Back in July of 2008, a Tennessee man named Jim David Adkisson with a strong "hatred of the liberal movement" opened fire in a liberal gay-affirming Unitarian church and killed two people. The killer, who was unrepentant and admitted that he committed an ideological hate crime, pled guilty and was recently sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Knoxville News Sentinel has posted this killer's hate-filled manifesto, which you can read here (PDF). Hold off on reading for a minute.
I believe that many, if not most, people opposed to liberalism and LGBT rights do not actually want to see us harmed. Yet, I do think that much political rhetoric goes beyond what is necessary to defend one's own position. Rhetoric gets heated on all sides of an issue, but the rhetoric of the anti-gay industry, of many anti-gay bloggers, and even of politicians can be extreme in its vilification of LGBT people. I firmly believe that when people vilify small groups of minorities who are already thought of us dangerous in some way, it is only a matter of time until verbal violence leads to physical violence.
I read through Jim David Adkisson's manifesto and it read like a list of standard anti-gay, anti-liberal talking points that have been uttered by more prominent conservative and/or anti-gay personalities. Adkisson is a man who appears to be in real pain and, if his manifesto is any indication, he thinks that "Marxist" liberals and gays are the cause of this pain. His paranoia and Red Scare sentiment did not just come to him in a vacuum. We see this rhetoric all over the web and all over the rightwing media. So, as an informative little exercise, today we're going to play a game called Who Said It: A Murderer or a Conservative Talking Head? I am going to provide a quote, and you are going to try to guess who said it: Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sally Kern, Louis Sheldon, or.... unapologetic murderer Jim David Adkisson:
A. "The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation.... I honestly think [homosexuality] is the biggest threat, even moreso than terrorism or Islam."
B. "Lately I've felt helpless in our war on Terrorism. But I realized I could engage the terrorists [sic] allies here in America. The best allies they've got. The Democrats!"
C. "The worst problem America faces today is Liberalism. They have dumbed down education, they have defined deviancy down. Liberals have attacked every major institution that made America great. From the Boy Scouts to the Military; from education to religion."
D. "I think a baseball is the most effective way these days [to talk to liberals]."
E. "Liberals are evil. They embrace the tenets of Karl Marx, they're Marxist, socialist, communists."
F. "The American dream has an entirely different definition to Democrats and liberals than it does to you and me. Their American dream is the United States becoming a full-fledged socialist country."
G. "[The Unitarian Universalist Church] is a collection of sicko's [sic], weirdo's [sic], and homo's [sic].... They embrace every pervert that comes down the pike."
H. "Liberals are the sworn enemies of religious Americans."
Jim David Adkisson quotes- B, C, E, G.
Sally Kern- A.
Rush Limbaugh- F.
Ann Coulter- D.
Louis Sheldon- H.
Freedom of speech is one of the greatest privileges we have in America. But with this freedom comes responsibility. Even if conservative talking heads and the vast majority of their listeners themselves do not wish physical harm on gay people, or liberals, or any other group of people, I wish they could at least fathom that their violent rhetoric, can and does actually lead to physical violence. I visit anti-gay and other conservative sites and I see everyday citizen bloggers parrot the sentiment that "homosexuals" and liberals are destroying everything that is good about America. How can these people not expect some people who hear this rhetoric to want to kill us? Do any of you really think that that Jim David Adkisson is the only person out there who believes that "liberals are a pest like termites" and that good patriots should "kill them in the streets"?
Unfortunately, the silence from traditional values folks and "marriage defenders" with respect to this case has been deafening.