Random Thoughts on Maligned Groups

The Pew Research Center did survey of Muslim Americans. I won’t comment on the bulk of it – I’m sure you can get plenty of commentary elsewhere. What I find extremely interesting is this:

Just 40% of Muslim Americans say groups of Arabs carried out those [September 11] attacks.

It seems to me that behavior of various population groups go in waves. In the 1990s, it was almost stylish to be a militia member. After the Republican Revolution, actual militia members were invited to testify about some of their, um, grievances to Congress. I can’t speak for all of them, but some of these folks were just plain unadulterated crazy. They believed that Black helicopters were flying around spying on US citizens, and that foreign military powers had military bases on US soil. Some of them believed that the Queen of England owns the Federal Reserve, and/or that a group of Jews run the world. For many of the militia folks, the attention from Oklahoma City and having their people testifying before Congress fed on itself, and the militia movement grew.

In recent years, militias have become less a part of the public arena. But Islamic militants have taken their place. And right after 9/11, among those that were so inclined, it was a time to imitate. The 15 year old kid who crashed a Cessna into a building in Tampa after voicing support for Osama was, predictably, an Arab American, just as a kid that looked up to Tim McVeigh or Eric Rudolph and started trecking through the woods and torturing small animals in the late 1990s would have been, predictably, a Caucasian Christian. (And by this I don’t mean he’s a believer in Christianity, just as its quite possible many violent Muslims are not real Muslims. I would prefer not to have this post degenerate into a discussion of that issue.) The folks that went to Afghanistan to train (and train for what, if not to fight against those that Osama felt were enemies – i.e., us) likewise. As were the bombers in London and Bali and Madrid and so forth.

I wonder about this dual tendency by groups, to both claim credit for an act and to pretend no involvement, both at the same time. Of course, no group – not Caucasian Christians after Oklahoma City, not Muslim Americans after 9/11, is monolithic, and the folks claiming credit may not be the same folks that say no member of the group was involved. Consider, in some number of years, no doubt there will be another incident. That incident will probably involve another group – some group that we haven’t begun to grow suspicious of yet. Korean-Americans, Quakers, South Dakotans, philatelists, whatever. Whichever group it happens to be, there will be some members of the group denying that any members of the group were involved, while fully aware that many other members of the group (perhaps mostly the young) not only take pride in that incident, but are being recruited into extremist organizations on the strength of that incident. And I wonder if its the wisest course of action, or if its the kind of thing to create even more animosity and resentment among the rest of the population.