0859 GMT January 29, 2020
Many of today’s mass murderers write manifestoes. They are not killing only because they’ve been psychologically damaged by trauma. They’re not killing only because they are pathetically lonely and deeply pessimistic about their own lives. They are inspired to kill by a shared ideology, an ideology that they hope to spread through a wave of terror.
The clearest expression of that ideology was written by the man charged with a killing spree in Christchurch, New Zealand. His manifesto has been cited by other terrorists; the suspect in this weekend’s El Paso mass shooting cited it in his own manifesto.
It’s not entirely what you’d expect. At one point its author writes about his travels around the world, “Everywhere I traveled, barring a few small exceptions, I was treated wonderfully, often as a guest and even as a friend. The varied cultures of the world greeted me with warmth and compassion, and I very much enjoyed nearly every moment I spent with them.”
The ideology he goes on to champion is highly racial, but it’s not classic xenophobia or white supremacy. It’s first feature is essentialism. The most important thing you can know about a person is his or her race. A white sees the world as a white and a Latino sees it as a Latino. Identity is racial.
The second feature is separatism. Races are healthy when they are pure and undiluted. The world is healthy when people of different races live apart. The world is diseased when races mix. “I am against race mixing because it destroys genetic diversity and creates identity problems,” the El Paso suspect wrote.
The third feature is racial Darwinism. Races are locked in a Darwinian struggle in which they try to out-reproduce their rivals. Currently, the black and brown races are stronger than the white race and are on the verge of obliterating it through invasion.
Immigrants, the Christchurch suspect wrote, come “from a culture with higher fertility rates, higher social trust and strong robust traditions that seek to occupy my people’s lands and ethnically replace my own people.”
If we allow them into our country, brown immigrants will overwhelm whites just as Europeans overwhelmed the Native Americans centuries ago. As the El Paso suspect put it, “The natives didn’t take the invasion of Europeans seriously, and now what’s left is just a shadow of what was.” Immigration is white replacement. Immigration is white genocide.
This is not an ideology that rises out of white self-confidence but rather white insecurity.
This ideology is an extreme form of a broader movement — anti-pluralism — that now comes in many shapes. Trumpian nationalists, authoritarian populists and terrorist groups [like Daesh] are different versions of anti-pluralism.
These movements are reactions against the diversity, fluidity and interdependent nature of modern life. Anti-pluralists yearn for a return to clear borders, settled truths and stable identities. They kill for a fantasy, a world that shines in their imaginations but never existed in real life.
The struggle between pluralism and anti-pluralism is one of the great death struggles of our time, and it is being fought on every front.
We pluralists do not believe that human beings can be reduced to a single racial label. Each person is a symphony of identities. Our lives are rich because each of us contains multitudes.
Pluralists believe in integration, not separation. We treasure precisely the integration that sends the anti-pluralists into panic fits. A half century ago, few marriages crossed a color line. Now, 17 percent of American marriages are interracial.
Pluralists are always expanding the definition of “us,” not constricting it. Eighty years ago, Protestants, Catholics and Jews did not get along, so a new category was created, Judeo-Christian, which brought formerly feuding people into a new “us.” Thirty years ago, rivalries were developing between blacks and Hispanics, and so the category “people of color” was used to create a wider “us.”
Pluralists believe that culture mixing has always been and should be the human condition. All cultures define and renew themselves through encounter. A pure culture is a dead culture while an amalgam culture is a creative culture. The very civilization the white separatists seek to preserve was itself a product of earlier immigration waves.
Finally, pluralism is the adventure of life. Pluralism is not just having diverse people coexist in one place. It’s going out and getting into each other’s lives. It’s a constant dialogue that has no end because there is no single answer to how we should live.
Life in a pluralistic society is an ever-moving spiral. There are the enemies of pluralism ripping it apart and the weavers of community binding it together. There is no resting spot. It’s change, fluidity and movement all the way down.
The terrorists dream of a pure, static world. But the only thing that’s static is death, which is why they are so pathologically drawn to death. Pluralism is about movement, interdependence and life. The struggle ahead is about competing values as much as it is about controlling guns and healing damaged psyches. Pluralism thrives when we name what the terrorists hate about us, and live it out.
* David Brooks is the author of “The Road to Character” and, most recently, “The Second Mountain.” This article was first published in The New York Times.