Friday, February 26, 2010

When worlds collide: Sue & the Muslims

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 3:43 PM

News reports of yesterday’s “town hall meeting” with Rep. Sue Myrick and local Muslims refer to the longtime area politician “hoping to repair her relations with [the] Muslim community,” to “build bridges.” I guess you have to report things that way; after all, that *is what Myrick said. What’s left unsaid in such stenography journalism, however, is the obvious question:  How do you build bridges you’ve repeatedly burned?

Several speakers at the meeting criticized Myrick’s 2003 statement regarding Muslims running convenience stores. She tried to defend the statement, saying it had been taken out of context and that “I wasn’t off the wall.” OK, let’s do put her statement in context. After 9/11, many people were seeing Islamic terrorists behind every tree — anyone remember the guy arrested Uptown for taking videos of the Charlotte skyline? — and in 2003, some Muslims in Charlotte were arrested for helping Hezbollah in Lebanon by sending the group a portion of the money they’d made from smuggling cigarettes. It was within that context that Myrick talked repeatedly of her fear that Islamic terrorists were plotting against the U.S. everywhere within the country, and “explained” her view by saying, "Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country." Even at that time — “within the context” — Myrick was roundly ridiculed for her xenophobia and fear-mongering. "I wasn't off the wall"? Since when?

Myrick says her relatively new position on the House Intelligence Committee has shown her, through intelligence reports, that the threat of a homegrown Islamic jihad is an immediate, huge threat to America that makes her want to yell, “Wake up, America!” That’s great, but one glaring fact stands out: Other members of the Intelligence Committee have seen the same documents Myrick saw, most of them for a longer time than she’s been there, and you don’t see those members jumping up and down, trying to scare the daylights out of the public. Myrick’s freak-out over these scary documents is all too reminiscent of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who, in the build-up to the Iraq war, would cherry-pick specific intelligence reports that matched their inner panic levels,  even if the sources had been discredited (see The One-Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind).

Yes, of course, there are some really angry Muslims in America who’d like to commit terrorist acts, guys like the pathetic Underwear Bomber. There are also some really angry Christians who’d like to commit terrorist acts, such as the abortion-doctor killer, and Austin, Texas’ anti-IRS airplane guy. If you listen to Myrick, however, it’s only Muslims who are interested in killing Americans, never mind Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and the whole goofy militia movement. At least one speaker at last night’s meeting asked Myrick why she’s not as devoted to fighting that type of terrorist. After all, with the obvious, big exception of 9/11, right-wing nut terrorists have a far higher success rate than their Muslim counterparts — at least in the U.S.

Myrick, though, as she has done at various times in her career, is latching onto one specific issue and obsessively flogging it for all it’s worth. She's always riled up or panicky about something. If it’s not teenagers being ruined by heavy metal music, it’s the evil of traffic problems. If it’s not traffic, it's coffeepots talking to her. If it's not Mr. Coffee coming to life, it’s illegal immigrants wrecking American culture. And now, she’s jacked to the gills over some intelligence reports (which, it’s widely known, are very often all over the map in terms of believability — or has no one told her that yet?).

I give Charlotte area Muslims credit for showing up last night to exchange views with Myrick. After all the baloney she’s been spewing about Islam for years (and we haven’t even gone into her written introduction to a book by a confirmed anti-Muslim bigot who refers to Obama as a “crack-head” and “our Muslim leader”), I give them credit for their patience.

I am not saying that Myrick is cynical or insincere. That’s not part of her makeup, and I’m sure she thinks she was “reaching out” to local Muslims yesterday, and is no doubt dismayed today that some of them “just don’t get it.” Myrick has always been what philosopher Eric Hoffer called a “true believer.” She truly believes all the wacked out stuff she says, and always has. To my mind, that’s one of the best reasons to get her out of Congress.

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