Watching the panoply of pure evil on display in the livestreamed video of Brenton Tarrant’s March 15 mosque massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, it’s difficult for me to argue with the ammo-sexuals who insist that anyone who does not carry a firearm with them at all times is potentially abetting a slaughter.
Sure, houses of worship are traditionally free of guns, but that presumes a level of civilization that the Western world can no longer boast.
Faced with footage of Tarrant’s fascist rampage and his cowardly mowing down of 50 peaceful men, women, and children, who would disagree that a well-placed bullet could have spared New Zealand and the world so much grief?
Sadly, that question has particular resonance in Phoenix, which has a history of Islamophobia, dating back at least to 2001, when a few days after 9/11, a dumb redneck shot and killed a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, believing the man to be an Arab Muslim.
Since then, there have been periodic eruptions of Islam-bashing locally, such as when a couple of hundred armed lunatics protested Phoenix’s Islamic Community Center in May 2015. In 2018, two bigot ladies, with rugrats in tow, descended upon a Tempe mosque, spouting anti-Islamic filth, ripping fliers off walls, and accusing one Muslim man of having sex with goats.
Naturally, these two self-described “patriots” filmed themselves and posted the video, which went viral.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery hasn’t helped matters much by inviting a kooky anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist to town more than once to train local cops.
And most recently, following the massacre in Christchurch, a 40-year-old man was arrested at a Glendale mosque after he allegedly “put his finger to his neck and made a sawing motion” while trying to, ahem, learn more about Islam from those in attendance.
Given these past events, and Tarrant’s livestreamed trail of blood, area Muslims have every right to be on edge.
But if you read Tarrant’s 74-page manifesto, “The Great Replacement,” what motivated Tarrant was broader than anti-Islamic bigotry. It was a fear and loathing of immigration, specifically nonwhite immigration, an animus that Arizonans are well-acquainted with, and not just because the current president of the United States, our obese, orange Caligula, is a major proponent of it.
The title of Tarrant’s screed is borrowed from a book of the same name by French author Renaud Camus, who posits that non-European (read, non-Caucasian) immigrants pose an existential threat to European culture. It dovetails with a racist conspiracy theory popular with the alt-right types, known as “white genocide,” in which immigration is seen as a means to accomplish the eradication of the white race.
“We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history,” Tarrant wrote. “Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally. Invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labour, new consumers and tax base that the corporations and states need to thrive.”
The irony here is weapons-grade. Tarrant is a descendant of Europeans who colonized large swaths of the globe, conquering and displacing the native inhabitants, often with real genocide, like that perpetrated on indigenous peoples in the U.S. and elsewhere.
And yet, this “ordinary White man,” as Tarrant called himself, feels that his “people,” who all come from someplace else, are threatened with extinction by peaceful, nonwhite migration. As Tarrant made clear, the “invasion” is not metaphorical, but literal – turning the nonviolent violent and even tiny tots into agents of doom.
“Children of invaders do not stay children, they become adults and reproduce, creating more invaders to replace your people,” he continued. “They grow up and vote against your peoples own wishes, for the interests of their own people and identity.”
Does that part about voting sound familiar? How often have you heard nativist Republicans screech that the Democrats are soft on illegal immigration because Dems stand to gain if and when citizenship is bestowed upon undocumented folk?
Of course, immigration was not always the bright line for most Rs that it now is. Whereas “amnesty” currently is a verboten term among GOPers, in 1986 their patron saint, Ronald Reagan, signed an amnesty deal that legalized about 3 million people.
President Reagan often grew misty-eyed speechifying about immigrants. President Trump, however, vilifies immigrants, illegal and otherwise, practically every chance he gets. He began his campaign for POTUS by deriding Mexican immigrants as criminals and calling them “rapists.”
And you’ll recall his statement last year bemoaning immigrants coming, legally, from “shithole countries,” such as Haiti, El Salvador, and African nations, when we really need more immigrants from Norway, in his opinion.
On the stump, Trump promised a “total and complete shutdown on Muslims entering the United States.” He ultimately delivered a partial ban that restricted travel from seven nations, five of them with majority Muslim populations.
Less than 24 hours after the Christchurch killings, while vetoing the Congressional resolution to reject his ludicrous “national emergency” over funding for his border wall, Trump used practically the same language as Tarrant, language he’s used many times before.
“People hate the word 'invasion,' but that's what it is,” Trump said during his veto party in the Oval Office. “It's an invasion of drugs, criminals, and people.”
Hair Fuhrer has regurgitated the line that Democrats promote illegal immigration, spun anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros funding the migrant “caravans” heading for the U.S., and tweeted about the non-Anglo hordes seeking to “infest our country.”
His immigration crackdown also caused the separation of thousands of children from families legally seeking asylum in this country. But that’s what happens when you use the language of warfare to address a humanitarian crisis.
No wonder Tarrant refers to Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Nor is it a surprise that Trump recently dismissed the notion that white nationalism is on the rise worldwide.
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Still, it would be incorrect to say the immigrant-bashing all started with Trump, as Arizonans well know. Several administrations of both parties have militarized the border and spouted militaristic language in the process, throwing at the frontera a never-ending array of barriers, technology and Border Patrol.
Arizona politicians have been way ahead of Trump when it comes to fomenting ethnic and racial resentment. Peddling fear of a Mexican “invasion” is old hat here. And suspicion of “furriners” is more widespread than you would reckon in a state where 27 percent of the land is still possessed by its original inhabitants; i.e., Native Americans, to whom Caucasians are interlopers.
But even in the Grand Canyon State, where nativism blossoms as regularly as the saguaro, Anglos require the occasional, unwelcome reminder of the pernicious and ultimately homicidal nature of xenophobia.
Which is why the calls for purging all corners of the internet of this viral snuff film and Tarrant’s manifesto are as wrong as they are futile. Horrifying as it is, they both bear cruel witness to, and hopefully offer a check on, what we might become.