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Facebook. Love it or hate it. Or both. Too many of us winnow our social media “friends” based upon their political views. It is easier to agree than to deal with viewpoints that challenge our own. But if there’s anything the 2016 election should have taught us, it is that we need to listen to each other. We need to walk in each others’ shoes and explore various ideologies. Recently, a friend and former colleague shared a FB post thanking the outgoing administration for its eight years of scandal free and gracious service. Two responses to her post indignantly dissed the former administration. I was compelled to investigate the assertions of the first response, text of which follows [sic]. (I have added numbers to correspond to the points as I investigated them.)

Hi! (1) Extreme behavior that results harm to others is not acceptable, period. (2) The Muslim terrorists were given safe haven in Mosques across America and obviously they had no trouble gaining access to our country. (3) There is an estimated dozen terrorist training camps in America and a vigorous recruiting campaign on the web. (4) Obama there was a catch and release program on the Mexican border and border guards say they were forced to release 7 out of 10 of those they apprehended. (5) Al Sharpton, a guy who rode the race card to wealth and also encouraged violence against whites was welcomed at the White House close to once a week this past year. Oh, and he owes back income taxes at this point. Obama encouraged black lives matter by recognizing them and then we see them conveying the message that blacks should kill law enforcement officers. (6) Whenever there was a white officer killing a black, they were immediately judged guilty by black organizations and people like Sharpton. The process should be to determine if there was justification and if not, deal with errant officers. Have you ever read anything about black officers killing whites?y

Point 1:  Extreme behavior . . . is not acceptable: I agree totally! Extremist groups, be they Caucasian Aryan Nations, KKK, Hell’s Angels; or white/brown members of ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, must be held accountable when they harm others. But in doing so we must follow the law. We can’t assume all people with tattoos, blue eyes, blond hair, Harleys, bushy beards and head scarfs should be arrested. Liberty and justice for all demands nuance.

Point 2:  Muslim terrorist given safe haven in American Mosques: Upon investigation, I am convinced that there are terrorists and wannabes hiding out in some Mosques and Muslim communities in America, as well as around the world. So are Christian domestic terrorists.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, anti-government fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, . . .  compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists.”

In America, we follow the law and assume people are innocent until proven guilty. Muslim terrorists hiding under the banner of their religion are no different than Christian or Jewish terrorists hiding under the banners of their religions. We don’t assume all Christian churches are harboring pro-life murderers and we can’t assume that all Muslim Mosques are sheltering Islamic terrorists. Everyone in America is entitled to the rule of law. A partial list of domestic terrorist activities in the US:

  • Anti-abortion violence
  • Eco-Terrorism
  • Bombing of Los Angeles Times building
  • Wall Street bombing
  • Unabomber attacks
  • Attacks by the Jewish Defense League
  • Oklahoma City bombing
  • Centennial Olympic Park bombing
  • Wisconsin Sikh Temple Shooting
  • Southern California shootings

Point 3:  22 terrorist training camps & vigorous online recruiting: By terrorist training camps, I assume this person means ISIS or Jihadist terrorists? I found vigorous flaming of this hoax online, but I found nothing from a reliable journalism source or government statistical site to support this claim. I would concede this point if I could find the evidence.

Point 4:  Catch & release on Mexican border: As a result of thousands of Central American asylum seekers flooding the border, fleeing horrible regimes and living conditions, the Dept of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review have been unable to keep up with the caseload. Detention centers are dangerous hives packed to the walls with asylum seekers awaiting their cases to be heard. Packed detention centers are farmed out to private contractors and hordes of asylum seekers are locked in prison-like and deplorable conditions in a purgatory of legal inaction. Yes, people have been released with ankle bracelets. It behooves us to remember that the Pilgrims who came to the eastern shores of our country in the 1600s were fleeing religious and financial persecution. The American dream is still alive; Let’s not beat it into a grave.

