Thursday, February 12, 2015

#JeSuisAméricain: What Domestic Terrorism Looks Like

Yusor Abu-Salha, her sister Razan Abu-Salha, and her husband Deah Barakat were murdered in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Tuesday, 10th February 2015. Their killer shot them in their apartment. He then turned himself in to Chapel Hill Police. The victims were Muslim, and the murderer is a proud “anti-theist”. As expected, Twitter went crazy. Everyone was waiting for a hate crime charge, but thus far, the police are saying this murder was about a dispute over a parking space. This is where I call bullshit.

Let’s look at what these three people were doing with their lives. All three were students. Deah Barakat was enrolled in UNC’s school of dentistry, and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, was to be enrolled in the coming semester. Deah also obviously loved his UNC sports, because when Dean Smith died, he simply tweeted, “UNC lost a legend today”. Razan Abu-Salha was a sophomore at NC State University. All three were honour students. All three participated in charities to help the less fortunate and refugees of war. Yusor Abu-Salha recorded a StoryCorps interview, regaling how great life is, and great the USA is. STORYCORPS, people! You can't get much more American than a public radio project! Deah sent out tweets denouncing violence as a tool and how just killing your enemy makes everyone ignorant. There is not one picture of any of these three people where their smiles look forced. These three individuals were doing America better than all of us.

The killer is, as stated before, an anti-theist and very pro-Second Amendment. These two things are not necessarily indicators of bad behaviour. However, anti-theists are a little bit different from atheists, in that they tend to take time out of their day to hate on a religion. Imagine a right wing religious zealot spewing fire and brimstone, but replace the misinterpreted Sturm und Drang with misinterpreted science and logic. That is an anti-theist: same amount of hate, different roots. However, his wife (soon to be ex) claims he sees everyone as equal. I guess premeditated murder was the dealbreaker for their relationship, but this defence that he sees everyone as “equal” does not hold up to his own words on his Facebook account about religion:

“When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me...If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I. But given that it doesn’t, and given the enormous harm that your religion has done in this world, I’d say that I have not only a right, but a duty, to insult it, as does every rational, thinking person on this planet.”

Yeah...That is exactly how a champion of equality sounds. I remember when Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream that one day little black girls and little black boys will go hand in hand with little white girls and boys...but fuck those dirty Canadians”.

The murderer’s ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, has a different view of his character, noting his disturbing obsession with the movie Falling Down, which should be retitled “The Passion of the Middle Aged White Dude”. His neighbours also describe him as a bully who was confrontational, especially about parking and neighbourhood noise. One neighbour essentially said he was an equal opportunity asshole to everyone. See? So it wasn’t a hate crime, because he hated EVERYONE! This really was about a parking space, so calm yourselves.

Perhaps a parking space was the  motivation for violence, but why did he think that he could walk into someone’s house with a gun and shoot them over it? This whole thing was about a parking space as much as Michael brown was killed because of stolen cigars, or as much as Eric Gardner was killed because of loose cigarettes, or as much as Marissa Alexander was not allowed to used Stand Your Ground defense because she “stepped forward”, or as much as Officer Dawon Gore was indicted because he assaulted someone on the hand with a baton while Officer Darren Wilson was not indicted at all. It was as much about a parking space as the traffic stop regarding the validity of my registration was actually about the validity of my registration. The murderer may have been an ass to everyone in his neighbourhood, but he targeted the ones who looked different and acted different upon which to enact violence, and loose gun laws gave him a murder weapon. He targeted the people who were divergent from what he considered was “normal”, and they happened to live their lives practising something he previously aggressively railed against.. He did not even have enough respect for them as people to honour the boundaries of their home. Ironically, they were probably the most American people in that neighbourhood. Perhaps on the surface this was about a parking space, but let’s not pretend that, like other cases mentioned, there aren’t much deeper, more potent layers. Things were a lot easier to define when “veiled racism” actually involved an actual white veil and a few burning crosses, but make no mistake: that disputed parking space was nothing but an excuse. Yusor Abu-Salha, Razan Abu-Salha, and Deah Barakat were killed because they were different, and the different is an easy target. Perhaps it is hyperbole to say that they were the greatest examples of a true America, but they were damn close.

Their killer is the face of the domestic terrorism about which we must be vigilant. That is not hyperbole. These "men" who can't can't fathom a person that is outside of their demographic who think that they have a say over what others do and what they see in front of their faces are a danger. If it's just some idiot ranting online about how Spider-Man is ruined if Danny Glover plays Peter Parker or kvetching because the Ghostbusters reboot has an all female cast, it's annoying, but almost adorably chauvinistic and racist, like a drunk uncle. When it's in the real world, like fake-retching when seeing two guys kiss outside, it's a bigger problem. This murderer acted because he thought he had dominion to do what he wanted since his victims were not "like him". If his act isn’t a hate crime, then I don’t know what is.

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