An invisible man at the Sikh temple murders

The Wisconsin State Journal must have felt like they had to say something about the Sikh temple murders, and they tried twice.

The first editorial got started as you’d expect, expressing sympathy, but then, before you know it — really, just half way in — they were wandering off, recasting the massacre into a debate (and not a very big one) for journalists:

Requests have been made for news media to withhold the names of shooters to deprive them of the attention they may crave.

These requests, while understandable, are misguided. When crimes are committed, the public needs information to enlighten debates about how to prevent similar crimes. We should know full profiles, names and all, on Wade Michael Page, the alleged Oak Creek shooter, and James E. Holmes, accused of the Aurora shooting, so that we can intelligently discuss what roles, if any, gun control, bigotry, mental health treatment and other matters may have played.

Wait! Did they mention “bigotry”? Was that a hint that bigotry might have been involved. We’ll just have to wait and see. It sounds like a promise (at some later date) to

…intelligently discuss what roles, if any, gun control, bigotry, mental health treatment, and other matters may have played.

Readers await.

A week later, a second editorial again offers deep condolences to the victims, calling it a “bizarre and unexplained attack.”

While the world at large may understand that the shooter was a neo-nazi with his own little white-power garage band, and the victims practiced a distinctly unusual religion (for the Milwaukee area) and the men often wore turbans, our local editorial page puts it this way:

With the killer dead, a motive for the attack will never be fully known…

Really. What is going on here?

Imagine an incident where school bullying leads a teenager to commit suicide. No newspaper is required to editorialize (much less twice), but if they do, you’d really suppose they’d do more than say how very sad it is. Yes, it’s sad, but shouldn’t they say something about the bullying?

Racism is part of our history and heritage. Currently the official custodians of America’s ongoing problem with racism are the Republicans. That’s the impolite truth and virtually everybody knows it.

Is that why the Wisconsin State Journal editorial page is having such difficulty saying that the Sikh temple shootings were committed by a white racist?

Well… we suppose it is.

To acknowledge that white racism exists in the abstract is one thing; the State Journal editorial page can do that easily. But to discuss it in any depth is fraught with difficulty, because the American political right and the Republican Party in particular is simply bubbling with racism and xenophobia, and this makes honest discussion very uncomfortable.

But it’s got to stop. And it actually could stop if the majority would demand it. And if the media would call it out.

Once upon a time, Democrats held the franchise on hate-based race politics, but they gave it up (were forced to, actually) almost 50 years ago when they passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Immediately, this weapon was grabbed up by the Republicans, who own it to this very day. The GOP cannot win a national election without the votes of its racist base. That’s just a fact. By no means does this argue that everyone in the Republican base is a racist. However, IF you’re a racist or a xenophobe, you know which political party is courting you. It’s no secret. When The Simpsons (Fox Entertainment) used this little visual about Fox News, it was darkly funny because it was true:

But really it’s not that funny.

For now, at least, the Republicans hold the franchise on race hatred as a political tool. No candidate — indeed, no one, save comedians and rappers — uses the old words anymore. But a subtle dance up to and around the ancient themes still excites the old racialists. You’d think they’d die off, and they do, but somewhere they’re still manufacturing new hate club wannabe’s. And even the top of the Republican ticket is manufacturing new dog whistles to perk up their ears.

“Elephant in the room? What elephant?”

Now it’s possible to look at this Romney ad and insist there’s no problem. That would work especially well if you’re dull-witted, or pretending to be. We assume that Romney delivering the tagline at the end puts him into the second group. Mitt, the racism has got to stop. Putting blinders on has got to stop. It used to be Mormons getting run out of town or worse, remember?

We understand the temptation. We know there’s leverage. For many decades the Democrats were able to lever racial anxiety at election time. Now the Republicans do it. Over 63% of Republicans believe Obama was born in a foreign country. Another 15% say they don’t know.

We say to the State Journal, you can do it. You pose as a still-sensible voice of the conservative/Republican tribe, and we suppose you want to believe it. There’s still room in that sliver of the party to denounce racism, isn’t there? Even in election season? You can do it.