Conservatives — March 26, 2012 at 6:44 am

On Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi and “taking our country back”


They’ve taken our country back, alright…

I haven’t yet written about the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, not because I had nothing to say but because I wasn’t sure I had anything to add to the conversation. Then, over the weekend, an Iraqi mother in California was beaten to death and left with a note that said “Go Back To Your Country, You Terrorist”. It was then that I realized that fearful, angry conservatives have achieved their goal of “taking our country back”. They have taken it back to the 1950s and before.

There has been plenty of hyperbole thrown around with regard to the killing of Trayvon. However, I find it pretty easy to forgive that. He was an unarmed kid being stalked by another man at night who was then gunned down for no other reason than that a self-styled vigilante was afraid. The man who shot him was allowed to carry a gun and is even now free despite having murdered someone yet our young people are being told not to wear hoodies.

And yet, the fear of hoodies is somewhat understandable, right? There is a whole musical genre, “gangsta rap”, that uses guns and violence and sexual predation combined with specific ways of dressing that include hoodies to create a persona of a “to-be-feared” hero (or anti-hero). So that certainly doesn’t help.

But it’s also certainly no reason to be shot when you have done nothing. That’s the result of unreasoned fear of something different.

Shaima Alawadi was an Iraqi mother of five young kids. She wore a head scarf and looked different. That was enough to justify beating her to death with a tire iron for her killer, apparently. Again: unreasoned fear of something different.

I listened to an African American pastor on Friday night who, in who spoke in a calm but passionate way about how he never thought he’d be seeing things like the slaying of Trayvon Martin again in his lifetime. “This is the closest thing to Jim Crow,” that I have ever seen,” he said.

He’s right. It’s the same fear of people who are different that creates hate in the minds of some who then act on it.

Since the election of Barack Obama to be president, there has been a small but very vocal segment of the USA that has stoked fears of him being different. They question his race, his religion and his allegiance. They have stoked fears of “illegal aliens” and Middle Easterners and, frankly, anyone who isn’t white or who doesn’t fit into some predefined image of what is acceptable.

While the tea party’s rhetoric from the 2008 and 2010 elections may be starting to fade a bit, the repercussions of their message are still resonating with some who act on their fear. The progressive change that allowed someone like Barack Obama to be elected to the presidency has been rolled back, largely thanks to the birthers and the far right conservatives who have been stoking fear against those who are different. Since the 2008 election, they have called (and still call) President Obama “the Usuper”. They have said he “hates America” and “hates white people”. They have created fear and all the while talked about “taking our country back”.

In some sense, they have succeeded. They have taken our country back to a dark and evil place where being different can get you murdered.

In 2012, it’s time to take our country forward.

[Image credit: LTDesignStudios – available as t-shirts and hoodies]