Back in April, Cleveland Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr. stated “[c]ertainly I am against profiling any race and having sterotypes, but at the same time my feeling is what does baseball have to do with politics? Let the politicians stay in politics and the baseball players play baseball.” Apparently, the immigration issue has a bigger impact on the Cleveland Indians than Alomar thought. The Associated Press reported today that, in light of its training in Goodyear, AZ, the Cleveland Indians are taking “extra precautions”:
The Cleveland Indians have taken extra precautions to be sure their young Latin players aren’t caught unaware and unprepared.
“We held a seminar under the direction of our cultural development director, Lino Diaz,” said Ross Atkins, the Indians’ player development director. “We brought in a local police officer to explain the situation and issued each player an ID card so they don’t have to rely on carrying around their visas and paperwork with them.”
The article explains that SB-1070 requires police officers, while carrying out their responsibility to enforce the laws, to verify an individual’s immigration status if they have “reasonable suspicion” that the person is illegally present in the U.S. Since the law provides no criteria for “reasonable suspicion,” the Associated Press points out that “a young Latin player who speaks no English might fit that description.” Given the fact that a large number of Latin Americans playing on major and minor baseball leagues, baseball managers want to avoid running into any problems.
Shortly following the passage of SB-1070, the Major League Baseball players’ union issued a statement condemning the law.
WILL CAIN: Right here, at the top, “Chapter Two: Islamism.” The question for the house is what should we call the challenge that confronts the West? And your candid answer is, Islam. Is that what our battle is? Is this a war on terror, or is that kind of need to be backed up? Do we have a bigger fight in front of us, a fight with Islam?
ANDY MCCARTHY: Well, I ultimately come out and say that we should call it Islamism, but I face up to the idea that it may very well be that Islam is the problem. And I do think that we have to face the fact that all the terrorism that we’ve been dealing with in the past number of decades now, plus this wider civilizational threat to the West, is inextricably linked to an interpretation of Islam that is unquestionably legitimate and based on Islamic doctrine.
CAIN: Yeah, is that interpretation — you’re suggesting that that interpretation is legitimate, so does that suggest that Islam is an inherently violent religion?
MCCARTHY: Yeah, I think, well, it certainly — if there is a legitimate of it that’s drawn from the scriptures, I don’t see how you could say it’s not. Now you could say it doesn’t have to be violent, but the roots of the violence are in the doctrine. They’re not, you know, no one pulled those out of the sky, those are in the Koran.
It’s hard to really do justice to the utter absence of intellectual rigor on either end of this conversation. While the mainstream consensus over the last few years has more or less recognized that “war on terror” is too broad a description for the challenge the U.S. faces from violent extremism, here you’ve got two conservatives wondering whether it simply isn’t broad enough, and whether Islam itself is the problem. It’s like looking through a time portal into 2002.
It feels silly to even have to explain this, but there are very few religious texts that could not be, have not been, (and in many cases still are) interpreted as justification for violence.
Observe thou that which I am commanding thee this day; behold, I am driving out before thee the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest they be for a snare in the midst of thee. But ye shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces their pillars, and ye shall cut down their Asherim [idols]. For thou shalt bow down to no other god; for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God;
Many extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank take these and other verses as license for violence against Palestinians and destruction of their property. And there are Jewish scholars who back them up on this. By McCarthy’s reasoning, that makes Judaism an inherently violent religion.
Anti-choice terrorist Scott Roeder justified his murder of abortion provider George Tiller through reference to Genesis Chapter 9, verse 6: “Whosoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God has God made man.” By McCarthy’s reasoning, that makes Christianity an inherently violent religion.
I think reasonable people understand that religious interpretation is something that is constantly contested, and meanings change over time. In the 11th Century, the Christian Bible was interpreted in such a way to justify sending thousands of European Christian knights into the Holy Land to slaughter thousands of Muslims and Jews. It’s interpreted differently now. Religions aren’t static things.
But the more insidious aspect of McCarthy’s argument is that, by simply granting the religious legitimacy of Al Qaeda’s call to terrorist violence, McCarthy basically proposes to cede the ideological battlefield to bin Laden. Worse than that, by positing a “wider civilizational” war with Islamic extremism, he effectively affirms bin Laden’s propaganda about the nature and extent of this war, letting bin Laden define us and our aims in a way that helps bin Laden, rather than the other way around. I’m not sure whether this is more a function of McCarthy’s own laziness about exploring the actual debates ongoing among Islamic scholars regarding the just use of violence, or if it’s just plain bigotry, or a mixture of both, but whatever the case it’s outrageous that National Review is promoting this conspiracy theory-spouting clown as someone worth listening to on these issues.
I neglected to point out how especially ridiculous it is for McCarthy to hold forth on Islamic justifications for terrorist violence, given that he himself defended Israel’s hugely destructive Gaza war as a method of “educating” Gaza’s civilians. Apologize for the oversight.
Today, the Arizona Republic reported that the last month’s shooting of Juan Varela has been deemed a hate crime by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Arizona resident Gary Thomas Kelley has also been charged with second-degree murder in association with Varela’s death. According to witnesses, Kelley called Varela a “wetback” and shouted, “hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die” before shooting Varela in the neck. Ironically, Varela was a third-generation, native-born U.S. citizen. Yet, what’s even more troubling is the timing of the murder. Varela was shot just a little over a week after Arizona’s controversial immigration bill, SB-1070, was signed into law.
Initially, the Phoenix Police Department spokesman, Officer Luis Samudio, insisted that the shooting was not a hate crime. The Phoenix Police Union has also been a vocal supporter of SB-1070. Robert Shutts, homicide bureau chief for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, wouldn’t comment on whether SB-1070 was a factor in the case. However, Varela’s family has believed all along that the shooting was a hate crime and that SB-1070 is at least partly to blame.
A week after the murder, Varela’s family called on Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) to “take responsibility for this hostile atmosphere they have created.” Following the announcement of the new hate crime charge, the family’s spokesperson told an Arizona local news station, “these pundits have really escalated this…to this point. Somebody has to do something to tone this down. It’s really out of control.”
Watch the Varela family’s reaction:
At this point, it’s difficult to verify what role, if any, SB-1070 played in Varela’s death. However, chances are the law has made an already toxic atmosphere worse. A growing number of Latinos are already the targets of discrimination and hate crimes in the U.S. SB-1070 has only exploited the public’s frustration with federal government inaction and played to their worst instincts. It’s brought neo-Nazis out. It was followed by the passage of a law banning ethnic studies and proposed legislation that seeks to overturn the 14th Amendment.
Perhaps most significantly though, it has pitted Latinos against their lighter-skinned neighbors. Regardless of what motivated Kelley to shoot Varela, the fact is that the Varelas and Latinos in general feel threatened by SB-1070. Perception alone is enough to divide Arizona in half. And in the end, if Kelley is found guilty of committing a hate crime, it will be difficult to dispute that the charged discourse surrounding the very recent passage of SB-1070 played no role in the violence committed against a Latino Arizona resident.