Georgia's Cherokee County Sheriff's Department Capt. Jay Baker had a bad day Thursday. He was removed from his position as spokesman for that sheriff's department near Atlanta after saying that a 21-year-old — a man accused of killing eight people, six of whom were Asians, in three different massage parlors in North Georgia — had "had a bad day."
Apparently "a bad day" was relative for the shooter: After all he wasn't dead.
As for Baker — the same guy who previously had posted an online come-on for T-shirts saying "Covid 19 imported virus from Chy-na" — the racism seemingly implicit in the ethnicity of those killed seemed lost. The deputy made a less-than-excusing excuse for the shooter: He was a victim. Baker described him as a sex "addicted" victim who frequented those massage parlors and wanted to take out his religious guilt-induced rage there.
Blaming is a great political tool. It allows the blamer to put the focus on somebody else for their own failings, thoughts, actions. But, folks, sex is pretty normal. So, too is hate at times. Murder is not. Somewhere within our justice system, time and due process will tell the tale and sort out the real motive for this most recent human tragedy.
Yet in the practical social unraveling of threads, this sordid blame game puts a bulls-eye on people.
This time, the hate found a fatal home with Asians, women, migrant work and sex work — take your pick. At other times it's been Black worshippers at a Charleston, South Carolina, church. Or Latino shoppers at an El Paso Walmart. Or worshippers at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. Or military servicemen in Chattanooga. Or congregants at a Knoxville church that welcomed gay, liberal and diverse-race members. Or Native Americans. Or just women of any color. We could go on, but you get the idea.
It's even why a man showed up at a Washington, D.C., pizzeria in 2016 to fire a military-style assault rifle toward the staff and customers there, miraculously causing no injuries. The 29-year-old North Carolina shooter later told police and judges that he'd been falsely led to believe — ludicrously by nothing more than social media — that the business was the site of a child sex-slave operation led by Democrats — specifically Hillary Clinton.
Frankly, in this Atlanta case, and at this point in our nation's fractious melting-pot history, it is beside the point whether the accused killer in the spa shootings ever admits or is proven to have had a racist motivation in addition to his stated sex "addiction."
The bottom line is that Asian Americans have, during this year of COVID, already been traumatized by a rising tide of hate, violence and rhetoric. Many have been living for months in fear as the level of slurs, threats and assaults against them escalated, and they joined the ranks of Native Americans, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Irish-Americans, gays and trans-Americans, Catholics, Jews, Muslims — the list goes on. Other, of course, than white, straight Christians who seem to fear all of these other "others."
There simply seems to be no limit to blame-game hate.
But America, listen!
There are so many more things worthy of our hate than our fellow human beings.
Like hate itself, for one. Like the kind of collective tribal cultism that lets us be wagged by partisanship instead of common ground, for another.
We also could focus our ire on the kind of personal arrogance and ignorance that allows us to dismiss lessons of honor and history, even as we let ourselves be duped by charlatans and demagogues.
Too many of these charlatans and demagogues have become the orchestrators of our hate.
Our former president, for instance, stoked all of the above forms of blame. Sticking strictly with the Asian-anger theme, he repeatedly referred to the novel coronavirus as "the China virus" or "the Kung flu." It may seem a small sleight of speech, but from a person with a huge bully pulpit and an enormous megaphone, it's far too beguiling. The virus actually came from animals: Scientists say it leapt from a bat to another animal to humans. They found it first in China, but honestly it could have happened anywhere that lots of animals or their carcasses were close together in wet markets. Remember the bird flu and swine flu?
The hatemonger point here is that demagogic blamers are both power-hungry and fearful. And it is important not to let their provocations get the better of our normal, human sense of conciliation, accord and peace. To borrow a cliche, we cannot let them overpower our better angels.
We understand this often is easier said than done.
But we all need to take a breath. We need to remind ourselves to look at the sunshine or at our baby's face or at a flower. We don't have to play Hell's game.
We are all human. We all see the sun. We all see sweet baby faces. We all love life.
And we can all fight hate. We must.