Feeling the racial tension close to home
Tuesday night’s drive-by gunfire at the Basalt 7-Eleven brought home the national wave of tension between U.S. citizens and immigrants.Basalt police said it is possible that the episode – in which five rifle rounds were fired through the front window of the convenience store in the direction of the cash register – grew out of an argument between two Latino men who visited the store and clerk Bruno Kirchenwitz.Kirchenwitz regularly wears a baseball cap with the words “U.S. Border Patrol,” but was not wearing it at the store on the night in question. In any case, Kirchenwitz said the two visitors asked him about the hat, and an argument ensued.Later than evening, shots were fired at the 7-Eleven. Kirchenwitz had departed before the drive-by, but other patrons were in the store. Fortunately, no one was injured.What’s unfortunate is that racial tension has gotten to this point in the Roaring Fork Valley. For sure, this wasn’t the first incident to underscore a bigger problem. A racial threat scribbled inside a portable bathroom in Snowmass Village, as well as one at the Aspen School District campus, disrupted the lives of many people simply because of heightened security and, in turn, the looming – albeit unfulfilled – threats.We’re sure many other incidents with racial overtones have gone unreported. Tuesday’s shootings, however, took this tension to another level. Shooting a gun into an occupied convenience store is a foolish and criminal act, but we also seriously question the decision to wear clothing that only inflames the situation. Kirchenwitz, himself an immigrant, from Germany, is well within his rights to wear a hat with “U.S. Border Patrol” on it, but there’s more to this issue than free speech.There are ways to express differing opinions without inciting a flare-up. Tuesday night’s episode, when apparently extremist views on both sides collided head-on, proves that point.Given the U.S. Senate’s inability to agree on a major immigration policy overhaul – on Thursday it shot down President Bush’s initiative to make millions of immigrants legal – this issue seems bound to polarize Americans even more in coming years.Now we’re seeing the residual effect of it all in the Roaring Fork Valley. We can only hope that Tuesday’s incident was an aberration, but the string of events that precipitated it doesn’t have us so convinced.
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