Sunday, February 26, 2017
Yes, Kansas, You Are Just Like That
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an engineer from India, was murdered in an Olathe, Kansas bar by Adam Purinton who also shot and wounded two others. Mr. Kuchibhotla was enjoying a post workday beer with a friend when Purinton decided that he was entitled to harass them about their immigration status and demand their papers. Infuriatated by their non-responses to his belligerently inappropriate and unlawful demands, Purinton left got his gun, came back into the bar and opened fire. Kansas own history of racism, years of income inequality and losses fostered under the governance of Sam Brownback and a contentious political season that inflamed people's fear of other nationalities, religions, races, and more gave Purinton full and open license to act as a vigilante immigration agent, judge and executioner. Only one person had the courage to stand against him and got shot for it. Others in the bar did nothing (and I'm reckoning that some of them will claim to being shocked or afraid, but remember: One unarmed person still chose to act). Purinton again left and, at yet another bar, bragged to the bartender about how he just "shot two Middle Easterners." He bragged. He took pride in what he did. He wanted other people compliment his dirty work.
Now we have several news sources reporting Kansans reacting to the shootings with many saying "We're not like this!" But I say Kansas is just like that. The communities of Kansas, the churches of Kansas as well as the state of Kansas allowed the conditions that nourished Purinton's hatred of others not exactly like him.
Mr. Kuchibhotla was murdered by a state whose people in general openly enabled Purinton's hatred. After all, where were the community leaders during the last president's term pushing back against the slanders against President and Mrs. Obama? Where where the politicians taking note of Kansan's working class continuously losing ground while the state's wealthiest flourished? Where were the church leaders who absented themselves when they needed to stand with the interfaith community during the hysteria generating attacks against Muslims whether American or immigrant or visitor? Where were those leaders when Jewish synagogues, community centers, schools and cemeteries were vandalized or when the KKK was dropping pamphlets in different neighborhoods to either recruit new members or intimidate minorities & immigrants? Why did those step aside as their communities wrote 'quality of life' laws against the poorest? Why did they inveigh, from the pulpit, against LGBTQ people for wanting the same rights the rest of us enjoy without question? And the citizens of Kansas? The overwhelming majority sat silent, approving or stood tall in their bigoted glory shouting down the dissenting minority who tried to demand better.
Yes. Kansans are "just like that." Like the people from so many other states who are also "just like that." Tolerance of intolerance makes them just like that.
Yep. Kansas is just.like.that. In the three years before Purington's murderous actions in Olathe, Kansas has had 5 hate crimes with multiple deaths. They've done nothing save sit smugly in their church pews, deflecting. They are, for all intents and purposes, at peace with their bigotry and xenophobia.