On the morning of July 27, the most honestly brutal expression of conservative America exploded in the sanctuary of the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist Church.
On that morning, Jim D. Adkisson, 58 -- an angry, frustrated, unemployed truck driver -- took his 12-gauge shotgun and opened fire on 200 congregants who were enjoying a performance of Annie . He succeeded in killing two members and wounding five others before he himself was subdued by other congregants.
Though this carnage lasted only minutes and did not have the physical destructiveness of the September 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., it was certainly done in the same spirit of hatred -- hatred against those who have long championed the cause of freedom, equality and human dignity
Mr. Adkisson left a four-page letter detailing his hatred for blacks, gays, women and liberals. He had deliberately chosen this church, of which his ex-wife was a former member.
In his home, police found a .38-caliber revolver and books written not by extreme radicals but by popular right-wing pundits Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity. These writings present liberalism as a growing cancer seeking to destroy American culture, and claim that conservatism is the only way to redeem "our traditional values." Let us rephrase that: their traditional values. The conservatives of today are the descendants of those who promoted Jim Crow laws, anti-suffrage, brutal child labor and religious oppression. Their rhetoric is more polished, but their core has not changed.
We UUs are deeply saddened by and for Mr. Adkisson. He, too, was a victim, for his soul was killed by the ideology with which he chose to identify and act upon.
Joseph A. Zuchowski, Augusta