I write this the day that a man who apparently identified with ISIS went to a gay nightclub in Orlando and killed tens of people with an AR-15 and a handgun. According to his father, he had a deep hatred of gays. He was also investigated by the FBI and was abusive to his wife. His father believes that the act was not religiously motivated, but he may not have known what was in his son’s heart this weekend. This act is going to draw a lot of attention as we move further into the election process. People will be drawn by the Islamic terrorist aspect more than anything.
The same day in the LA area we nearly had a very similar story but the attack was thwarted. The difference here is that instead of a shooter who tied himself to ISIS, we had a radically different picture. This individual was a caucasian from Indiana with an NRA logo on his license plate who had posted conspiracy theories about government involvement in 9/11 and had compared Hilary Clinton to Hitler. Reports have him with multiple long guns (not yet specified) and explosives. That’s a familiar story to people who have read about what happened at the nightclub in Orlando.
However, it doesn’t fit the knee-jerk narrative which is easy to envision from Orlando. In fact, this has happened before. On November 27, 2015, a gunman armed with a semiautomatic rifle attacked a Planned Parenthood location in Colorado Springs killing 3 (including a police officer) and injuring 9. On December 2, 2015, less than a week later, the San Bernadino shooting occurred. Two AR-15s, 9mm handguns, and pipe bombs were involved in that incident. The ensuing news storm around San Bernadino wiped talk about Colorado Springs away and led to talks of iPhone encryption. Donald Trump said “We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet. We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”
Trump has already published a statement about radical Islamist terrorists in response to the Orlando killings. He has tweeted in taking credit for warnings about such an attack and plans to expand his address the next day. I don’t know if the thwarted LA incident will be amongst the topics he will address. He has been outspoken about the prospect of Islamic terror and is doubling down on banning Muslims from entering the country. He’s called on President Obama to resign unless he mentions the words “Radical Islamic terrorism”. That ignores a few points which he’s not going to discuss, however.
The first is that these types of attacks are solely perpetrated by radical Islamic terrorists. That’s what he’ll focus on. But what’s the narrative around the thwarted attack in Santa Monica? How does he explain that? Or Newtown? Or Aurora? Or either Colorado Springs attack? Or name the mass shootings done by people who aren’t Muslims. They may be mentally ill. They may be motivated by hate. When someone with an AK-47 walks into a Planned Parenthood facility and starts killing people based on biased and doctored videos, isn’t he being radicalized as much as the San Bernadino shooter? Isn’t the profile the same? Is it possible to admit that?
The second point is that all of these killings have been done by Americans. Farook in San Bernadino? Born in Illinois. Omar Mateen in Orlando? Born in New York. Robert Dear in Colorado Springs? Born in Charleston, SC. Dylan Roof in Charleston? Also born in South Carolina. James Howell who was stopped in Santa Monica? He’s from Indiana. Sateen lived here his entire 29 years. What are we going to do about this? What does banning Muslims from entering the country do? Does it stop even one of the mass shootings we’ve had in this country? The answer is quite simply no. All that does is fan flames of hatred and paranoia. I don’t want to say that it won’t stop an attack in the future, because it might. But using history as a basis for it is completely meaningless – because these killings have been committed by Americans.
Is the alternative to round up all the Muslims in this country like the Trump-proposed mass deportation of illegal Mexican immigrants? There’s two things wrong with that. The first is that it’s completely blind to the US Constitution but that may even be the lesser of the arguments. The second thing which is wrong is that radical Islamic terrorists aren’t the primary perpetrators of mass shootings. Colorado Springs x2, Aurora, Columbine, Newtown, Virginia Tech, the Washington Navy Yard… None of these are radical Islamic terrorists. Most of these killings – even the radical Islamic terrorist ones, are done by Americans. They’re mentally ill, like in Newtown, or have been radicalized by other Americans as in The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood incident. Or both for that matter. Talking to Bill Gates about the Internet is going to solve this?
Donald Trump is right in one respect. We need to be tough, vigilant, and smart. But we can NOT simply point at Muslims. That ignores the vast majority of who is doing the mass shootings in this country. It also ignores the easy access to weapons which can kill so many so quickly. I know that we cannot completely stop the supply of military-style weapons in the country. Ghost guns exist. It’s not realistic. The Second Amendment – the entire text of it – exists. However, the concept of blocking the debate of realistic law changes entirely is well past its expiration date. I wrote about this after Newtown. Just as unrealistic an idea is having armed “good guys” everywhere in society.
What will Trump do about this tweet now that the LA man isn’t Islamic and is an NRA supporter? Is it wrong to say that if he doesn’t mention the words “Assault rifle ban” then he’s a disgrace who should drop out of the election? Can the man who questioned the existence of Muslim sports heroes only to praise Muhammed Ali, who certainly was an American, even draw comprehend how the threads of all this come together?
I’ll close on one other note. Blaming society’s woes on minorities and talk of walling the country off while appealing to the superiority of a limited set of people is something we’ve seen before. Creating an environment of fear and denouncing those who don’t fall in line with an ultra-national viewpoint is not a new thing. Limiting freedom of the press, blocking off the country, and limiting Internet access are hallmarks of totalitarian governments led by dictators. This is disturbingly similar to the story of pre-Nazi Germany where Jews and Communists were blamed for the country’s woes after World War 1. Don’t support this. Stop the hate which is the real cause. Stop the absolutism and bias. Use your minds. Shed the anger. Ask yourself what it means for this country to be great and what it takes to destroy it. As yourself if you’re prepared to do more of the latter than the former.