Marie Cocco
29 December 2002

What if he were Arab? How about Chinese?

What if Buford Furrow weren't a balding white iman with a midlife middle? What if he were a wiry young black man in the brightly colored cloth of Africa, sitting at a computer terminal, preaching annihilation of the white race and arming himself to the teeth to achieve it?

What if the enemy didn't look like the white majority, if he stood apart as different, or foreign? Would we then take seriously the hate groups that have declared war on the United States?

Every year, the Southern Poverty Law Center and other groups that track the hate movement put out reports that are distressingly predictable. Hate is going up.

Every year, the newspapers give the reports a paragraph, maybe not even that. the TV networks do not -re-empt the latest sex scandal to bring you the urgent news that in every region of the United States, people are using the Internet to teach white supremacy and promote violence as a way to make it happen.

Somehow this is not considered more important than the latest turn of the stock market. Mostly, the Buford Furrows of this land are presented as isolated nuts, not terrorists driven by ideology, just like the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center and Pam Am Flight 103.

Mostly, once the headlines fade, we are not seized by worry. We have knowns for years nwo that this bad seed is growing and have done nothing to uproot it.

In 1995 -- even after the Oklahoma City bombing finally woke the FBI up to to the fact that right-wing militia groups ad suremacist sects weren't just boys playing games in the woods -- Congress refused to schedule hearings.

It was left to then-representative Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), to conduct renegade hearings in defiance of the Republican leadership. There, public officials from Western states testified about threats, stalking, intimidation and assaults from anti-government militia members, many with links to white supremacist groups.

Schumer and others who have watched law enforcement's attitude toward the hate groups now say the FBI has been more vigilant, more likely to view groups that en ourage violence as real threats.

So the FBI might be able to stop a bomb plot, and it has a few times. But it not equipped to do battle with a popular and political culture that allows hate to grow.

The perpetrators of the massacre at Columbine High School were drawn to the unsavory on the Internet. they had neo-Nazi literature and instructions for making bombs. In response, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee tried to ban young peoples' access to smut. Forget the Nazis. The real threat is bare breatss.

The official policy of the federal government is that homosecuals are unfit, per se, to serve in the military. It kicks them out if they say they're gay. The official policy of the U.S. Senate is to refuse to allow an openly gay man to serve as an ambassador.

The almost-official rhetoric of the anaati-abortion movement is to call women who have had abortions or those who support that choice "baby killers." The word infanticide is used over and over again to refer to abortions, particularly those conducgedf late in pregnancy, even if that pregnancy has become medically hopeless.

The official position of the ederal govenrment with respect to Chinese espionage at nuclear weapons laboratories is that no one knows if spying occurred.

Yet Wen Ho Lee, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was fingered by the media and some members of Congress as perpetrator of the worosot spying sine the Rosenbergs. He may be charged with lesser violations for a common security breach.

Do not wonder where the hate comes from. Do not kid yourself about what kind of climate allows people to believe they an go out and shoot Jews, bomb abortion clinics and gay bars, burn black churches.

This is the atmosphere we nurture each time we avert our eyes from the worst of it, and turn blissfully blind to all the rest.

Reprinted without permission from the San Francisco Chronicle, Tuesday, August 24, 1999.

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