Police are saying that Jim Adkisson, the alleged shooter in Sunday's tragedy at a Unitarian Universalist church in Knoxville, Tennessee--which led to the death of two people and the wounding of six more--was motivated by hatred of liberals and gays, according to a New York Times report. The Unitarian Universalist Church is well known for its progressive stances and the social activism of its members, and apparently the Knoxville branch was no exception. When I lived in Los Angeles, the church there was often the meeting place for community groups and a forum for progressive speakers and events.
According to the report, Adkisson was unemployed and in danger of losing his food stamp allotment, and he blamed liberals for his problems. He apparently felt threatened by the changes in political mood now sweeping the United States.
I think that episodes like this one should be food for thought for liberals and progressives. There is a good chance that Barack Obama will be elected president, as American politics shifts leftwards after many years of conservative rule. But there remains a hardcore rightwing constituency in the United States, which many on the left have preferred to ridicule for its supposed stupidity and gullibility (sometimes true, to be sure) rather than making serious efforts to win them over. One thing I do like about Obama is his attempt to get past this attitude; even his infamous "bitterness" comment reflected sympathy for those who have been suckered in by the right rather than disdain. I think he is setting a good example for those who would try to change the mind, and the mindset, of those with whom they do not agree.
Another good example of a such an approach is reflected in a blog post by my historian friend Andrew Hunt, who wrote about one contentious political issue--the immigration debate--in a way that reflects understanding and sympathy for both sides of the issue. We need more of this kind of commentary and analysis.
Yes, the right is on the run--but that's no excuse for arrogance and triumphalism on the left. If we want to make the current trend last, we have to bring a lot more people along with us. And not just because some of them have guns.
PS--Today this blog welcomed its 6000th visitor since I started it in April, so thanks to everyone for their readership and support. Traffic has built steadily and the trend appears to be ever upwards. We even have a few regular commenters now, and I hope more readers will take the trouble to do so--especially if you disagree with me!