Point 5:  Al Sharpton’s weekly visits to the White House: This was perhaps the most interesting topic to research. I had little understanding of who Al Sharpton is; I actually had him confused with boxing promoter, Don King. Here are the essentials of what I learned about Al Sharpton:

  • Is a civil-right’s leader who has arguably risen to fill the void left by the absence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • His base is middle-aged, Christian, churchgoing voters in the black community.
  • His civil-right’s concerns go far beyond Black Lives Matter; he is concerned about healthcare, jobs, and education—not so different from Bernie Sanders’ concerns.
  • Has, at times let vanity and ambition blind him into wrong-headed battles, e.g. the 1987 Tawana Brawley affair.
  • Has a troubled financial background that includes poor record-keeping, unpaid taxes, debts, and lawsuits. (Not a character endorsement for sure, but also true of the financial background of the sitting president)
  • Founder of National Action Network (NAN), a Christian activist social justice organization, headquartered in Harlem.
  • Vigorous campaign supporter of Barack Obama.

I conclude that Sharpton visited the White House as many as 85 times since 2009. Five of those visits were one-on-one with the president. Twenty were with staff and senior advisors. The balance were group and public events.

Despite Sharpton’s controversial past and activism, he is a go-to leader of the black community. As America devolved into dangerous, black vs white, street warfare, over video-taped street violence, who better to consult in exploring solutions than a lightening rod leader of the black community? Neither Barack Obama nor Al Sharpton has “conveyed the message that blacks should kill law enforcement officers,” at least no more than the sitting president has encouraged racial violence by alluding to Mexican rapists and drug dealers (as if there weren’t plenty of blue-eyed, blond-haired American rapists).

Point 6: Judgements about white on black violence: Sadly, this is a controversy which will not be resolved until data tracking improves.

While the ethnicity of police officers who kill civilians may be an important factor in determining systemic issues, due to the lack of data identifying the race of police officers implicated in custody deaths, we do not find that evidence currently available definitively supports the claim that black police officers are more likely to kill black civilians.

The lack of reliable data is true of all color schemes attributable to officer/civilian deaths: Black on black; black on white; white on black; white on white. The commenter says, “…they were immediately judged guilty by black organizations and people like Sharpton.”  He is referring to video-taped incidents which were plastered all over the news and social media. It is very difficult for any of us to NOT judge those officers as incompetent and racist, but real American patriots must ask, as the commenter suggests, for a court trail and must resist making armchair judgements without all the facts.

My hope is that we all learn to second-guess our presumptions, double-check our facts, and carefully examine the sources for our research: who funds the information, how are sources and statistics gathered, are statements cross-referenced by several sources, and have we investigated those cross references? Unfortunately all this research has not significantly altered my initial reaction to the comment.

Partial list of sources:
CNN.com The truth about Muslims in America by Holly Yan; December 2015
Dailykos.com Obama and Sharpton by Richard Lyon; December 2014
Dailywire.com Statistics you need to know about cops killing blacks by Aaron Bandler
Forwardprogressives.com Right-wing Christians, Radical Islamic fundamentalists,-   They’re pretty much the same  by Allen Clifton; May 2014
Ikhwanweb: The Muslim Brotherhood
Newsmax.com WaPo Fact Checker; Giuliani right on Sharpton’s Visits to WH by Jennifer G. Hickey; January 2016
Newyorktimes.com Obama administration is quietly delaying thousands of deportations by Caitlin Dickerson; October 2016
Politifact.com Since 9/11 Right-wing extremists killed more Americans than Islamic Extremists by Sally Kohn; January 2015
Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West by Roberto Tottoli; 2015
Snopes.com Alien Nation by Brooke Binkowski; June 2016
Snopes.com Al Sharpton’s Tax debt  by Dan Devon; May 2016
Snopes.com Police Race by Bethania Palma; January 2017
Theamericanthinker.com Trump and Obama’s legacy of Racism by Colin Flaherty; January 2017
Theclarionproject.org Radical Mosques in America by Ryan Mauro; November 2015
The FBI Gangs/Extremist Groups
Thenewyorker.com The Fearful and the Frustrated  by Evan Osnos August 2015
US Department of State Country Reports on Terrorism 2013
Washingtonpost.com Aren’t more white people than blacks killed by police? Yes but no by Wesley Lowery; July 2016