A couple of incidents do not a trend make, but it's not a good sign for the election cycle that a white supremacist has shot up Sikh temple outside Milwaukee and that the mosque in Joplin has been razed in an apparent arson. In his reaction to the Sikh tragedy, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued the following statement:
Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as we all struggle to comprehend the evil that begets this terrible violence.
Personally, I don't think we have to struggle too hard. The evil in question has to do with xenophobia and religious hatred, both of which can be stirred up or damped down by political leaders.
On the negative side, you've got the example of a Slobodan Milosevic, whose thirst for power caused him to fan the flames of Serbian Islamophobia into genocidal rage. On the positive, you've got the example of a George W. Bush, who in the wake of the 9/11 attacks insisted that Islam was not the enemy.
If the hearts of Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans really go out to the victims of these outrages, they will follow George Bush's example, and make it clear that there is no place in their party not only for violent attacks on non-Judeo-Christian houses of worship but also for anti-Muslim McCarthyism of the likes of Michele Bachmann. There has been a bit of the latter. There's got to be a lot more.