Extremists in the U.S. come in a myriad of forms; Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, anti-gay zealots, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes and others. And their numbers are growing.
According to The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, the number of hate groups operating in America last year had risen to 1,002. The number of nativist vigilante groups grew to 319, while the antigovernment "Patriot" movement skyrocketed 61% to 824 groups just last year.
There are attempts to roll back birthright citizenship. Laws have been introduced this year in Congress and states across the country as we experience what Roll Call's executive editor called the "Arizonification of America".
Right-wing candidates called for a revolution and "second amendment solutions". Sarah Palin marked opposition candidates with crosshairs and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann warned Obama would set up re-education camps for young people. Media personalities Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck called the new president a Socialist, a Fascist, a Nazi and a Marxist, and floated conspiracy theories.
How could we forget the Neo-Nazi National Alliance? Founded by William Pierce, the group produced assassins, bombers and bank robbers. Pierce's novel, The Turner Diaries, was the inspiration for Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Four days after the shooting, a campaign called the Civility Project, a two-year effort led by an evangelical conservative, Mark DeMoss shut down because of a lack of interest and furious opposition. He told The New York Times, "The worst e-mails I received about the Civility Project were from conservatives with just unbelievable language about communists and some words I wouldn't use in this phone call. This political divide has become so sharp that everything is black and white, and too many conservatives can see no redeeming value in any opponent."
In Spokane, Wash. police found and defused a bomb that had been hidden along the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade.
In Michigan, police arrested a man in a car loaded with M-80s and other explosives in a parking lot outside one of the nation's largest mosques, packed at the time with 500 mourners at a funeral.
On the day after Barack Obama's inauguration, Keith Luke of Brockton, Mass., was arrested after shooting three black immigrants from Cape Verde, killing two of them, as part of a plan to kill black, Latino and Jewish people.
Members of the Minutemen American Defense (MAD), an anti-immigrant vigilante group that conducts "citizen patrols" on the Arizona-Mexico border -- is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the slayings of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter.
Two white supremacists were arrested in Tennessee for plotting to assassinate Barack Obama and murder more than 100 black people and Jews. The member of the racist skinhead group Supreme White Alliance, planned to kill 88 people, then behead another 14.
Sadly, this list could go on and on and on.
For those who deny the influence and impact of inflammatory rhetoric, I would ask what more they believe Osama Bin Laden offered his followers from a self-imposed prison in Abbotabad, Pakistan.
As Americans flocked to the streets to celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden, I couldn't help but recall the celebrations that took place in the Middle East on 9/11 and at how outraged Americans were. I wonder, at what point we come to realize that we can't exempt ourselves from the same moral calculus we apply to others?
Extremist Muslims are indeed a problem, but we need to acknowledge that the American extremists among us are a problem as well. Until that fateful day of 9/11, Americans paid little attention to the rhetoric and mood that led up to the event. I should hope we will not continue to ignore the rhetoric and mood that festers among us now, just because the initiators are Americans. Let's hope not, because hate is coming to a place near you.
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