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David Sirota Is Not Evil

I read the Sirota op-ed piece and respectfully disagree with the contentions of Repair Man Jack. Obviously, progressives (of which I am one) and conservatives have vastly different views on many issues. I don’t believe my views are evil, nor do I believe any of yours are evil, either. I think — for the most part — we all generally want the same things for ourselves, our family and friends, and our fellow countrymen. We want to be safe, we want 8 year olds to live to be 9 and not be blown to bits at a civic event by lunatics — whether Islamic, anti-abortion, pro-environmental or simply apolitically warped, we want the freedom to pursue good, moral and rewarding goals — goals that benefit us, as well as others. And, for the most part, all of us — conservatives and liberals alike — want a government that promotes all of these values and neither imposes unfair or unconstitutional constraints on us nor allows others to do so. We just often differ on how to achieve those things. I respect that conservatives have a very optimistic view of human nature and tend to be very cautious of government on principal. I also respect that progressives have historically seen government as capable of engaging in laudable and beneficial conduct — the creation of Social Security, Civil and Voting Rights laws, clean air and food regulations — and that there is a different but just as valid optimism in that world view, also. Some times we are right; some times we are misguided. We all struggle though, I think, to do the right thing. On Daily Kos, they struggle to do the right thing. Here, at Red State, you all struggle to do the right thing. We sometimes get in our own way of those goals by asserting a moral certainty of our own views that is overwrought or even wrong. And by “we,” I include myself and those who generally share my progressive beliefs.

That said, I read Sirota’s article and my take away was that his point is that the possibility of our government overreacting and/or engaging in policies or practices that make things worse — i.e., economically and humanly devastating wars which achieve little of value, unconstitutional intrusions into our homes and our lives, unfair targeting of people in groups that are not really responsible for any of the bad acts, the discarding of otherwise fair and equitable immigration reform (assuming you think this is a good thing, which I do) — is far more likely to occur if the perpetrator is foreign, especially Muslim, than if the perpetrator is white. And he backs that contention up with some pretty interesting links — to statistics demonstrating that twice as many domestic acts of domestic terrorism have come at the hands of non-Islamic folk than Islamic folk since 9/11 yet there has not been nearly the same overall policy reaction towards those groups of people than there has towards what Sirota calls the “non-privileged.” Obviously, foreign wars are the worst example of that. And he links to an article by a former high ranking member of the DHS who claims that when members of Department of Homeland Security dared focus on the apparently growing and very real home-grown terrorist threats from nominally crazy right-wing groups, the report was leaked and misconstrued, the very focus itself came under attack and the entire effort at examining and trying to thwart domestic terrorism from right-wing groups was actually dismantled.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that he’s right. I’m willing to consider that his facts are wrong or overstated. But he’s not evil for pointing these things out or for hoping that the ultimate policy fall-out from this tragedy will not add harm to the already incalculable harm to the innocent people killed by the bombs. In sum, Sirota is not saying that he hopes that the perpetrator is a white home-grown American because he hates white home-grown Americans. He’s saying he hopes the perpetrator is a white home-grown American because, based on past history, we’re far less likely to make things worse for all Americans if he (or she — however unlikely that may be) is.

What makes me very sad is the notion expressed in some of the comments to this article that his argument is so evil, so bereft of any sort of legitimacy that he himself deserves to die (i.e., the comments that seek to falsely ascribe to him the kinds of statements that would inflame maniacal Islamists to murderous intent). I understand the rhetorical intent behind those comments and that they are tongue in cheek. But certainly they reflect the worst of our instincts — I doubt any of us, no matter how much we might disagree with each other — wants the other put in physical harm’s way.

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