Let’s not mince words, this is domestic terrorism.
GRAND CHUTE — A homemade explosive device placed outside a Planned Parenthood clinic on Sunday night ignited a fire that caused minor damage to an examination room.
Police today continue to investigate after the fire at the clinic at 3800 N. Gillett St.
Firefighters were called Sunday about 7:40 p.m. to check an alarm and in turn contacted police. The device, which had been placed on an outside windowsill, exploded and ignited a small fire that burned out prior to the arrival of firefighters.
Police Chief Greg Peterson said officers hadn’t heard of any threats against the clinic before the incident or received information to suggest the clinic is at further risk.
The device was built of a plastic bottle and chemical agents and “included agents of an incendiary quality,” Peterson said.
Police think the device was placed about 7:30 p.m. There were no staff members or patients inside the building when the device exploded.
Teri Huyck, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, said the clinic would reopen Tuesday.
“Our primary concern today — as always — is our patients, staff and volunteers,” she said in a statement.
Investigators ask anyone with information about the case to call police at (920) 832-1575.
Now this wasn’t a very successful attack, but it didn’t have to be – not because of the scare it put into people, though. Abortion providers in the U.S. have been putting up with this for a very long time. What worries me is that as the fight heats up, we are seeing something we haven’t seen since the 90s: an upswing in attacks on not only family planning providers, but the doctors themselves (still celebrating their “victory” in this case), and and these attacks are supported by a wide and organized base of like-minded people. It’s a scary pattern.
From a long-term perspective, what scares me about it is not the political end of things, though. It’s twofold: 1. he taste of victory through a passive-aggressive combination of violence and hand-wringing concern-trolling about the violence, and 2. the spread and building-upon of institutional knowledge.
The first is simple. You have a large group of people dedicated to some set of goals, most of whom are fairly passive and uninvolved, but provide support through small donations to organizations such as churches or non-profits that are more sympathetic to what might be euphemistically called “direct action” than the original donors, or at least provide support or messaging to those who are a bit more militant, etc. Since the number of violent actors in most pre-insurgency conflicts is very small, it doesn’t take a huge amount of this skimming to produce enough support for some militant action to be possible, with clean consciences and honest deniability for the base (civilian) donors and those they donate directly to.
The second is much more powerful in the age of the Internet. As soon as a bomb explodes, you have hundreds of people who are trying to figure out who it was, what they used, what they did right, and what they did wrong – and some of those people are not looking to condemn the attack, they’re looking to improve on it. As details are gained and are swapped around the militant community (and their direct supporting friends, co-conspirators, family, or just plain fans), that knowledge becomes accessible to others who might be willing to take advantage of it. If you’re wondering where the urge to police library card usage and monitor the whole internet comes from, this is it right here: the fact that everyone knows someone who knows someone (etc) who is willing to take the information that YOU have and use it to kill someone in the service of some “greater” cause. Most terrorism unfolds in exactly this manner, unless it’s wholly financed from afar (which is rare – money is useless if you don’t have a safe place to hide and sleep).
If the GOP were a sane party, the trifecta would be if the 2010 elections had been a clear repudiation of the GOP, in which case political alienation would have been added to the mix – making for a horrifyingly explosive situation. Unfortunately the GOP base hasn’t been in touch with reality for some time now, and there is historical precedent for them to escalate their violence. The 1994 “Republican Revolution” didn’t stop the Army of God from ramping up their tactics in 1996, and it’s not stopping them now. If Obama is defeated, they will only become emboldened politically, and the violent ones will feel justified in delivering the finishing blows to abortion in the United States. If Obama is re-elected, they will only get crazier as they feel they are losing because they’re not fighting hard enough. Yes, I know I’m painting a very dark picture here, but it’s important to see what the situation is clearly, rather than attempt to march on with nothing but grim determination and an eye to the horizon.
Much like the battle for political control in the U.S., the Right has realized a serious truth that the Left is only now remembering: that political change comes from the grass roots (the real ones, not the astroturfy kind). Going after the terrorists along with the near-apex donors and enablers and locking down huge swaths of our information network is a foolish approach that is both too little, and too late. There is no good way to turn this around quickly, and it will take a generation not only of advertising and PR, but of individuals sharing their stories with those who are close to them, and attempting to draw the shame out of abortion that has been heaped upon it. For those of you who wince at that last sentence, I’d like to just say that the idea of being sold abortion services the way you would sell a commercial (or recreational) product (or using abortion as birth control) is just insane when seen from the perspective of someone who is actually in a situation where an abortion becomes necessary. Not everyone reacts to it in the same way, but I’ve never heard of it being done for fun. For the guys out there: imagine getting a half-hour prostate exam with a very sharp spoon and I imagine you’ll have the barest hint of an idea regarding just how much this can suck.
Short form, the only way for individuals to undercut a terrorist network where they live is to minimize its support. Quietly, consistently, and firmly oppose the growth of their support, and you oppose them. Which leads me to what guys can do:
1. when women around you are talking about the insane ways in which reproductive rights are being trampled on, don’t roll your eyes and move away. Think about how you would feel if you had to answer a questionnaire on whether you ever took advantage of mechanical prostate stimulation in order to buy condoms, with a lecture on morality accompanying any admission that you’d done anything but straight missionary for the purpose of procreation, and with a lengthy critique on whatever kind of underwear you were wearing. It really shouldn’t be that hard, though. This is happening to your wives, your girlfriends, your sisters, (perhaps even your mother), your friends, your co-workers, and millions of people you will never know.
2. when someone puts forth the argument that men should have a say in what happens to women’s bodies because men can’t bear children, turn it around: would you accept it if several overlapping groups (federal, state, and local governments, the church, schools, etc.) told you what you could and could not do with your cock & balls (Forgive me if you’re all offended right now, but we’re talking about adult realities here. Deal with it.) even beyond sex, or accept that they have any right to make public moral judgements about you?
I strongly doubt most of you (again, meaning guys) can even imagine being in such a position, and that it might be easy for you to say “but this is different.” If you really think it is, then I’m sorry to say that I have no idea how to reach someone who considers some human beings less than human, or who doesn’t realize that humanity does not reside anywhere near the gonads (though its potential is transmitted from there in a manner of speaking). I can only ask you to think of an old story about Ben Franklin, who was talking about a Poll Tax, and why it was a bad idea:
Somebody wanted a property qualification. “Benjamin Franklin asked: ‘Suppose a man comes and wants to enroll. You ask him: “What is your name?” “John Jones.” “Have you any property?” “Yes, I have a donkey.” “How much is your donkey worth?” “Five pounds.” “Very well, you can vote.” Next year the same man comes around and he wants to register. You ask him: “Have you any property?” “No.” “What has become of your donkey?” “He is dead.” “Well, then, you can’t vote!” ‘Now,’ says Franklin, ‘who voted last year, the man or the donkey?’”
Now step back a moment and think of it this way the next time someone tries to tell you that abortion needs to be limited: is our humanity invested in our genitals, our genes, or is it the sum of our thoughts, feelings, memories, and identity (and probably much more)? What is the Bill of Rights there to protect primarily: our seed, or our selves? I realize this is hard to follow for some of you, and these are concepts that we’re not encouraged to talk about. I’ll just say that while I can look out for my sperm, I don’t expect it to intercede in a political battle on my behalf, and I’ve never seen an egg jump out of a hen’s nest to save a chicken (or an acorn throw itself in front of a chain saw in defense of the tree from which it dropped, for that matter).
If you can think of any better way to put this, please let me know.