What we witnessed March 10 on Capitol Hill during hearings led by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, was a shameful example of the excesses of power. Claiming concern over the alleged radicalization of Muslims in America, Rep. King conducted nothing short of a “witch hunt,” by singling out a single group of Americans as an internal threat to the nation’s security worthy of suspicion by their fellow citizens. The insult was enough to bring Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslims serving in Congress, to tears as he defended American Muslims, and emotionally described the sacrifice that some Muslims made on Sept. 11, 2001.
The arrogance of Rep. King was evident as he maintained that the threat of radical elements among the nation’s Muslim population was extensive enough to warrant a McCarthy-like probe. This, despite the fact that King’s earlier claims that more than 80 percent of imams in our country were radicalized has never been substantiated and widely ridiculed. To add insult, and further fan the flames of hate toward Muslims, King had pictures of the devastation of 9/11 on the walls of the hearing room. It was one of the worst examples of the immorality of political leadership of recent memory.
Meanwhile, as King works to pin the scarlet letter of terrorism on Muslims, and make Islam a dirty word in America, the suspect in the attempted bombing of the Martin Luther King Day parade route in Spokane, Wash., Kevin William Harpham, was a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Like Timothy McVeigh, he is a former soldier in the U.S. Army, who sympathizes with White supremacists. Had the bomb – placed where it was intended to do major damage – detonated, the crowd would have been sprayed with lead pellets coated with rat poison. Yet, despite the very real existence and continued threat of White supremacist groups and militias, Rep. King is invested in using his office to harbor his personal prejudices.
In Detroit, a family is grieving over the deaths of two children, 8-year-old Alaya Cook and 10-year-old Lataya Cook, who lost their lives in a fire that investigators have deemed arson. The girls were too afraid to jump from a second-story window at the urging of their father, who was injured in the blaze. The home had been firebombed. While the perpetrator(s) have yet to be caught, and the cause remains unknown, the incident is eerily similar to the tragic fire that took the life of a Baltimore family several years back. In that incident, drug dealers had set the house ablaze because the parents were spoke out against the illegal drug activity occurring in their neighborhood. Whether drug dealers or gangs are responsible for the tragedy in Detroit, there is one thing that is certain: Alaya and Lataya are just the latest victims of an epidemic of urban violence that is stealing the dreams and futures of a generation of children.
In cities, big and small, in every corner of our nation, gangs and drug dealers are terrorizing communities, and their prey is mostly Black and Latino children and families. Perhaps that is why Rep. King does not show the same concern or expresses the same outrage over the domestic terrorism of which there is ample evidence—just as Timothy McVeigh showed no concern for the life of children when he helped plot the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, a building that contained a day care center; and in the same way Kevin William Harpham apparently had little regard for the lives of children on the streets of Spokane celebrating the birthday of America’s prince of peace, Dr. King. The congressman should talk to funeral home directors and shock trauma medical professionals who, every day, witness the result of the carnage that has taken over communities. Put the faces of our dead children on the walls of your hearing room Mr. King, and let America see what real domestic terrorism looks like.
We are treading on dangerous waters here. Peter King is not making us any safer. In fact, he is giving reason for Muslims and others to hate us. It is his ilk, and other demagogues, who put the security of our nation in jeopardy. If he was serious and sincere about the safety of American citizens Rep. King would be examining the resurgence of White supremacist groups, the proliferation of gangs across America, including in seemingly “safe” White suburban communities, and the unfettered access to firearms and explosives. The Long Island, N.Y. congressman is perpetrating a fraud and he needs to be called out. All Americans deserve better from our political leadership than the equivalent of “Bozo goes to Congress.”
Walter Fields is the executive editor of NorthStarNews.com, where this article was originally published.