Saturday, November 7, 2015

Beer Mug Assault and Burning Crosses

I ran into this last night:
"Charges: Woman attacked non-English speaking Applebee's diner"
KARE 11 Staff, KARE (November 5, 2015)

"A woman is charged with assault for allegedly smashing a beer mug across a diner's face at a local Applebee's -- all because the victim wasn't speaking English, according to the complaint.

"Jodie Marie Burchard-Risch, 43, was charged with third-degree assault for an incident that occurred on Oct. 30 at the Applebee's in Coon Rapids.

"According to the criminal complaint, Burchard-Risch was dining with her husband when she became upset after hearing the victim speaking in a foreign language in the neighboring booth...."
Managers at Applebee's tried to get Burchard-Risch to leave at that point. She did: after yelling a bit more at the other diner and using her beer mug as a weapon, hitting the other woman's face.

One of Applebee's managers followed Burchard-Risch out of the restaurant, staying with her until responding officers arrested her.

The victim has a deep cut across her nose; a cut on her right eyebrow and a big, deep, cut on her lower lip. That's bad, but it could have been worse. Apparently her eyes are okay, and she probably got medical attention promptly.

Burchard-Rish was charged Monday: and there may be more legal trouble coming.

Hate Crimes and Attitudes

I'm not a big fan of hate crime/bias-motivated crime laws, mostly because I think they wouldn't be needed if America's courts paid attention to earlier legal sanctions against slander and physical violence.

That said, I think this attack looks a lot like a 'hate crime.'

The violence of the attack encouraged my suspicion that the 'non-English' language would be Arabic or Spanish. I was wrong. The victim was speaking Swahili:
"Attack on diner at Coon Rapids Applebee's being examined for hate-crime charges"
"The victim, targeted because she wasn't speaking English, suffered deep cuts on her face in the beer-mug attack, according to assault charges."
Shannon Prather Star Tribune (November 7, 2015)

"An Anoka County prosecutor said Friday that authorities are looking into possible hate-crime counts against a woman charged with attacking a diner at the Coon Rapids Applebee's because she was speaking Swahili.

"The victim suffered deep cuts to her face when she was struck with a beer mug Oct. 30 as she ate lunch with her husband and friends, Anoka County authorities said this week.

"Jodie Burchard-Risch, 43, of Ramsey, was charged Monday in Anoka County District Court with third-degree assault.

"On Friday, the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN) called for hate-crime charges against Burchard-Risch...."
At this point, I could start ranting about the dangers of insufficiently-American foreigners, the need for beer mug control laws, or why restaurants breed violence and obesity.

That would be silly — but no more silly, I think, than many political debates. And that's another topic.

I'm not a Swahili-speaking young woman, so why should I care what happened in that restaurant?

For starters, I don't think 'my end of the boat isn't sinking' makes sense in situations like this. If I don't care when folks who aren't just like me get hurt, I can't reasonably expect sympathy if I'm the next target.

I don't fit today's 'victim' stereotype, but some 'real Americans' might see folks like me as a threat to 'their' country.

I look like a WASP, but I'm not. I'm a half-Irish Catholic. Happily, most Americans have realized that many Irishmen aren't violence-prone drunkards with criminal tendencies.

I've discussed attitudes, bias, and internment camps, before. (A Catholic Citizen in America June 21, 2015; Another War-on-Terror Blog September 12, 2009; January 22, 2009)

Avoiding Hasty Generalizations

I've seen a few folks who might speak Swahili in the small central-Minnesota town I call home, but I haven't heard that language here — apart from someone saying the Lord's Prayer in Swahili at the parish church.

I have, however, heard Spanish more frequently in recent years: mostly while standing in a grocery checkout line: and, rarely, an east-Asian language I didn't recognize.

My lack of violent response to these 'foreign threats' is no virtue. I see new families moving in as a sign that my town is in good shape, and likely to endure: at least for another generation or two.

Besides, as an American, I'd be very concerned if folks weren't pulling up stakes and moving here.

Maybe it's easier to divide the world into 'people like me' and 'foreign threats.' But that attitude doesn't make sense. Not to me.

Sure, some folks who speak Swahili, Arabic, Spanish, or Latvian, might try to blow up the post office or kill me. But but assuming that all Africans, Arabs, Hispanics, or whatever, are threats that makes about as much sense as assuming that all Christians are in the Ku Klux Klan. And that, sadly, is not another topic. (A Catholic Citizen in America January 18, 2015)

Living with difference:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eid ul-Fitr, and Death in Khan Bani Saad

A fifth victim died in raising recent Chattanooga, Tennessee, attack's death toll to six. (BBC News)

As I said Thursday, that's a tragedy. (July 16, 2015)

However, I think it's prudent to remember that Americans aren't the only ones terrorists kill.

