Isn’t it pathetic the way some on the extreme right are trying to exploit the tragic murder of three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina?
It turns out that the man who murdered these three innocent people, Craig Stephen Hicks, is an atheist or humanist and isn’t a fan of religion.
So a few conservatives and some religious extremists are ecstatic, because now they can point to atheists and say: “See, not all violence is committed in the name of religion.”
Yeah, and so what?
No one ever claimed that only religious extremists commit violence. There just seems to be a much higher percentage of international violence committed in the name of God than there is in the name of no God. We also have a bloodthirsty history of religiously motivated murder that includes pogroms, Crusades, the Inquisition, and ISIS’ special brand of horrors.
Contrary to initial speculation, this murder spree doesn’t appear to be in the name of atheism. It may not even be a hate crime. It seems that Craig Stephen Hicks believed in equal rights for all people. He was pro-gay. He believed in equality for women. He had expressed such opinions over a long period of time on the Internet.
The real moral of this story is how the conservative love affair with guns and cowboy justice is a disaster for this nation. The only God Craig Stephen Hicks had, it seems, was his beloved gun collection. He had an entire cache of armaments that would have made Rambo blush. Yet, this is what passes for mainstream behavior in our gun-obsessed nation. We keep hearing from the NRA crowd that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Yes, this trite slogan is true. But who can deny that guns make the gruesome act a lot easier and more lethal?
Craig Stephen Hicks appears to be an unstable man who harassed and intimidated those who lived in or visited his apartment complex. He would angrily knock on the doors of neighbors to complain about noise or alleged parking transgressions. When he’d confront his neighbors, he’d often be holding a shotgun or have a menacing gun in his holster.
In a normal society this nut would have been arrested on the spot. He would have been rightly seen as a threat to society. But thanks to America’s romance with the NRA – we now live in a dangerous, permissive, anything-goes society where anyone with pistol and a chip on his shoulder gets to play John Wayne. He gets to be Charles Bronson or Dirty Harry, while the rest of us mortals get to run for cover.
In this case, the murderer was fixated on the movie “Falling Down.” He’d watch Michael Douglas exact vigilante justice over and over – presumably fantasizing about himself in this anti-hero role.
Craig Stephen Hicks fancied himself the protector of his neighborhood. He was George Zimmermann 2.0. He’d stalk the subdivision looking for violators. Instead of trying to keep the peace, he seemed to hope that he’d be challenged, which would allow Hicks the justification to reach for his firearm.
What occurred in North Carolina is an indictment of our society. It is penetrating commentary on the pathology of modern conservative politics. It is a reflection of the deadly anarchy the NRA has brought to America’s cities and towns.
It is outrageous that this whack job and so many like him are running around exercising their so-called freedom with the barrel of a gun pointed at normal citizens. Craig Stephen Hicks should have been locked up and placed in a padded cell a long time ago. Yet, he was free to roam and exercise his gun toting “liberty” at the expense of innocent life. (Speaking of which, why aren’t pro-life organizations in favor of reasonable gun control?)
This is the sick society we have built. Where violent, gun-swinging bullies and boneheads are lauded instead of locked up.
So, the moral of this story is not that atheists or left-wingers are capable of killing. It’s that psychopaths on all sides of the political spectrum have easy access to guns.
Sadly, we could stack dead and mangled bodies on a hill a mile high and people would remain in denial. If the terror that took place at Sandy Hook didn’t persuade Americans that our gun culture is out of control and in need of serious reform – I don’t know what will.
In any case, it is grotesque that the right wing is trying to exploit this tragedy for political gain. I’m fine with people having guns in their houses, but carrying them outside the home to intimidate neighbors or taking them into bars? I’m not okay with that, and if you are a sane individual, you shouldn’t be either.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”