Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On the Department of Homeland Security and Right Wing Extremism

I'm rather livid at the moment. No, perhaps livid is the wrong word. Severly disturbed? Yes, I think disturbed is the word I'm looking for. (*note: my apologies for the epic length of this post)

I was speaking with my mother this evening and she asked if I had heard about the memo from Homeland Security sent to police and other law enforcement agencies. I had not, and of course could not just come home and go to sleep as planned without educating myself on the situation. After a bit of searching I finally found a pdf copy of the leaked 10 page memo titled "Right Wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment" The first link takes you to the page, the title takes you to the full pdf kindly provided by ABC. You can find other news reports here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. You can also Google it. There are TONS of news stories on this.

Let's start from the beginning. Page 2 of the document gives us the "Scope". It begins by saying "This product is one of a series of intelligence assessments published by the
Extremism and Radicalization Branch to facilitate a greater understanding of the
phenomenon of violent radicalization in the United States."
Okay. Fair enough. This was the only leaked document (that we know of). As it states in the fine print on the bottom of page 2,
"No portion of the LES information should be released to the media, the general public, or over non-secure Internet servers. Release of this information could adversely affect or jeopardize
investigative activities."
One can only hope that the "series of intelligence assessments" includes a report of at least equal length regarding left wing extremists as well. After all, extremism works in multiple directions.

"Federal efforts to influence domestic public opinion must be conducted in an overt and transparent manner, clearly identifying United States Government sponsorship." I'm still torn on this. As American citizens we are all born with certain inalienable rights and freedoms. While personal opinion may not be listed specifically, I'm pretty sure it's covered. On the upside, at least they're stating that their efforts to influence public opinion needs to be overt and transparent? I'll admit, at first I read it as "covert" and nearly went through the roof. But then I read it properly and took a breath.

Moving on. I'm not going to go through every detail of the document. It references the Oklahoma City Bombing, a horrific tragedy to be sure, as well as several other terror-related incidents. I understand that these sorts of things need to be monitored and prevented, we never want to see these kinds of events again. Extremists come from all walks of life and political beliefs. Being right wing or conservative does not make you a terrorist. As their report says on page 3, "The DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has no specific information that domestic rightwing* terrorists are currently planning acts of violence" So all of this is what, conjecture? Fear? Conspiracy? Granted, that statement follows with "but rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment." The bolded emphasis on the word "may" is mine. MAY. Not are. A lot of people MAY be planning some horrible kind of attack. Right wing, left wing or anywhere in between.

The last sentence also bothers me. While I don't necessarily disagree that there are those pathetic, closed-minded individuals that would use President Obama's race as a reason for violence, I didn't realize that being in the right wing or conservative made a person racist. As I've stated in the past on my blog, I am conservative. I did not vote for President Obama. As I've also stated, I am thrilled that we have FINALLY made such a historic, long overdue step in the progress of our national history. Regardless of my disagreements with his ideology or approach to politics, I recognize what a truly amazing and historical event Mr. Obama's election was and is, what it represents. I honestly have never understood racism in practice. I understand that it exists and that there are without a doubt racist, intollerant people in this world. But I don't understand the thought process behind it. I've never understood what could drive a person to hate another based on the color of their skin, their faith, their nationality, their language, their gender. I could go on and on.

It's okay to be different. Differences are to be celebrated, they're what make each of us unique. You don't even have to agree with all differences. But to hate them, I simply do not understand. And to accuse someone of being racist simply because they disagree with your political agenda or something you are doing, well, that just perpetuates and encourages it. One of my biggest pet peeves is an inaccurate, untrue and inappropriate use of the race card (or the gender card, or the religion card, etc etc) For example, I heard many accusations (thankfully none directed towards me) that people were only opposed to Mr. Obama "because he's black". For some that may be true. (I pity those people) But for me and many other people it had absolutely nothing to do with the color of his skin, and everything to do with his platforms, policies and goals. Disagreement does not always equal racism. (note that I said not always, because sadly, sometimes it does)

