A day to realize that no one has a monopoly on terrorism

September 11, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

TODAY IS the date that will live in even more infamy than Dec. 7, 1941. At least Pearl Harbor was a military target.

Terrorists hijacked four jets, crashed two into New York City's World Trade Center twin towers and one into the Pentagon. Brave Americans apparently forced terrorists in the fourth jet to crash in the woods of Pennsylvania, where all lives were lost.

Nearly 3,000 died. Today we remember them and ponder what kind of tribute might be, in Abraham Lincoln's words, most "fitting and proper."

We can start by helping stamp out the hatred and fanaticism that led 19 men to kill themselves while murdering as many Americans as possible. This doesn't mean we should go around asking with a moan, as American leftists have been doing for a year, why "they" hate us. It does mean that Americans have some hatred and fanaticism right here at home to purge.

Let's not forget, in our zeal to portray terrorism as strictly an Arab or Muslim thing, that before Sept. 11, 2001, Americans spent much of their history terrorizing each other. The mobs of white men that raged through the prosperous Greenwood black community of Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921 come to mind, as do similar mobs that reduced the black community of Rosewood, Fla., to ashes two years later.

We should also remember April 19, 1995, when Timothy McVeigh, an ideological descendant of the members of the Tulsa and Rosewood mobs, bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh spent too much time reading The Turner Diaries, an anti-black, anti-Semitic novel, which climaxes with African-Americans and Jews being purged from the United States.

McVeigh is dead, rightly executed for his crimes. But his hatred lives and inspires others whose only regret is that they weren't alive to be in the Tulsa and Rosewood mobs of the 1920s.

Last month, I wrote a column that dared to suggest that Medgar Evers, the Mississippi civil rights leader assassinated in 1963, deserved more recognition in the tourist guide at Arlington National Cemetery, where he's buried. Within days, I received a letter postmarked Montgomery, Ala. Evers didn't deserve to be in Arlington, the bigot wrote, because he was a "trouble-making [N-word]."

Dismiss him as a relic of a bygone age, I told myself. But curiously, as the Sept. 11 anniversary drew near, letters and e-mails came through from fanatical and hate-filled kindred spirits of those who wreaked havoc last year.

I wanted to quote these communications exactly as they were sent, but the editors of this paper were averse to printing such despicable language. To summarize:

One e-mailer, ranting against police Commissioner Ed Norris about his use of a previously little-known police fund, felt compelled to launch a tirade against Officer Crystal Sheffield, killed in an accident while responding to an emergency call. He referred to Sheffield, who had done him no harm, with the b-word and N-word.

Another racist on the white side of the divide felt compelled to e-mail comments from chat rooms where bigots exchange slurs. Here is a summary of the lowlights:

Blacks are a disease in America who have to be eradicated, responsible for all the crime and almost all on welfare. One chatter even went back years to dredge up an old stereotype. Reverting to schoolboy form, he charged that all black folks stink.

Another enterprising bigot felt compelled to send an e-mail which, when printed out, came to 24 pages of a screed laced with anti-Semitic phrases and, of course, the N-word.

Why dredge up these comments today, you might ask, the day of remembrance and memorial for those who lost their lives last Sept. 11? Because for a year, Americans seem to have become convinced that all bigotry, fanaticism, intolerance and racism come from the Middle East, Arabs and Muslims. For a year -- over the Internet, on talk radio, in letters to newspaper editors -- Americans have skewered Muslims and Arabs and suggested that they have the monopoly on hatred.

But thanks to this ignorant group of fellow Americans -- most of whom never identify themselves but hide behind the safety of their computer keyboards -- we now know what a mighty task in cleaning our own house lies before us. And let's not delude ourselves into thinking all the hatred and bigotry are on the white side of the American racial divide.

Many of those blacks who gathered Aug. 17 on the Mall in Washington -- for the Millions for Reparations rally -- used anti-white racial invective similar to what you have read above. They threatened violence and did their best to increase racial discord. Then they had the nerve to ask white Americans for some money.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, were supposed to unite Americans across racial and religious lines. The goodwill must have lasted all of a few days. It was good while it lasted.

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