(From AP, via The Australian, used w/o permission.)
(" A woman grieves at the site of the bombing in Khan Beni Saad, about 30km northeast of Baghdad."
The Australian (July 20, 2015))
"Islamic State Eid attack in Iraq kills 90 as Saudis arrest 400 "
AFP, AP; via The Australian (July 20, 2015 12:00 a.m.)
"Iraq mourned its dead yesterday as the death toll from one of its deadliest car bombs rose to at least 90.

"The suicide attack by Islamic State, which ripped through a busy market north of Baghdad, came as the country marked Eid ul-Fitr, the feast that ends the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan....

"...Muthanna Saadoun, 25, a ­municipal employee who drives a street sweeper, used his truck to help put out the fires that the blast caused in the market area.

" 'People were burning in their cars because no ambulances or fire engines were able to reach them,' he said yesterday....

"...'What we witnessed yesterday cannot be described. Fire, bodies, wounded, women and children screaming ... Khan is now a disaster zone,' said Salem Abu Moqtada, 34, who sells vegetables in the market....

"...'Every year (during Ramadan) there’s a bombing. We are guilty of being Shia,' Mr Saleh said. 'This is the biggest in Diyala since 2003.'

"Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi condemned the attack as 'a despicable crime by the Daesh (Islamic State) terrorist gangs'..."
Another spelling of Khan Beni Saad in my language is Khan Bani Saad.

Either way, the known death toll is about 130 now: 15 of them children. Apparently the attacker drove an ice truck to the market, announced that he was selling ice at a discount because of the Eid al-Fitr holiday, waited for a crowd to gather, and set off the explosion. I suppose the attack was justified — sort of — since there's a claim that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was getting even for the killing of Sunni Muslims in Hawija. (Wikipedia)

I don't see it that way, but I come from a different culture: and have very different beliefs.

Don't expect a rant about 'those Muslims.' If all followers of Islam were this enthusiastic about killing folks who disagreed with them, or had killed someone who shared their particular flavor of Islam — the self-extermination would have been over centuries ago.

There is, I think, hope that folks in the Middle East will learn to restrain their less-reasonable citizens.

Saudi Arabia's government, for example, apparently has decided that arresting folks who plan to kill Saudis is a good idea. That's a start.

In the long run, I think changing the status quo will take a very serious review of what they believe: and hard decisions about what's necessary, and what's causing the bloodshed. Change won't be easy — as my native culture has learned on many occasions. But change happens, and change can be good.

I've said this before:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Dead Marines in Chattanooga, Living with Change

Maybe you've seen the headlines:

(From AP, via BBC News, used w/o permission.)
("Police were deployed on the Amnicola Highway near the US Navy reserve centre in Chattanooga"
(BBC News))
"Chattanooga shootings: Four Marines killed at Tennessee US Navy centres"
BBC News (July 16, 2015)

"Four US Marines have been killed after shootings at two US Navy buildings in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

"The local district lawyer said the two incidents were being investigated as an 'act of domestic terrorism'.

"Chattanooga city police said it was the same gunman at both locations and confirmed he had been killed.

"The gunman was identified as 24-year-old Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez by an unnamed official, according to the AP news agency.

"He is believed to have been born in Kuwait, but it is unclear whether he was a US or Kuwaiti citizen.

"Reports said armed police have been deployed to the house where he lived, a few miles outside Chattanooga in Hixson, and neighbours were being evacuated.

"FBI agent Ed Reinhold, who is leading the investigation, said the first shooting occurred at about 10:45 local time (14:45 GMT) at a US Navy recruitment centre in the east of the city.

"After opening fire on the building, the gunman then fled the scene in a Ford Mustang and was pursued by Chattanooga police, Mr Reinhold told reporters.

"He was shot dead after a gunfight at a US Navy reserve centre about seven miles (10 km) away on Amnicola Highway...."
This isn't, I'm quite certain, a major milestone in world history. Ten thousand years from now, I'd be surprised if more than a few antiquarians knew that Chattanooga even existed: or Tennessee, for that matter.

On the other hand, five folks are now dead: that is significant, at least for their families and friends. That is a personal tragedy for those involved, and may deserve the international news coverage it is getting.

Since the victims were serving in the United States armed forces, and the killer's name, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, identifies him with an ethnic group that's had its share of terrorism-related deaths and killings — the district attorney may be right. This does look like "domestic terrorism."

The killer's motives may be hard to figure out, since he's dead: and my guess is that we're not looking at part of a coordinated attack on the United States.

For all I know, this might be a simple holdup gone horribly wrong. It's remotely possible that Mr. Abdulazeez mistook the Marine recruiting office for a convenience store, and panicked when he discovered that there was no cash register to pilfer.

