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In (God) Guns we trust

Thursday, 30 June 2022  | Mersina (Tonys-Soulos) Papantoniou


The motto ‘In God we trust’ is printed on the coinage and paper currency of the US. The motto is an acknowledgement of the founding of a nation historically based on constructed Christian values.[1] It heralds a previous time when Christian minorities were fleeing persecution, followed by continuous migrations that colonised the Americas, namely the British and Spanish empires that carved out and conquered The New World.

However, as such empires and religious groupings came, the ‘New World’ would need to be ‘shared’ with its Indigenous inhabitants, which would come at a great cost. This was particularly so as the newcomers had to (non-)negotiate with those who had a prior claim to the land. Power and conquest were procured through ‘the barrel of a gun’, along with broken promise after broken promise, leading to the displacement and ultimate subjugation of the American Indigenous nations and their precarious survival – a familiar story for the Australian context. The ever-shifting policies written by the victors created hierarchies based on race, built on the power of the dollar ‘towards a more perfect union’ implemented by force and yet again executed through the ‘right to bear arms’ - ‘the barrel of a gun’.

The US Second Amendment, adopted in 1791 as one of the ten amendments that form the Bill of Rights, states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.[2]

Some historians argue that the Second Amendment was adopted in the context of genocidal violence by white settlers against Indigenous Americans. It has now evolved into its untethered consequences.[3] Yet in his speech on 2nd June 2022 following the recent Buffalo and Uvalde massacres, President Biden quoted Conservative High Court Justice:

... Scalia who wrote, and I quote: “Like most rights, the right Second Amendment — the rights granted by the Second Amendment are not unlimited.” Not unlimited. It never has been.[4]

In the massacre at Buffalo, NY, on 14th May 2022, 13 people – 11 African Americans and 2 Whites – were killed or wounded at a Tops Supermarket store. The massacre was meticulously planned and methodically carried out by the 18-year-old teenager, Payton Gendron, targeting African Americans. He drove 200 miles from his home in Conklin, NY, to go into the predominantly (over 80%) Black community of East Buffalo and target shoppers at their busiest time at their only local store.[5] It is significant that it had taken over 20 years of Black community activism to finally convince the Tops Supermarket chain to open a store in that part of town, in 2003. Before then, their only fresh fruit and vegetables had come from a mobile food stand.[6]

The shooter used his radicalised online violent ideology as a ‘rite of passage’, not only to gain notoriety and become the ‘centre of attention’, but to prove himself ‘a man’ by taking on this toxic masculine individualist trope  by exerting such power over ‘other’ human beings. Gendron’s parents had bought him a pistol at 16 years of age.[7] This marks a ritual – a ‘rite of passage’ (as explored in Anthropology[8]) – omnipresent in American culture, once again, through the barrel of a gun.[9]

The Buffalo Shooter, Replacement Theory and Christianity[10]

Payton Gendron was radicalised online during the Covid lockdown(s). He attempts to justify his belief in ‘white supremacy’ via the ‘White Replacement Theory’.[11] The theory claims that ‘white European society’ is being and will be replaced through (un)lawful immigration, resulting in a multi-ethnic society, where ‘white’ Europeans will be ‘ethnically, racially, culturally annihilated’ – a white genocide – and become the minority.[12] According to the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto:

We are experiencing an invasion on a level never seen before in history. Millions of people pouring across our borders, legally. Invited by the state and corporate entities to replace the White people who have failed to reproduce, failed to create the cheap labor, failed to create new consumers and tax base that the corporations and states need to have to thrive. This crisis of mass immigration and sub-replacement fertility is an assault on the European people that, if not combated, will ultimately result in the complete racial and cultural replacement of the European people. (1-2/180. Pages are not numbered in the manifesto.)[13]

The resultant multi-ethnic, pluralistic twenty-first century American population is the complete and detested opposite goal of the ‘white ethno-state’, the latter being the Replacement Theory’s ultimate goal. The climax to the White Replacement Theory was hauntingly vocalised at the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in 2017 in Charlotteville, Virginia, just months after the Trump ascendancy. Here, this previously hidden toxic amalgam of White nationalist, supremacist, Neo-Nazi and KKK militiamen who form the internet’s ‘Alt-Right’ had come out in the open with their torches alight, shouting: ‘You will not replace us!’[14]

The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto was released on 12th May 2022, just 2 days before the massacre. Curiously, it was written in question-and-answer form, addressing the issues in the past tense, assuming the massacre had already taken place. For example:

Why did you target those people?

They are an obvious, visible, and large group of replacers. From a culture with higher fertility rates and strong, robust traditions that seek to occupy my peoples lands and ethnically replace my own people. It would have eased me if I knew all the blacks I would be killing were criminals or future criminals, but then I realized all black people are replacers just by existing in White countries. (5/180)

... Why did you choose firearms?

