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EDITORIAL: How close did we come to disaster?

| April 12, 2024 1:00 AM

Here’s a truth about extremism: The bridge between angry words and violent action can be a short one.

Just a few weeks ago on Sherman Avenue, racists are accused of harassing members of the University of Utah women’s basketball team. And this week, locals are horrified to learn that a Coeur d’Alene man has been arrested after allegedly planning to attack and kill worshippers last Sunday at a nearby church.

In the first case, not only had nobody been arrested as of this editorial’s writing, but there was no clarity on which crimes, if any, had actually been committed. That some soul-sucking incident did occur, however, has been verified by police.

In the second, 18-year-old Alexander S. Mercurio of Coeur d'Alene is in custody after being charged with attempting to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization — in this case, ISIS. 

Mercurio is of course presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, but his case is replete with warnings — and a call for tremendous gratitude.

Let’s address the gratitude first.

To the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, FBI Director Christopher Wray and his dedicated team, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for preventing what could have been the worst man-caused disaster in Coeur d’Alene’s history.

Thank you, too, to the Coeur d’Alene Police Department, Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office and Ada County Sheriff’s Office, all of whom are being credited by the FBI for their assistance in the case.

As the case proceeds, one warning in particular should be heeded. It’s the opening of this editorial. All of us should be vigilant for seeds of extremism that could lead to violence.

According to court documents reported in The Press, Mercurio told a source he previously “drank the Koolaid of white supremacy” but felt ISIS had more purpose for him. That's like moving up from a suite to the penthouse in hell.

Incubators of hatred can take many forms but eventually end up in the same place: lives ruined, particularly those of innocent people. No place is immune to these incubators, and some places have been more susceptible for a variety of reasons.

It is up to each community to identify the sources of local hatred, then employ every legal and ethical method to eradicate them.

Heading to the ballot box is one big step in the right direction.