No, I don't think that's the case.

My guess is that Mr. Abdulazeez decided that America was a threat to his faith, that God wanted him to kill Marines, or something equally daft.

If that's true, it does not, in my considered opinion, prove that all Muslims hate Americans, or that America threatens Islam, or that Marines should be killed. It does, I think, show that individuals can do very bad things for daft reasons. (A Catholic Citizen in America, June 21, 2015)

Drunk Driving, Names, a Yearbook, and the Irish

(From BBC News, used w/o permission.)
(Location of Chattanooga, Tennessee)

We're learning more about the killer. Apparently Mr. Abdulazeez had been arrested for drunk driving, earlier this year. That was in Chattanooga, too: and may not have much of anything to do with today's killings.

It looks like Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez was born somewhere in the Middle East. He's 24 years old. A local newspaper said that someone with his name graduated from a local high school and left a message in a school yearbook: "My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?" (BBC News)

I'm slightly sympathetic toward folks who feel that they're unfairly suspected of crimes. I've used my Irish ancestry as an example of America's occasionally-grudging tolerance of non-English, non-Protestant Americans.

I figure that we'll eventually get used to the idea that folks from Latin America and the Middle East are no more — or less — of a threat than the Irish. By then, tightly-wound Americans will probably be upset about folks arriving from some other part of the world.

At least, I hope so.

Me? I'll be concerned if folks stop wanting to come to America. From my viewpoint, we can always use folks with fresh ideas, enthusiasm, and a new set of customs. Of course, I'm almost half-Irish: and that's where I started this tangent.

The President, Celebrities, Experts, and All That

It's about two hours after I started writing this. The family's eaten our evening meal, and I see that America's president made the usual 'this is a bad thing' statement.

There's news that the killer lived in Hixson, a few miles from Chattanooga, that police raided the house,and "an AP reporter said two women were led away in handcuffs." (BBC News)

That sounds reasonable, although I don't know what it means. Being "led away" by police simply means what the words say. I've been "led away" and searched by police — for good reason — but I've never been a threat to American lives.

I'd say "never been a threat to national security:" but since I don't think whoever is president at the moment is always right — or wrong, question the Supreme Court's infallibility, and don't vote a straight party ticket: some folks might see me as a loose cannon.

If this follows the usual pattern, over the next 24 to 48 hours we'll read about assorted other national and state leaders saying pretty much what the president did. Celebrities will make more-or-less-regrettable statements, and the usual gaggle of "experts" will weigh in on how this attack proves that they're smarter than anyone else.

I'll grant that I've got my own opinions about what happened.

I'm reasonably sure that local, state, and federal law enforcement folks are sorting through evidence and statements: and will eventually learn what happened. They may even discover why these killings started. I don't have blind faith in any of the agencies or people involved: but I don't automatically assume that they're plotting against me, either. That's why I'm inclined to believe this:
"FBI Statement on Shootings at Military Facilities in Chattanooga, Tennessee"
FBI National Press Office, Washington, D.C. (July 16, 2015)

"The FBI's Knoxville Field Office, along with the Chattanooga Police Department and other law enforcement partners, are working jointly to investigate today’s shootings at a military recruitment center and a reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee in which four individuals were killed and three injured. The shooter, Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, is also deceased. While it would be premature to speculate on the motives of the shooter at this time, we will conduct a thorough investigation of this tragedy and provide updates as they are available."

It's a Big World

Predictably, there's the usual rumor that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham) planned the killings, or knew about them before they happened. That may be true, or not. Right now, I don't know.

It's likely that Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez's motives were at least partly religious, ethnic, or patriotic. That doesn't prove that religion kills, or that everybody who's not a Norwegian-Irish-Scots-American like me is a threat to blue-eyed people, or that nations shouldn't exist.

When someone goes off the rails, the motive generally seems to be something that's emotionally engaging: like religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sex.

But I don't think that Mr. Abdulazeez's actions prove that all Muslims, or Middle Easterners, are terrorists: any more than Anders Behring Breivik's and Dylann Roof's actions prove that everyone with European ancestry is a killer.

It's true that right now quite a few folks are extremely upset at how the world's changing. Mr. Roof, for example, seems convinced that folks with African ancestry are threatening "his" country. Mr. Abdulazeez may have had a similar opinion about Marines.

In a way, these killers are right. Sort of.

The America I grew up in has changed, a lot. Not only have we had an Irish president: folks who don't even look British are moving to this country. I don't mind: but some folks do.

Mr. Abdulazeez is too young to remember the 'good old days' before steam power, television, and the Geneva Conventions, but he may have grown up around folks who yearn for their 'good old days.' Today's world may be a terrifying place for folks who aren't comfortable around anyone who is not from their extended family.

