Up until a month ago, Republicans had stepped up their ongoing holy war against Planned Parenthood. After the publication of doctored tapes alleging that the organization had been merchandizing fetal tissue and organs, Mike Huckabee compared it to heroin dealers; Ted Cruz said it was a criminal enterprise; and Carly Fiorina gave graphic descriptions of flailing embryos callously harvested for organs. Less than two months ago the GOP’s Congressional caucus deemed the defunding of Planned Parenthood important enough to shut down the federal government altogether: this was one of the main impetuses for John Boehner’s resignation as Speaker of the House.
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Small wonder, then, that in the 24 hours after Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs was turned into a war zone by 57-year-old Richard Lewis Dear – who killed 3 people, including a policeman – the Republican presidential candidates have maintained a deafening silence, with the exception of Cruz, who expressed sympathy for the victims. Unlike the seemingly endless stream of demands and condemnations that followed the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, no one has suggested that churches in which Planned Parenthood are routinely depicted as the devil’s spawn be closed; no one has demanded that Evangelicals who believe performers of abortions are committing crimes against humanity should be issued with special identity cards; and no one has called for arresting or deporting the inciters who exploit such incidents to whip up hate (and garner more votes).
Instead, Republicans are fervently praying that the police investigation reveal that Dear is insane or that his choice of Planned Parenthood as a venue for his 6-hour long gun battle with the police was mere coincidence. The last thing GOP candidates need right now is for the rash assaults on Planned Parenthood to come back at them like boomerangs, or, even worse, for the political momentum that has shifted in their favor since the Paris attacks to suddenly stall. In the aftermath of Islamic State’s onslaught in the French capital, the GOP has succeeded in shifting the public focus away from the ideological fanaticism and the bizarre presidential candidates that seem to have taken over the party and towards President Obama’s perceived weakness in the war against ISIS and the promotion of the fear and loathing that many Americans feel towards Muslims in general and American Muslims in particular.
Planned Parenthood, after all, has been the target of violence and arson and even murder since its inception almost a century ago, much more so since right-wing conservatives promoted the organization to public enemy number one in recent years. And even though 26 Americans have been killed since 9/11 in terror incidents linked to Muslims in America, 48 have died at the hands of right-wing terrorists: The FBI consistently warns that home-grown right-wing terror is a danger no less clear and present than jihad-inspired assaults. And never mind the horrendous statistics of gun-related violence that consistently shock the world, including the fact that since 1968, more people have been killed by guns in the U.S. than those who have died in all of its wars combined.
Nonetheless, no one is under any illusion that anything is about to change: The U.S. is far from being the only nation in the world in which inciting against foreigners, especially if they are Arab and Muslim, is more worthwhile for politicians than lecturing citizens on how they must change themselves in order to face the challenges to their societies. Americans are also willfully blind to the obvious connection between their intolerably high rates of death by gunfire and the incredible ease of acquiring weapons and ammunitions. If nothing happened after 12 people were shot down in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012 or after 27 people, mostly young children, were slaughtered in Newtown in December of that year or after nine African-Americans were targeted in a church in Charleston in June, 2015 or another nine were killed in a college in Oregon less than two months ago – it certainly won’t happen after an incident in which “only” three people are killed. Especially when the venue for the bloodshed is
a place that supposedly respectable political leaders have described as a hellish altar in which embryos are routinely tortured and sacrificed by godless liberals.
First and foremost among those who seem to have lost hope is Obama, who has made no less than 15 public pronouncements in the wake of deadly shooting sprees since he took office seven and a half years ago. After each carnage he has asserted that things can’t go on like this, after each atrocity he has prodded Congress to toughen gun laws and after each massacre his anger and frustration are harsher and clearer than before. Perhaps this is one of the reasons – in addition to the Thanksgiving holiday – that Obama made do with a statement but no public appearance this time around. “This is not normal,” he said, but it was in a tone of resignation, not defiance.