Honor King, not conspiracy theorists

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Tenneson

When I read the article in the Coeur d’Alene Press on Jan. 8 entitled “Embattled Shea a Guest Speaker at 2nd Amendment Rally in Cd’A,” I was concerned. Why would someone who’s been found to have participated in armed standoffs with the United States government be invited to speak at a rally in Coeur d’Alene?

Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing wrong with holding a Second Amendment rally in Coeur d’Alene. I have nothing against gun owners and I believe our right to bear arms should be defended, if necessary.

However, I do take issue with spreading misinformation and inviting someone who’s participated in domestic terrorism to speak in my community. I also take issue with the fact that this rally will be held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and may potentially overshadow events held by Human Rights Education Institute and League of Women Voters to honor Dr. King and his contribution to the Civil Rights Movement.

In the Coeur d’Alene Press article about the rally, Charlene Baron was quoted as saying, “[We’re holding this] because of history, we cannot have the government disarm the people. The government needs to respect the Second Amendment. I don’t think guns kill people; liberal policies do.”

The idea that the government or “liberals” are trying to take away our guns, although believed by many, is conspiracy theory because it’s not based in fact or reality. I also strongly disagree with Ms. Baron’s statement that liberal policies kill people. Regardless of her intention, her claim is contradictory. Liberal policies consistently aim to protect people by providing them with health care, by fighting for equal rights and equal protection and by instituting responsible gun control.

The article says that the rally is an attempt to show solidarity with protesters in Richmond, Va., as they oppose new gun legislation. As it turns out, the gun legislation in Virginia is not an attempt to disarm the people. In fact, the legislation aims to require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month. This legislation actually sounds quite reasonable.

Additionally, the same far-right activists who plan to protest in Richmond were previously banned from armed protests in Charlottesville after their participation in the deadly Unite the Right rally in 2017. Ralph Northam, governor of Virginia, has issued a State of Emergency ahead of the rally due to credible threats of violence at the event.

It’s not a surprise, given Washington Rep. Matt Shea’s involvement and his propensity toward using fear to drive people to follow the Patriot Movement, to which he subscribes, that the same tactics would be used to garner support for the rally. The Patriot Movement is associated with many incidents of violence; including the well-known incidents at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, Bunkerville, Nev., and the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Harney County, Oregon.

Surely, when people read Ms. Baron’s duplicitous words about our guns being taken away, especially in a gun-loving place like North Idaho, they’ll be motivated to attend the rally. The threat of disarmament is one of many conspiracy theories that Shea uses to turn people into adherents of the anti-government Patriot Movement.

Some of the other conspiracy theories he espouses include fear of the government stockpiling ammunition to be used against U.S. citizens, fear that FEMA is building concentration camps in unknown locations in the U.S., fear that Sharia Law is being adopted by the U.S. government and fear that the U.S. government is housing foreign troops on U.S. soil to control the American people, to name a few.

Even more alarming than the numerous conspiracy theories that Shea preaches is his manifesto, A Biblical Basis for War. In it he advocates for replacing our representative democracy with a theocracy and “killing all males who do not agree.” In a theocracy you can forget about separation of church and state; priests would rule in the name of God. Shea often urges his supporters to amass as many weapons as possible and prepare for a holy war.

The Washington state Legislature recently commissioned an investigation into Shea. The resulting report detailed Shea’s involvement in three conflicts where Rep. Shea called for his followers to stand against the U.S. government, to which his supporters turned out in droves, armed for a militia-style standoff. As a result of the findings of the investigation, he was removed from the House Republican Caucus, including being stripped of his position on all committees and forbidden from using House staff.

The Caucus also called for his resignation, which Shea refused to give. The fact that he received such a stark rebuke from his own party speaks volumes. Even before the Republican Caucus, the Spokane chapter of the NAACP called for Shea’s resignation because his ideology is linked to racism. The investigative report also outlined how statements in Shea’s manifesto are consistent with racist, anti-Semitic and white supremacist ideology.

In addition to the aforementioned, it’s disappointing that this rally is being held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This is a day that should be spent honoring the man who sacrificed his life in pursuit of freedom. King fought tirelessly to secure equal rights for all individuals. He inspired a generation of voters to be actively involved in the political process. It’s because of Dr. King that overt racism is no longer acceptable in this country.

The holiday to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s name should be given reverence over and above a rally touting a domestic terrorist and misinformation. Local events that observe this important holiday are being held by Human Rights Education Institute and League of Women Voters. On Monday, Jan. 20 from noon to 2:30 p.m., League of Women Voters will host a film screening and community discussion surrounding voter suppression and Stacey Abram’s fight to become the first black female governor in the U.S.

Jeanette Laster, executive director of HREI, explains their event, “In honor of the positive efforts of Martin Luther King and his civil rights work that has spanned generations, HREI invites you to a special showing of the movie Selma. Experience the journey of the equal voting rights movement and of this epic event that helped change history. This is a family friendly showing (PG-13) that begins at 2:30 p.m. Additional activities provided for young children. Popcorn and other refreshments will be served.”

I urge our community to spend Monday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., either in your own way, or by attending one or both of these events, rather than giving your time and attention to a dangerous conspiracy theorist.

•••

Laura Tenneson is a Hayden resident.

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