When the two suspected Boston bombers turned out to be Muslims from another country, the drumbeat of the ignorant started again.
“The Muslims are out to get us,” they ranted. “If we close the borders and quit letting foreigners in from those countries, things like this won’t happen.”
Let’s assume that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are the Boston Marathon bombers. They came to this country about a decade ago after leaving Chechnya, a region controlled by Russia, but filled with an ethnic group that’s mostly Muslim and that has a deep desire to become independent. So for those eager to close the borders, we have the things they seem to hate the most: Muslims from an ethnic group that doesn’t look like white Americans, who were born in another country.
So is this the quick cure for ending mass murder? Keep Muslims out? Keep out ethnicities that don’t look like most of us? Keep foreigners from moving here?
Unfortunately for the people who seem to imply this would fix everything, their narrative falls apart quickly.
Adam Lanza was born in this country. He was a white guy. He was a Catholic. None of that stopped him from murdering 26 people — mostly children — at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last December.
Jared Loughner is a white man who was born in the United States. I don’t know his religion, but this American killed six people and wounded 12 in Tuscon, Ariz., in 2011.
James Holmes is a Lutheran and a native-born American. This white man killed 12 people and wounded 58 when he opened fire at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last year.
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 people and wounded 24 — and wanted to kill many more — when they attacked Columbine High School in 1999 with bombs and guns. They’re both white. One was Lutheran and we don’t know about the other.
Eric Rudolph says he’s a very devout Christian. In the name of his Christian beliefs, he killed two people and wounded 111 in Atlanta at the 1996 Olympics by planting a bomb. Two years later, he killed one person and seriously wounded another in a bombing in Birmingham, once again carried out for his Christian beliefs.
Timothy McVeigh was a Catholic and native-born white American. In 1995, he drove a truck bomb up to a building in Oklahoma City, where it blew up and killed 168 people and wounded more than 800.
Every one of these killers was a native-born American. Every one of them was white. Almost every one of them claimed to be a Christian. Does this mean that we need to assume that white Christians born in this country are the likely killers we need to watch out for?
Every group tries to play the group blame game. Have you noticed that when attacks happen lately and nobody yet knows who it is, some “expert” on a cable news channel will speculate that it might have been some “Tea Party radical” or some other “right-wing extremist”? We saw that again last week in the day or two after the Boston explosions.
Why are so many people so eager to blame entire groups? Why are so many willing to make assumptions based on their own prejudices?
As narratives emerge about bombers or killers, it invariably involves explaining the event by emphasizing some group association — Chechen, Muslim, Saudi, “right winger,” Tea Party member, etc. Why? Why do we insist on trying to explain what happens by making broad groups responsible for the actions of individuals or of small parts of groups?
People are very eager to find an explanation for this kind of public attack. They’re very eager to blame it on a group they already don’t like. But those explanations don’t tend to make sense, especially when you realize that the vast, vast majority of the groups named as “suspect” by some people had nothing to do with any attack.
It’s unfair to label Christians or Muslims or Jews or Buddhists as the religion responsible. It’s unfair to assume that white people or black people or brown people or any other are responsible for various attacks. It’s even unfair and inaccurate to make assumptions based on nation of origin.
What’s wrong with blaming individuals instead? Let’s stop holding groups accountable for the actions of hateful or insane people who happen to come from among them. Let’s just hold individuals responsible for what they do.
I’m no more to blame for the actions of the white Christian American killers above than my foreign Muslim friends are responsible for the actions of two brothers last week in Boston.