You don’t need much foul fodder and uninformed blather to arouse America’s rightwing fanatics, and President Obama may have unintentionally given them more reason to bristle and to attack.
On Monday, speaking before the Turkish Parliament, Obama said, “The United States has been enriched by Muslim Americans. Many other Americans have Muslims in their family or have lived in a Muslim-majority country. I know because I am one of them.” This very frank admission as he seeks to bond with the Islamic world will only renew charges from his detractors that he is a Muslim, which Obama has persistently denied.
In a related development, the Turkish police said it had detained a man after receiving a hoax tip he was plotting to kill Obama. Prior to Obama’s arrival, the man was released and the police said it was nothing serious. “The tip turned out to be a hoax,” a police official told the press.
Meanwhile, back in America, rightwing talk shows are sure to take Obama’s statement and make it grist for their mill, insisting their assertions were right all along. Anticipate yet another distraction to Obama’s attempt to reach out to remove some of the xenophobia fueling the enmity between different religious communities.
More troubling, and far more potentially violent, is when such wrongheaded notions are viewed as factual by such Obama-haters as Richard Poplawski, the man accused of killing three police officers in Pittsburgh over the weekend. In his postings on websites, Poplawski said he was worried about the election of President Obama and that he would defend himself if anyone ever tried to take his guns.
Much of Poplawski’s anger can be gleaned from his postings on Stormfront, a white supremacist chat site, and Infowars, a website affiliated with radio talk show host Alex Jones. A few drinks and an argument with his mother were apparently enough to push him to the confrontation he sought.
The incident in Pittsburgh was but one of several within a span of a few days in which we have witnessed violence-prone citizens on killing rampages. With an economy in a death spiral, unemployment numbers climbing each day, there is a sense of desperation in the land, and it doesn’t augur well for any American, and particularly the president.
A report last week showed there was a 25 percent increase in gun sales, and with murder and mayhem in schools, churches, the workplace and in our homes, you wonder if people are arming themselves for protection or to attack.
There is certainly something very disconcerting when you have rabid talk show hosts fanning the flames of hate and violence with talk of Zionist conspiracies and a surge of Black Muslim assertion. Obama has his hands full trying to quell the chaos and wars in the Middle East, but a greater danger may be lurking somewhere in America’s underbelly, festering and waiting for an opportunity to turn thoughtless rhetoric into a terrible tragedy.
On Tuesday, Obama made an unannounced stop in Baghdad. “It’s great to see the troops,” Obama said shortly after landing. “They’re putting their heart and soul into the effort.” According to Obama’s press corps, the main purpose of Obama’s stop was to visit U.S. troops. Among other things, Obama will participate in the awarding of 10 Medals of Valor while in Baghdad.
He also wanted to discuss Iraq’s political situation with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Iraqi President Jalal Talibani. Obama planned to meet with al-Maliki at the U.S. military’s Camp Victory base.