June 12, 2003
Many Americans perceive the face of the enemy to be a Muslim or Arab one. But the face I fear most looks a lot more like accused Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph.
Rudolph allegedly planned and executed a number of domestic terrorist attacks, including a bomb that exploded in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympic Games. He is also suspected of exploding two bombs outside the Northside Family Planning Service in Atlanta on Jan. 16, 1997, another at an Atlanta gay nightclub in February of the same year, and most recently at a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic on Jan. 29, 1998.
Like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph is thought to have little affection for the U.S. government. But Rudolph's purported violent actions appear to be driven by a much more intense philosophy of hatred toward human beings rather than institutions.
Rudolph subscribes to the basic theology of the Christian Identity Movement, according to Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, which tracks information about hate groups. This movement, says Potok, believes "Jews are biologically satanic, and people of color are soulless 'mud people,' akin to farm animals. Abortion is considered to be a plot by the Satanic Jew to do in the white race." Potok also says that "Identity followers are very opposed to homosexuality, which is viewed as another Jewish perversion."
Rudolph is basically seen as "the Butch Cassidy of the radical right," Potok says. He estimates that followers of the Christian Identity Movement are numbered to be between 40,000 to 50,000 strong.
It's difficult to believe that someone who subscribes to such a doctrine of violence could be considered a hero. But according to numerous interviews in the area of North Carolina where Rudolph was captured, many of the locals see him as a sympathetic figure. Some residents printed bumper stickers and T-shirts reading "Run, Rudolph, Run," and "1998 Hide and Seek Champion Eric Rudolph."
Even some law-enforcement officials in the area appeared to be sympathetic to one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted. An officer working at the jail where Rudolph was initially held said that the fugitive was placed in a large cell primarily used to let drunks dry out. "He had been out in the woods for five years and we didn't want to put him in a 4-by-8 cell and shut the door," the officer told the New York Times.
In another surprising example, authorities decided against charging George Nordmann with aiding and abetting a fugitive. Nordmann, a friend of the Rudolph family, allegedly gave food and shelter to Eric Rudolph back in 1998 and failed to notify authorities until days later.
As someone whose personal identity is right in the crosshairs of the Christian Identity Movement's hatred, I'm relieved the FBI finally caught Rudolph. But his evident popularity makes me continue to fear terrorism -- of the homegrown variety.
Andrea Lewis is a San Francisco-based writer and co-host of "The Morning Show" on KPFA Radio in Berkeley, Calif.