Not long ago, while reading the Best Sellers list in The New York Times Book Review, I had an Aha! Moment. I'd been wondering why recently there haven't been any books there that I felt drawn to read. Suddenly I understood: the majority of books selling well are about murder. Here are just a few of the ticklers following several titles: "A Swedish hacker becomes a murder suspect." An ex-cop "reunites with his childhood sweetheart to pursue a serial killer." A bounty hunter "tracks a celebrity chef's killer." A mayor in one book "pursues a killer" while in another it's an investigator in killer pursuit. Also, a "Texas sheriff investigates a mass murder." And that's just the hardcover list.
What is it about violence that so many Americans love? Why do we read books like that or flock to movies or T.V. programs rife with violence? More importantly, what does that incipient violence augur for our future in light of the unnerving behavior of some people at the now infamous town hall meetings? What is beneath the racist slurs that have been revealed since we elected a black president?
I asked my book group to reflect on these questions. Some members suggested I was making too much of it; after all, they said, there has always been racism and militancy in this country. It's part of our landscape. It doesn't mean that we're about to see a surge of political violence.
Others, like me, disagreed. We felt threatened by a sense of subterranean violence lurking in the (right) wings. The question, along with my own discomfort, continued to plague me, so I did a bit of research. What I found only confirmed my anxieties.
According to a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which tracks such trends, militia groups disgruntled with a poor economy and a liberal black president are regrouping across the country. One special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF) told SPLC researchers that this is the most growth he's seen in more than a decade. "All it's lacking is a spark," he said.
Similar to the upswing in militia groups in the 1990s spawned by the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas, right wing militias are "popping up in large numbers," says the Associate Press. At least 50 new groups have been identified in the past few months. Recruiting videos are garnering large audiences on You Tube. In one of them, a man holding a semi-automatic rifle which he is encouraging others to buy says, "Things are bad. They're going to get worse. Our country is in peril."