destroy the entire world in some cataclysmic, video-game, and action movie-inspired apocalypse. If I’m going to die, then so is everybody else, they seem to say. Yes, of course, this is mental illness speaking: but it is mental illness speaking with a voice that has a race and a gender.
Rather than a school, a mall, or a church, this time it was a Planned Parenthood office. Healthcare facilities that provide abortions have long been the target of pro-life religious extremists. Doctors have been killed, employees have been terrorized, and clients have been bullied and harassed. But the shootings in Colorado Springs yesterday mark the first time since 2009 that anyone linked to an abortion provider has been killed.
Since the release of a series of highly edited, misleading anti-abortion videos in July, there has been an unprecedented increase in hate speech and threats against abortion providers. And in our current political and social climate, it seemed only a matter of time before some terrorist event would occur. Now it has.
According to a recent New York Times report: “Homegrown Extremists Tied to Deadlier Toll Than Jihadists in U.S. Since 9/11”:
Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center.
Some of you may recall a 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security, which warned that an ailing economy and the election of the first black president might prompt a violent reaction from white supremacists. That report was met with outrage from those on the right and was withdrawn under fierce conservative criticism. But that report was spot on.
These facts cannot be denied: more US citizens have been killed by angry white men with guns since 9/11 than by non-US religious extremists. Clearly the biggest threat we face is one from within.