There is a strong focus on the possible restriction of firearms and how they are worried that this might give those right wing extremists a platform for recruitment and cause discontent. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I'm okay with a little gun control. I fully respect the second amendment and the events that caused it to be included as an amendment. If you don't know what led to this, please pick up a history book and read the chapters pertaining to the formation of the United States. You'll want to start prior to the American Revolution. I would start back at the colonization of the "New World". Though I respect the second amendment, I think a little gun control would not go amiss, depending on the restrictions and the fine print. As I have not personally read the text of any proposed restrictions, that is really all I can say on the subject. Until such time as I read the full text of such bills, I am unable to formulate an opinion on any potential violation of our right to keep and bear arms.

As this post has turned into a paper, I want to touch on one final portion that most upset me. It's the fine print at the bottom of page 3: "
* (U) Rightwing extremism in the United States can be broadly divided into those groups, movements, and adherents that are primarily hate-oriented (based on hatred of particular religious, racial or ethnic groups), and those that are mainly antigovernment, rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority, or rejecting government authority entirely. It may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.
Okay, there's a lot in this little paragraph. Beginning part. Yes, extremists often fall into hate-oriented categories, not all hate-related groups are Right Wing, thus this definition cannot be given solely to the Right Wing. A more accurate definition would be "Extremists" or "Extremism".

On the part about anti-government, etc. I would like to know what they are defining as "anti-government" and "government authority". First off, states DO have authority. Obviously they do not have complete autonomy, they figured out early on that for the United States to work they needed a centralized government with certain authority. I personally do not need the government to control every single aspect of my life nor do I think the government should be all powerful. I'm also not quite as far as the agrarian beliefs of Thomas Jefferson (though I do greatly admire the statesman and former president) Basically, I don't want a central government that micromanages everything. It's unnecessary and frankly inappropriate. And I don't think that makes me an extremist or a terrorist. It's just my opinion on how I believe the government would work best.

Finally, we come to the part that references opposition to abortion or immigration. Wow. Unbelievable. I understand that they said groups dedicated to a single issue, but I have to question their definition there. I know that people think the Catholic Church is dedicated only to opposing abortion. I see in shades of grey on a lot of things, I see the different colors. On abortion? I see black and white. I believe that abortion is as good as murder, not to mention incredibly selfish. I read blogs of wonderful women who struggled with fertility and went through long and expensive adoptions, and yet women constantly choose to simply kill a baby who these women would have loved unconditionally. It breaks my heart how people can think this is okay. I could go on and on about this issue. I get the whole right to choose argument, but what about the baby? When do they get their choice? And how about immigration? If it's legal immigration, I'm all for it. We are, after all, immigrants of one kind or another. However, I feel very strongly about illegal immigration. I'm torn in two between compassion and empathy for the struggles that lead people to make the decision to sneak into our country avoiding the legal channels and the blatant disregard for the legalities of the situation. What gets me even more upset and confused are the politicians who want to reward this blatant disregard for our laws by offering benefits and legal forms of identification such as drivers' licenses. I simply do not understand the contradiction of providing an individual here illegally and against laws with a LEGAL form of identification. Am I the only one who sees the disconnect and contradicition there?

Opposing abortion or immigration DOES NOT make you an extremist or a terrorist. Since when was having an opinion or view grounds for being a terrorist? Yes, I understand that there ARE terrorists who use such opinions or views as a justification for acts of violence, that was made painfully clear on September 11, 2001. But the acts of a few using false justification for their actions does not and should not condemn the entire group to which they claim to belong.

Alright. I'm typed out. I'll get down off my soap box. Kudos to anyone who actually made it through to the end here. I'm impressed. Follow the link, read the full report, inform yourself.


MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

I think an OY VE is in order.


Jaina said...

MamaGeek-Haha, pretty sure I'm agreed, though I'm slightly curious what specifically prompted the oy ve ;)

Bottles Barbies And Boys said...

AMEN, to that sister and well written at that!

Your too cute when your mad.

Jaina said...

Johnina-Thank you :) I totally did not set out to write a paper, but that's what came out.