Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Onward White Christian Terrorists

By Sikivu Hutchinson 

In yet another act of domestic terror against a family planning facility, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin was fire-bombed recently.  The attack comes on the heels of the bombing of a Pensacola, Florida clinic in January.  Although no one was injured in the attack, the fascist demonization of Planned Parenthood by inciters like Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney continues to put women’s lives in the line of fire; in an era of vanishing clinics and mounting violence.  

In honor of Abortion Providers’ Day last month I visited a family planning clinic after participating in an abortion rights protest.  The head doctor on staff lamented how few of his colleagues had been trained to perform abortions. Volunteer patient escorts helped protect the tucked away strip mall facility from violent interlopers.  The scene was a vivid reminder of the atrocity of the assassination of Kansas abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 2009.   

Tiller was murdered in cold blood in his church by former Montana freemen and Army of God member Scott Roeder, who said he was just following God’s law. At Tiller’s funeral anti-abortion protesters wielded signs proclaiming “God sent the shooter.” His murder was the culmination of years of attempted murders, death threats, bombings and arson attacks waged against abortion providers by white Christian terrorists. While law-abiding Muslim Americans continue to be profiled and surveilled, white Christian terrorists are handled cautiously.  Historically the feds have always reserved their most savage, concerted “counter-terrorist” campaigns for radical activists of color.  From 1956 to 1971 J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI launched its notorious Cointelpro “counter-intelligence” operation targeting radical groups in the U.S.  The operation systematically co-opted, jailed, and murdered activists of color in organizations like the Black Panther Party, the US Organization, the American Indian Movement, and the liberal Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Hoover relentlessly smeared these groups as domestic terrorists. The fire-bombing of a Wisconsin Planned Parenthood clinic is a potent reminder of how white Christian terrorism gets a pass in the mainstream media.   

Yet white militants who invoke Christian fundamentalism to justify their barbaric acts against women and their allies are still dismissed in the mainstream as aberrations.  These spasms of Christian fundamentalist violence are largely peculiar to the United States. Anti-abortion activism in Western European countries such as Britian, France and Italy doesn’t inspire anywhere near the level of militant resistance seen here. This virulent strain of fundamentalism was nourished by three theocratic Republican administrations that dismembered the Constitution and effectively sanctioned criminal campaigns against abortion providers. So while the U.S. condemns Muslim religious fundamentalism and trumpets itself as a beacon for individual and civil liberties unbridled by theocratic intolerance it has become a breeding ground for the most dangerous Christian fundamentalist terrorist movement in the world.

Writing for the Southern Poverty Law Center back in 1998, Frederick Clarkson pinpointed the alignment of anti-abortion terrorism, white supremacist activism, and the far right militia movement.  Like the perennial black male inner city perp, the profiles of anti-abortion terrorists are always the same—“disaffected” white middle aged males, drunk with anti-government militia and/or a fundamentalist ethos steeped in the bloody retribution of the Old Testament. Clearly black men running around bombing abortion clinics or plotting to kill abortion doctors would get no farther than the nearest county jail cell.  And as the lynch mob justice meted out to Trayvon Martin, Kendrick McDade, and scores of other people of color demonstrates the threat of “savage” black criminality—particularly vis-à-vis white lives in the heartland or in gated communities—is the only national scourge that must be contained by any means necessary.  

Sikivu Hutchinson's forthcoming book is Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels