Eric Rudolph's legacy
IN HIS statement explaining why he bombed the 1996 Olympics, abortion clinics, and a gay nightclub, Eric Rudolph said:
Rudolph will be put away for life. A Los Angeles Times feature this week said his guilty plea marked the continued fall of extreme, antigovernment individuals and paramilitary, right-wing militia groups that stirred controversy at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. The Times quoted Vincent Coppola, author of ''Dragons of God: A Journey Through Far-Right America," as saying, ''My guess is today we're at the low ebb of a movement that comes and goes." He said Rudolph ''is sort of an artifact of another time. That doesn't mean the time won't come again."
Artifact? Another time? Rudolph may be put away for all time because he used deadly violence. But there are still many people doing his bidding. After Massachusetts's highest court legalized gay marriage, 11 states passed amendments to ban gay marriage in last November's elections. President Bush supports a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
On abortion, several states and the Bush administration have added restrictions in American domestic and foreign policy, behind the code language of the ''culture of life." As to ''global socialism," which can easily be interpreted as the sharing of Americans' wealth in a multi--cultural world, the signs are pretty obvious that Rudolph's spirit is alive and well there, too.
The most inflaming current story is the ''Minuteman Project." A right-wing militia of several hundred people is ''patrolling" a 23-mile stretch of Arizona's border with Mexico, reporting illegal crossings to US border agents. The head of the minutemen, Vietnam veteran and retired accountant Jim Gilchrist, said in newspaper interviews: ''Too many immigrants will divide our country. We are not going to have a civil war now, but we could."
Like many paranoid groups trying to ignore minor details -- such as that Gilchrist could not buy produce so cheaply at his local supermarket without illegal immigrants picking his broccoli or that construction costs in the Sun Belt would be far higher without illegal labor -- Gilchrist turns imagery on its head. Despite the fact that many of them carry guns and knives, he called his minutemen ''a bunch of predominately white Martin Luther Kings."
They would all disavow Rudolph, of course, but it sounds like the minutemen share Rudolph's basic premise about the ''dangers" of global socialism when Gilchrist says, ''We are becoming a country run by mob rule," The Minuteman Project's website disavows any assistance from ''separatists, racists, or supremacy groups." But the current headline on the Aryan Nation's white supremacy website is, ''Minuteman Project: A call for action on part of ALL ARYAN SOLDIERS."
The next headline is, ''Mexican Invasion." The third headline is, ''Mexican army escorts border drug runners."
Of course, the minutemen seem to have little positive to say about the fact that an estimated 7 million illegal immigrants subsidize Social Security to as much as $7 billion a year, according to The New York Times. The contributions of illegal immigrants account for 10 percent of last year's surplus. While the Gilchrists, Aryan Nations, and congressional right-wingers try to criminalize Mexicans in the American mind, the irony is that most illegal immigrants subsidize our retirement, even though it is likely they will never collect benefits themselves. In fact, Social Security officials said that if net immigration was running at 1.3 million people a year instead of 900,000, the savings in the system would amount to half a trillion dollars.
That, of course is not on the minds of Rudolph, the militia, and the right-wingers who need human targets to blame for a complex world. Illegal immigrants are here, paying taxes, making life for us legals more comfortable from the dinner plate to the senior citizen center. Yet Gilchrist is at the border, at the ready, saying the Mexicans are turning America ''into a country of mayhem."
Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.