Othering Isn’t Just Immoral; It’s Dumb   Leave a comment


So I could go on another kick of talking about how incredibly stupid our gun laws are in reference to the Sikhs who were murdered in Wisconsin. Heck, maybe I’ll get around to that. In the meantime, I’d like to talk about how stupid our Islamophobia and our militarism are. First, there’s this story about our Islamophobia.

But when, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security reported that white supremacy is the US’s biggest threat for domestic terror, it was met with harsh criticism. Conservatives blasted the department for defining terror threats too broadly, instead of focusing on potential Islamic terrorists. Then-House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was one of those who berated DHS, saying that they weren’t focusing on the real threats the US faces.

We saw these attitudes come out during the Aurora shootings. Some hesitated to call the shootings terrorism. If a Muslim had been responsible for Aurora, would anyone have been asking that question? We see the same thing here. Our government is classifying crimes (and allocating corresponding resources) based not on the type of activity, but rather based on who carries it out. It’s a waste of resources.

Then again, the Wisconsin killer’s connection to the military can’t be ignored either. We have this post from Glenn Greenwald to sort out that connection.

White supremacists have a natural attraction to the army,” the Military Law Review said. “They often see themselves as warriors, superbly fit and well-trained in survivalist techniques and weapons and poised for the ultimate conflict with various races.”

Is that perception on the part of white supremacists irrational: that joining the U.S. military is an optimal way to engage in, or train for, “conflict with various races”? It’s very hard to make the case that it is. There is ample evidence both of white supremacists’ encouraging adherents to join the U.S. military as well as those groups targeting service members for recruitment. It goes without saying that the vast, vast majority of members of the U.S. military are not members of white supremacist groups (indeed, only 62% of enlisted service members are non-Hispanic whites, though minorities are seriously underrepresented in the officer class). If anything, the attempt to Christianize the U.S. military is a greater problem than avowed members of racist groups joining the military (though those problems are arguably related). But whatever else is true, even the U.S. military’s own publication has recognized that “white supremacists have a natural attraction to the army.”

We live in a society that glorifies violence. We don’t support our teachers like we Support Our Troops. We don’t support our firemen like we Support Our Troops. Hell, we don’t even support our police officers the way we Support Our Troops. The military is predicated on the idea that military force can conquer all, and fosters an “us versus them” mentality that might be necessary in a war, but is a liability in most of the rest of life. The world is a complicated, frequently ambiguous place, and glorifying the grunts who are trained to kill and to follow orders is possibly not the best idea.

(And to be clear, I think there are lots of great people who are soldiers. I know and like some of them. But good people can participate in bad institutions, and the military as currently constituted hurts families (through moving every few years), encourages human trafficking (in areas near large bases), ignores endemic rape (Something like a quarter of female service members will be sexually assaulted), and, oh yeah, mainly exists to kill and destroy. Sometimes killing and destroying might be necessary, but they’re never noble in the least. I can like and want the best for service members without respecting the institution they serve.)

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