Kansas Republicans Stoke Anti-Muslim Fear so You Don’t Notice Them Turning the State into a Place Where You’d Rather Not Live

On mid-October, three militia members attempted to blow up a housing complex in Garden City, Kansas. Their hope was to destroy the complex, which houses many Muslim Somali immigrants, on November 9, the day after the election, the same day former Representative and general deadbeat Joe Walsh said loser Republicans should “grab a musket” to undermine the peaceful transfer of power. The three domestic terrorists,* all from Kansas, targeted the complex because of their hatred for immigrants, Somalis, and Muslims. They wanted to insure “a bloodbath,” killing everyone, including infants, and modeling their planned attack on Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City.

Their rhetoric is drawn directly from rightwing militia groups and white supremacists. They called their group the Crusaders—a reference to the medieval Christians who sought to regain the Holy Land from Muslims, destroying Muslim and Orthodox Christian communities and artifacts in the process. The crusader is also a trope that appears regularly in white supremacy, including in literature and on websites. [I’m not hyperlinking to one of their websites.  The Crusader is one of the major themes I’ve identified in my own work on the YouTube archives of the Aryan Nations; if you want sources, contact me and I’ll happily share. This research is currently funded by the National Institute of Justice.**] These domestic terrorists did not come across this image by accident but because they are white supremacists who saw their targets—because they are immigrants, because they are Muslims, because they are Somalis, because they are black—as “cockroaches.”

But this language and these images aren’t just part of the work of the KKK, neo-Nazis, and Aryan Nations. It is also the language of the Republican Party, from Donald Trump on down. Hillary Clinton noted in her speech about Trump’s embrace of the alt-right that “what he’s doing… is more sinister” than simple racism.  It’s empowering the worst, most violent, bigots to act.

It’s why violence against Muslims has been rising ever since he arrived on the scene.

It’s why Hussain Saeed Alnahdi, a Saudi engineering student, is dead.

But the problem isn’t Trump’s alone. It belongs to the Republican Party more broadly.

Just days after the plans to bomb Garden City were interrupted by the FBI, the Kansas GOP chose to send out campaign flyers equating Muslims in the state with ISIS. The flyers include a windmill, a symbol of Kansas’ farming history, with the ISIS flag in the center of the page. The right-hand quarter of the page is an image of brown-skinned man, all but his eyes covered by a keffiyeh. The mailer ominously asks “Have you met the new neighbors?”

Above, Kansas Republicans’ mailers. The state party used focus groups to determine that “the whole feeling that’s there violence out there” helps drive Republican turnout. Yes, that’s right–they are stoking fear among non-Muslims and provoking violence against Muslims to win elections, not because there is anything to fear.  And they have been very open about this strategy, giving interviews to the Wichita Eagle.

Kansas have some reasonable concerns about unwanted Muslim “immigrants.” Guantanamo detainees may be released to the military prison at Fort Leavenworth in the eastern part of the state.

But that’s not the worry here.

And it’s not the worry in the other mailers they Kansas GOP has sent—pictures of beautiful blonde-haired children worrying “What is ISIS? Will they hurt me?” and, also with a little white girl, this one holding an American flag, explaining that would-be State Representative Joseph Scapa wants you understand that “the first step to keeping Kansas safe is to recognize who the enemy is.” In the corner, the mailer says, “Let’s keep terrorists out of Kansas.”

Anti-Muslim groups have praised the flyers, saying that “one can only hope” [CW: Hate website] they incite more ill-will toward Kansas’ Muslim population.

Senator Brownback showed true Republican leadership (that is, cowardly capitulation to racists) when he withdrew Kansas from the Refugee Resettlement Program State Plan.

But I suspect that Brownback and Scapa, though Republicans, understand that the problem isn’t really Muslims. It’s domestic terrorists—homegrown Americans, white Christians, who are bringing their votes to the GOP, along with their violent racism. But Republicans are benefitting—and with no cost to anyone but people they dislike anyway—from that racism, so they let it go—and, perhaps, they are genuinely afraid of the monsters they’ve empowered. They are engaged in classic victim-blaming, saying that they will fight domestic terrorists (who are, by and large, white men) by banning immigrants and refugees.

imageservlet

Slaughterhouse Blues: The Meat and Poultry Industry in North America by Donald D. Stull and Michael J. Broadway addresses the way that Garden City, Kansas, has been supported by immigrant labor in its meatpacking sector. 

The great irony is that Kansas, like the rest of the US, is made stronger, not more vulnerable, by immigrants. At a time of depopulation, particularly in the western region of the state, Garden City thrives because of immigrants—some of them documented and some of them not—come to work in meatpacking there. Like all cities, it has its struggles, but it is also a model of multicultural cooperation in many ways.  The community is rich with conversation about how different people can work together to strengthen the city and the state.

The problem isn’t just Kansas, and the violence isn’t targeted only at Muslims. Above left, a mosque in Waterloo, Iowa, is vandalized with the word “Trump.” At right, a predominantly black church in Greenville, Mississippi, is burnt and the words “Vote Trump” spray painted on it.

Kansas’ Republicans worry about refugees, who are called “poisonous Skittles” and “rabid dogs,” but the fact is that the state’s demise has not been because of immigrants, refugees, Muslims, or people of color. Highly ideological Republicans’ plan to dismantle public service and undermine the common good is working, just as Brownback (and Grover Norquist) promised—and as residents of the state are noticing, to their dismay.  Tax breaks for the wealthy; restrictions on welfare, including the end of services for some of the state’s most vulnerable; the privatization of parts of Medicaid; destructive cuts to education; massive government layoffs and the closure of important service agencies—all of these have impacted Kansans. The state lacks enough underpaid teachers to staff its public schools. School years are ending early as districts run out of funds. Abused and neglected children are left without help, and child sex abuse investigators are unable to manage their caseloads, leaving children to be repeatedly abused. Highways are in disrepair as infrastructure is ignored.

All of these problems are not problems for Brownback and other Kansas Republicans. They are part of their Tea Party utopia, where the government fails so thoroughly that citizens turn to private resources and the poor die or at least disappear from view. Destroy public schools so private schools can take up the responsibility of educating children. Destroy public health services so that the poor die as the wealthy turn to private medicine.

You have seen this in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq. Walled compounds where the rich hire private tutors to educate their children, private doctors to tend to their health, private drivers to chauffeur them through cities without safe roads, private guards to prevent anyone from breaching their walls of their homes, which are powered by private generators. It’s a Tea Party dream—no government, a fractured country, an America that looks like a “third world” country, one marked by extreme income inequality and widespread poverty. Brought to you not by Muslim immigrants and their sneaking, feared “sharia law” but by the very men Kansas voted into office.

*Including at least one domestic abuser. As always.

**Which I apparently always have to say when I talk about it, according to the NIJ.

 

 

Want to send a message of welcome to your neighbors, especially those who have been targeted by Republicans’ extremist rhetoric? Consider buying one of these: 

 

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