Small wonder that some Muslims are acting like some 'regular Americans' have, lashing out at folks who aren't just like themselves. (A Catholic Citizen in America, September 11, 2014)

That doesn't, I think, excuse folks who kill others for having the 'wrong' faith, or ancestry. And it certainly does not make it okay for me to hate folks who aren't just like me.

If I expect others to let me live, even though I'm not just like them: I'd better show them the same courtesy. I've talked about love, hate, and building a better world, mostly in another blog:

Friday, January 9, 2015

Charlie Hebdo: Dealing With Difference

(From Jeremy Schultz, via Reuters, used w/o permission.)
("Police entering the supermarket."

Here we go again. This time it's in Paris, France.

My guess is that body count will keep going up.

I'll skip the conventional 'it is the fault of the Jews/Muslims/police/whatever' rhetoric.

Oddly enough, cherry-picking facts from recent events could be twisted into a claim that Paris police declared war on a kosher supermarket.

I do not think this was a Zionist conspiracy to assassinate insufficiently-kosher Jews, or a plot by McDonalds to take over the kosher food industry, by the way.

Death at a Kosher Supermarket

"French forces kill newspaper attack suspects, hostages die in second siege"
John Irish, Emmanuel Jarry and Ingrid Melander; Reuters (January 9, 2015)

"Two brothers suspected of a bloody attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo were killed when police stormed their hideout on Friday, while a second siege ended with the deaths of four hostages.

"The violent end to the simultaneous stand-offs followed a police operation of unprecedented scale as France tackled one of the worst threats to its internal security in decades. The heavy loss of life over three consecutive days also risked fuelling anti-immigrant voices in the country and elsewhere in the West.

"Officials said Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, both in their thirties, died when anti-terrorist forces moved in on a print shop in the small town of Dammartin-en-Goele, northeast of Paris, where the chief suspects in Wednesday's attack had been holed up. The hostage they had taken was safe, an official said....

"...Minutes later police broke the second siege at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris. A police union source said four hostages had died there along with a gunman, believed to have had links to the same Islamist group as the Kouachi brothers, who was holding them.


"News footage of the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in the Vincennes district showed dozens of heavily armed police officers massed outside of two entrances. The assault began with gunfire and a loud explosion at the door, after which hostages were rushed out...."
The folks who murdered Charlie Hebdo staff cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski; economist Bernard Maris; and two police officers on duty at the magazine; may have believed they were lions on Islam, defending their faith against blasphemers.

Outside their fan base, my guess is that they've added more fuel to the argument that Islam and the 21st century do not mix well.

Islam in the Information Age

"...During the attack the gunmen were heard to shout Allahu akbar, 'the Prophet is avenged', ... [30][38][39][40] President François Hollande described it as a 'terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity'.[41] The three attackers were identified as Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, both French, and Hamyd Mourad, 18, whose nationality is unknown...."
(Charlie Hebdo, Wikipedia [emphasis mine])
This week's lions of Islam apparently had a reason for murdering eight folks at Charlie Hebdo. That's the November 3, 2011 issue's cover. I gather that the issue was "guest-edited" by Muhammad, and depicted Muhammad saying: "100 lashes of the whip if you don't die laughing."

Then, in September of 2012, Charlie Hebdo ran an issue with nude caricatures of Mohammad. That was after other lions of Islam killed folks at U.S. embassies in the Middle East. Those attacks were presumably a response to an anti-Islamic film: "Innocence of Muslims."

I run into folks who rant about some threat to their beliefs — based on what they read in The Onion, an American digital media company and news satire organization.

I've read a few Onion pieces: and can understand how someone with a negligible sense of humor and stunted imagination might mistake their satire for 'real' news.

But I don't think killing Onion staff would be a sensible way to express displeasure.

The good news, I suppose, is that Charlie Hebdo went this long without a lethal attack.

I do not think that the French government will respond to this week's events by suspending their Parliament, declaring France an Islamic state, and giving French citizens 24 hours to convert or die.

It's quite possible that Muslims will continue to enjoy whatever rights they share with the rest of the citizenry: but after this, I don't think their popularity will increase among the non-Muslims.

Dealing With Difference: or Not

Being a Catholic in America, I know a little about living in a country where one's faith is not universally respected.

Chick Publications occasionally publishes another warning against Catholic beliefs.

I'm not gleeful about that, or the continuing popularity of Maria Monk's perennial bestseller.

But I wouldn't kill anyone to express my disapproval: not even if I felt like it. I'm a Catholic, murder is against the rules, and that's another topic.

Related posts, not entirely in this blog:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.