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SPOTLIGHT
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Hate crimes

Published on -4/16/2014, 10:09 AM

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Anti-Semitism is alive and well in America -- and paid a visit to Overland Park during the weekend. A neo-Nazi white supremacist from Missouri faces capital murder charges after shooting three individuals he believed to be Jewish.

That was it. Their crime or offense was simply being Jewish. Frazier Glenn Cross Jr., or F. Glenn Miller, was smiling and shouting "Heil Hitler" as he was being arrested after allegedly gunning down a doctor and his grandson at the Jewish Community Center as well as an occupational therapist at the Village Shalom senior living facility. On the eve of Passover, these three human beings were slain presumedly for their connections with the two Jewish facilities by a former Ku Klux Klan leader.

As the shooter likely would not have remorse for ridding the world of three Jewish people, we can't help but wonder what he thinks now that he knows the identity of the individuals. Dr. William Lewis Corporon and grandson Reat Griffin Underwood were at the community center because the high school freshman was auditioning for a talent contest. They were both Methodists. Terri LaManno, who was visiting her mother at the senior center, was Catholic.

Any thought that this country has accepted the Jewish people as equal -- 70 years after the Holocaust -- are cast aside as the life of the charged shooter is examined.

Cross has a lifetime of activism in the white supremacist movement. He was a grand dragon for the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. He founded the White Patriot Party in North Carolina. He was forced out of the military for his racist activities. He signed a consent decree at one point to stop running a paramilitary operation and harassing African-Americans, which prompted him to switch his group's focus from "black racist crime" to "exposing Jewish communists." He led Klan marches, ran for political offices merely to publicly air his vitriol, and served time in prison for stockpiling weapons and being a threat to society. He once outlined a point system to fellow supremacists that gave 1 point for killing an African-American, 10 for killing a Jew, 20 for an abortion provider and more for a "race traitor."

The sad thing is, the alleged shooter is not a lone wolf. There are many hate-filled Americans who not only share his beliefs but live the same existence.

Prosecutors have a challenge to determine what moved this man from rhetoric to violent action.

"It may have something to do with the uptick in white nationalist organizing that's been taking place in the region over the last year and a half," said Devin Burghart, of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. "There's definitely more going on, from Iowa through Missouri."

It is a sad state of affairs. How the country responds to the tragedy in Overland Park could be critical to helping diminish the existence of so many who believe a white Christian, male-dominated society is what America should be. Free expression rights in the Constitution need to be upheld, but once again we have an example of how too much hate speech can incite violence.

Three white Christians are dead today because a lunatic believed them to be Jewish. He likely will receive the death sentence for these crimes. Fellow supremacists should not be off the hook for their role in fomenting an environment that devalues the existence of Jewish people, African-Americans, or anybody who simply doesn't look like them. The United States still struggles to actualize the noble concept that all men are created equal, 238 years after our founding. Perhaps this devastating act will result in another step toward that equality.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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