Because they work, there are very few weapons that are easier to use and more effective at killing than firearms, especially the Bushmaster XM-15 I will be using. The effect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide, and the changes to gun laws that will be pushed will all help my case. (5/180), (Mine in bold for emphasis)

Gendron's obsession is revealed in over 150 pages dedicated to the armour and ammunition he intends to use, accompanied by his radicalised racist descent, fuelling horrifying violence. He methodically explains how he has modified his guns and knives, carefully planning every aspect of the attack, including planned streaming of the livestream footage screened through his gaming Discord/Twitch accounts via his mobile phone (143/180). The last quoted line in the paragraph above alludes to the chilling culmination of aiding and abetting the circulation of even more weaponry. In fact, it supports the neo-Nazi idea of ‘accelerationism’: an open incitement to a race war between ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’, based on the Replacement Theory ideology.[15] Thus his intended massacre is, in effect, to ‘help my case’.

Interestingly, Gendron's manifesto of violence points to a disconnect between his understanding of ‘Christianity’ and a ‘living’ Christian faith that embraces the values of non-violence. The manifesto reveals:

Are you a Christian?

No. I do not ask God for salvation by faith, nor do I confess my sins to Him. I personally believe there is no afterlife. I do however believe in and practice many Christian values.

Are you a facsist [sic.]?

Yes, fascism [term only written correctly here] is one of the only political ideologies that will unite Whites against the replacers. Since that is what I seek, calling me a facsist [sic.] would be accurate.

Are you a white supremacist?

Yes, I would call myself a white supremacist, afterall, which race is responsible for the world we live in today? I believe the White race is superior in the brain to all other races. (7/180)

When asked ‘who radicalized you the most’, Gendron candidly admits that it was the Christchurch shooter, particularly through the live cam footage of that shooting in 2019 (8/180). This pattern in ideology and practise mimics the consequent copy-cat racist shootings that drew on the example of the Christchurch shooter. Gendron’s horrific racist manifesto, in turn, echoes writings from other intentionally planned massacres, including Charleston (2015), Christchurch (2019), Oslo (2011), El Paso (2019)[16] and Pittsburgh (2018).

Crucial to understanding the profiles of these domestic terrorists is the ‘community of belonging’ for those radicalised online. The shooters may be profiled as ‘lone wolves’, however ‘replacement ideology’ unites them in their hatred of visible ‘other’ minorities.[17] But this fear of a takeover goes beyond the radical fringe. A US poll taken in May 2022, investigating attitudes to immigration, revealed that 1 out of 3 Americans – 36 per cent of Republicans and 27 per cent of Democrats[18] – believe they are being ‘replaced’ with immigrants for political party advantage. This research confirms the way in which such polarised and polarising views are funnelling their way into the mainstream. Interestingly, as at the writing of this article, the majority of rioters charged with offences during the attempted insurrection at Capitol Hill on 6th January 2021 uphold the Replacement Theory,[19] along with the false claim that ‘the US election was stolen’. The enduring political procrastination regarding the urgent need to further restrict assault weapons tacitly lends weight to this unconscionable collusion,[20] precipitating even further polarisation.

Some action on US gun control has been made recently with a bi-partisan Safer Communities Act gun safety bill signed into law 25th June 2022 by President Biden, which will enable background checks (‘redflag laws’) that will alert to a history of mental illness or previous domestic violence. However, this law has not raised the legal age to own a firearm. At the same time, the US The Supreme Court struck down a New York law restricting the concealed carry of guns, thus enabling the right to carry a handgun in public.[21] This stands in contrast to the Howard government’s quick action in restricting guns in Australia following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996.

In God Guns we Trust

The Buffalo shooter’s manifesto reveals a complete lack of empathy regarding the ongoing plight of America's Indigenous peoples and the enduring legacies of slavery, segregation and transgenerational trauma among African Americans.[22] Again, quoting from his manifesto:

Violence isn’t the answer, why are you using force?

. . . Violence is power and violence is the reality of history. Violence is the only way to make real change in the world. The reason why peaceful protests are allowed is because they don’t make an actual difference. (11/180) (Mine in bold)

This makes a mockery of the long, difficult, consensus-building, non-violent resistance movements of minorities, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Suffrage Movement. Further, any understanding of complementarianism – of equality in diversity – is denied, along with the US Declaration of Independence (1776), which states that ‘All men are created equal... with unalienable rights...’. As if to further deride democratic political constitutionality, Gendron states:

The paradox of the diverse equality

The greatest joke of all is the quixotic foolishness of the diverse but equal society. Diversity by its very definition belies equality. No two different things can ever truly be equal, especially humans. (165/180)

He continues with an economic argument, salient to white supremacy ideology, that belies the history of slavery and the building of American society based upon waves of successive migrations, including ‘Europeans’:

No profits for anti-Whites

For too long those who have profited most from the importation of cheap labor have gone unpunished. The economic elites who line their pockets with the profit received from our own ethnic replacement. These greed filled bastards expect to replace our people with a race of low intellect, low agency, muddled, muddied masses just so their own wealth and power can increase. (169/180)

