The Killing of Brother George Tiller, M.D. (with an Update)

The late Dr. George Tiller; most images of this man are on right-wing or right-to-life pages, and I dont want them here (Courtesy:

The late Dr. George Tiller; most images of this man are on right-wing or right-to-life pages, and I don't want them here (Courtesy:

(Update: Last night, Attorney General Eric Holder sent U.S. marshals to every abortion clinic and physician in the country. He issued the following statement:

The murder of Doctor George Tiller is an abhorrent act of violence, and his family is in our thoughts and prayers at this tragic moment. Federal law enforcement is coordinating with local law enforcement officials in Kansas on the investigation of this crime, and I have directed the United States Marshals Service to offer protection to other appropriate people and facilities around the nation. The Department of Justice will work to bring the perpetrator of this crime to justice. As a precautionary measure, we will also take appropriate steps to help prevent any related acts of violence from occurring.)

When I heard about this terrorist act, perpetrated on a physician who was at peace with his work, with his conscience and with his god, I went immediately to Orcinus, which is to me the ground zero of investigative reporting on the American Christian Far Right Wing. George Tiller was one of three doctors who still performed late-term abortions in the United States. As recently as last month, his name was brought up during the approval process for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, former governor of Kansas. Tiller had donated thousands of dollars to her campaign, and the Republicans were footdragging as a result to “get to the bottom” of this funding, a strategy that folded as the swine flu scare swept the country.

As usual, Sara Robinson’s five-point critique did not fail to inform, especially this:

First Knoxville, then this. Sherilyn Ifill once made the point that lynchings typically occurred on courthouse lawns as a symbol that the mob had overridden the authority of the state and taken justice into its own hands. So what does it mean when right-wing terrorists start gunning down progressives in the pews of their own churches? Two events do not a pattern make — but if this keeps happening, it’ll be clear that there’s a message being sent.

As I write this, police have a suspect in custody for Dr. Tiller’s murder. There’s no word yet on who the perpetrator is, or what motivated him; but it’s a pretty sure bet that as the story comes out, he’ll be found to be an anti-abortion True Believer. The fact that this killing happened on the sixth anniversary of Eric Rudolph’s capture bears this out. The date was chosen with a message in mind. It seems very likely that the venue was, too.

I’ve often said that fundamentalism begins the minute you decide you have the One True Right and Only Way — and that you have a God-given duty to impose that way on the rest of the world. Because of this, fundamentalists have never been willing to recognize the legitimacy of other faiths. And certain factions on the far right have never had qualms about vandalizing mosques or synagogues in order to harass Muslims and Jews into political and social silence.

But they used to leave Christian churches pretty much alone. The fact that this shooting occurred in a church (again) suggests that this tactic is now being tried out on more closely related faith groups whose views don’t comport with the fundamentalist party line. As Dave [Niewert, co-correspondent at Orcinus] has often pointed out, bringing violence to houses of worship is usually an overtly eliminationist act. They are trying to terrify liberals by making us feel at risk and unsafe inside our own spiritual sanctuaries — the very places we go to feel the most security and peace. This is terrorism, plain and simple — Christian fundamentalist terrorism, committed by people Sam Smith has started referring to as “Jesus’s Jihadis.”

First, Sara Robinson mentioned Nashville, TN. She is referring to the July 2008 killing of two Unitarian Universalist parishioners, Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger, by James Adkisson, in that city. This incident, which was swept under the rug far too quickly by the media for my taste, was explained by Adkisson in a four-page manifesto before he was sentenced in February. Adkisson, an adherent of mainstream right-wing haters like O’Reilly, Savage, Goldberg, Limbaugh and Hannity had this to say:

Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them….

This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg’s book. I’d like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn’t get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It’s the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence.”

I thought I’d do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me….Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I’d like to encourage other like minded people to do what I’ve done. If life aint worth living anymore don’t just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals.

The Unitarians are known to be the most liberal of religious groups in the world. Sara Robinson is a Unitarian. I admire them and the Ba’hais for their compassion and their free-thinking. According to Wikipedia:

Unitarian Universalists (UUs) believe in complete but responsible freedom of speech, thought, belief, faith, and disposition. They believe that each person is free to search for his or her own personal truth on issues, such as the existence, nature, and meaning of life, deities, creation, and afterlife. UUs can come from any heritage, have any sexual orientation or gender identity, and hold beliefs from a variety of cultures or religions.

Such a fluidity of belief and acceptance of other peoples’ truths can be definitely threatening to others who are less accepting and more reactionary. Robinson went on to write that progressives should be on their guard, that the far right wing would begin to target them and their families even where they lived, worshiped and worked; that the mainstream media was involved in inciting more and more of these people towards violence and other anti-social acts; and finally, that they should take measures to resist this kind of domestic terrorism.

Robinson’s other reference, Sherrilyn Ifill, is a black civil rights attorney who spoke at a series of lectures on racism during the 2007 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly with author James Loewen. Ifill, who is a professor at the University of Maryland law school, is the author of On The Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-First Century. Robinson relates the following:

The title of Ifill’s book reflects the odd fact that throughout the South, lynchings more often than not happened on the courthouse lawn. It wasn’t unusual for victims to be brought from jails many miles away to the county seat for the occasion. According to Ifill, “This was a deliberate choice of venue — a statement that ‘we are in charge of justice; we decide who is guilty and not guilty.'” Lynchings, like all other forms of terrorism, are message crimes; the choice of venue sent a clear message to black communities across the south that the only justice that mattered was mob justice; and appeals to law would be fruitless. (One of the lynchings she describes in her book occurred in the front yard of the judge’s house: another message sent, this time to the judiciary, about who was really in control.)

Whether you agreed with George Tiller or not, the man was a victim of terrorism as well as of lynching. Among many Americans, someone’s church/synagogue/community center, place of work, or home is practically sacrosanct. It’s taken the place of the courthouse in Ifill’s retelling. Dousing a makeshift cross with gasoline and burning it on someone’s property is a threat of domestic terrorism if so-and-so doesn’t act “right” or leave the neighborhood/county/state. Murdering someone before their families, friends, parishioners or co-workers is a very public message that if people don’t listen or conform to the fundamentalist point of view, that their lives–like the victim’s–aren’t worth anything either. It is to cow or frighten people into fear, silence and acquiescence.

The only reasonable response is for people to resist this kind of terrorism so that everyone else is protected. The Unitarians, for example, disarmed and overpowered James Adkisson without using firepower when, as Robinson relates, “[he] expected fear.” That’s what’s needed in this fractious times: the will to fight fear and oppression. Don’t give in.

~ by blksista on May 31, 2009.

3 Responses to “The Killing of Brother George Tiller, M.D. (with an Update)”

  1. I wonder if the man who killer Tiller thought he was doing Gods work?? Just because he was at peace with his procedures doesnt mean everday folks were.He made a looney mad..


  2. […] post:  The Killing of Brother George Tiller, M.D. Obama Names Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court JusticeParty Tomorrow in Honor […]


  3. […] Original post by blksista […]


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