David Sirota’s provocative column that openly hopes the Boston bomber turns out to be a white man is at least worthy of discussion. The right-wing reaction is also interesting. Take Myra Adams, who served on Bush’s 2004 and McCain’s 2008 campaigns. She has two blatant misreadings of what Sirota wrote.
She makes the point that if the bomber was “influenced by foreign radical Islamic forces” then the president will have failed to protect the country against them, handing the right an effective way to criticize the administration. But Sirota did not mention that as a reason to hope that the bomber is a white man. Sirota is much more issue-oriented than that. He is no cheerleader for the president or the Democratic Party. It’s pretty clear that he is just as concerned about how the administration will act (or feel compelled to act) as he is about how the right will act.
The second misreading is this:
But if the Boston bomber is revealed as a right-wing nut job, then the mainstream media has a more explainable, less feared villain. And that would make similar attacks easier to prevent in the future by just rounding up all the right-wingers and taking away their pressure cookers.
Again, Sirota did not make anything resembling that argument. He didn’t say what we should or shouldn’t do if the bomber turns out to be a right-wing nut. However, we can infer that he would disapprove of any effort to round up all the right-wingers because he’s being extremely critical of the heavy-handed ways Muslims are treated in this country and abroad. He’s saying that there is a double standard, where white men are immune from being stereotyped in a way that Muslims are not. But that doesn’t mean that he thinks the solution to this hypocrisy is to stereotype white men. Presumably, the solution is to stop stereotyping everyone else.
These two misreadings are telling. The first tells us that the right would use evidence of an Islamic-inspired bombing to score political points. The second shows projection. Ms. Adams cannot even imagine a response to a right-wing nut that doesn’t result in a dragnet against innocent right-wingers.
As to Sirota’s point, I can certainly understand what he is saying. He does a good job of forcing people to think about the double standard. I think that’s a good thing. There are a lot of people out there right now hoping that the bomber isn’t a Muslim, including nearly all Muslims, and there are people hoping that he isn’t a right-wing nut job, including nearly all right-wingers. But how many non-right-wing whites are hoping it isn’t a white person? I know that I haven’t even thought about it. And Sirota’s right. The fact that I don’t have to think about it is a sign of my privilege.
So, I guess he’s provoked a useful conversation.
On the other hand, the key here is that regardless of who did it, we should not use it as an excuse to increase people’s anxiety, or to pit one group against another, or to ramp up the level of hate, or to go overboard curtailing people’s civil liberties, or to misuse resources, or to make an excuse for more endless war. Listen to the president. We will not be terrorized. We will not be afraid. We will catch who did this and bring them to justice. Cool, calm, determined.
That’s all we need.
We don’t need to score political points. We need justice.