CHEAP LABOR IS SLAVE LABOUR, REFUSE TO IMPORT MODERN SLAVES (178/180)

The quote attributed to Author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) is seminal to this masquerade: ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel’. Yet the final word needs to be given Zeneta Everhart, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for New York State Democratic Senator Tim Kennedy. Her son Zaire, who was working as a cashier at the Supermarket that Saturday, was shot multiple times and survived. In her testimony to the House Oversight Committee June 9, 2022, she declared from the perspective of a ‘coloured minority’ that:

The very existence of this country was founded on violence, hate, and racism, with the near annihilation of my native brothers and sisters... my ancestors, brought to America through the slave trade, were the first currency of America. Let me say that again, for the people in the back … stripped of their heritage and culture, bargained for … sold, beaten, raped, and lynched. Yet I continuously hear after every mass shooting that this is not who we are as Americans and as a nation. Hear me clearly: this is exactly who we are.[23]

 

Mersina (Tonys-Soulos) Papantoniou was the founder of the inaugural Department of Cross-Cultural Ministries, Sydney Anglican Diocese (1987-2000). Her PhD thesis (2017) was titled ‘Multiculturalism’s Challenge to Sydney Anglican Identity’. She is a member of the Religion and Social Policy network, University of Divinity, and the Australian Association for the Study of Religion.



[3] A. E. Tweedy, "Hostile Indian Tribes ... Outlaws, Wolves, ... Bears ... Grizzlies And Things Like That?” How The Second Amendment and Supreme Court Precedent Target Tribal Self-Defense, Journal Of Constitutional Law 13, 2011, 690-756.

[4] Full Transcript: Biden’s Speech on Guns, New York Times, 2nd June 2022.

[5] N. Marques, Massacre in Buffalo exposes Rotten Core of White Supremacy in US, 18th May 2022, https://scheerpost.com/2022/05/18/massacre-in-buffalo-exposes-rotten-core-of-white-supremacy-in-us/.

[6] Buffalo Shooting Victims Are Likely Targets of Racist 'Replacement' Violence, https://npr.org/transcripts/1099118856, 16th May 2022.

[7] Scheerpost Staff, ‘Mother of Buffalo Shooting Victim Says “This Is Exactly Who We Are”’, 10th June 2022, https://scheerpost.com/2022/06/09/mother-of-buffalo-shooting-victim-says-this-is-exactly-who-we-are/.

[8] A. van Gennep et al., The Rights of Passage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019).

[9] For the understanding of this contemporary masculine ‘rite of passage’, see K. Kobes du Mez, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (Liveright Publishing, 2020).

[10] I have obtained the Buffalo shooter’s manifesto, however, I have chosen not to publish the URL.

[11] R. Camus, You Will Not Replace Us! (Le Grande Remplacement) (Chez l'auteur, 2011/2018).

[12] For more on the Replacement Theory, see M. Papantoniou (Tonys-Soulos), ‘Why is the "M" Word - Multiculturalism - the Problem?’ Zadok Research Papers 255/256, 2021, 7-16.

[13] The (non)structure has followed the same format as in the Breivik, Tarrant and Cruz manifestos.

[14] S. Bacham, Charlottesville: White Supremacists March Through Streets of 8/12/17, 8th December 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GzXY902hbo.

[15] Z. Beauchamp, A neo-Nazi idea to spark a race war inspired the Buffalo killings, 16th May 2022, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2022/5/16/23074812/buffalo-shooting-accelerationism-great-replacement-neo-nazi.

[16] M. Papantoniou (Tonys-Soulos), Something wrong, Mr Trump? In the wake of yet another massacre, El Paso, 21st August 2019, http://www.ethos.org.au/online-resources/Engage-Mail/something-wrong-mr-trump.

[17] K. Belew, The Buffalo Shooting Was Not a Random Act of Violence, 16th May 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/16/opinion/buffalo-shooting-replacement-theory.html.

[18] Immigration Attitudes and Conspiratorial Thinkers: A Study Issued on the 10th Anniversary of The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 9th May 2022, https://www.apnorc.org/projects/immigration-attitudes-and-conspiratorial-thinkers/.

[19] R. A. Pape, American Face Of Insurrection: Analysis of Individuals Charged for Storming the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. University of Chicago: Chicago Project On Security And Threats (CPOST), 5th January 2022.

[20] A. Hunt, Republican Officials Keep Stoking White Supremacist Tropes - and We're Reaping the Result, 22nd May 2022, https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/3497052-republican-officials-keep-stoking-white-supremacist-tropes-and-were-reaping-the-result/.

[21] D Clyde and Shauneen Miranda, ‘Biden Signs Gun Safety Bill into Law’, 25th June 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/06/25/1107626030/biden-signs-gun-safety-law.

[22] N. Hannah-Jones and M. N. Elliott, The 1619 Project, New York Times, 2019.

[23] Z Everhart, Zeneta Everhart testifies on Capitol Hill about son shot in Buffalo supermarket, 9th June 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6k6cDtjQU0k.


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