Break It Down!
Last week I wrote a post about Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, an Uzbek national, who allegedly killed 8 people and wounded 13 others along a bike path next to the Hudson River in New York City. I entitled the post, “New York City: Terror on the Hudson!” That title was apt, of course, not only because Saipov’s actions terrified the New Yorkers he surprised by attacking, but because they met the accepted definition of terrorism, U.S.A. style.
Four weeks prior to that post, I blogged about Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, a 64-year-old American who opened fire from the 32nd floor of his Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, killing 58, and injuring 527. Paddock used several semi-automatic weapons, at least some of which he altered to fire like automatics. From his high perch, he fired several hundred yards across Las Vegas Boulevard as singer Jason Aldean was in the midst of his closing performance at an outdoor music festival. As noted at the time, Paddock’s assault culminated in what is considered the deadliest of it’s kind in American history, displacing the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting at the Pulse Night Club. I entitled the post, “Nightmare in Las Vegas: Another Episode of American Gun Violence!”
There were roughly four weeks between the Vegas and New York attacks, only five days between New York and Sutherland Springs. That’s right, less than a week after the country’s collective emotions were roiled by the New York City attack, the largest in New York since 9/11, we were caught up in another horrific firearms assault. Devin Patrick Kelley, a 26-year-old Texan, entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, and began firing, killing 26, and wounding 20 others. The point in elevating the time between incidents is not to suggest an increase in frequency.
In fact, there have actually been almost as many mass shootings (where four of more people, not including the instigator are shot) as there have been days this year. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that documents gun violence and gun crime nationally, a total of 307 mass shooting incidents occurred this year, as of November 5, 2017, the 309th day of the year. By comparison, there were 483 mass shootings in 2016. See statistics for other years here.
So, the point of the time spans between Las Vegas, New York, and Sutherland Springs is not the aspect I wish to highlight. The point of emphasis is one I mentioned in the Pollard/Las Vegas post. The killing of any person by another is unfortunate. The degree of misfortune is even greater when political theater seeps into the situation. A quick look at these three incidents reveals that they are viewed in starkly different lights. This appears to be especially true in the case of President Trump. Now, I’ve already stipulated, any killing is bad. By logical extrapolation, mass killings are even worse.
When faced with responding to 585 casualties in Las Vegas, 58 of them deaths, the President concluded that the perpetrator was a sick and demented man. When he had to address the 46 casualties in Sutherland Springs, 26 of them deaths, Mr. Trump said the issue is a mental health problem, not a gun problem. Absent any other element of context, I think I could at least try to take those responses at face value.
However, when I juxtapose Saipov’s attack, which did not include a real firearm, and resulted in fewer deaths than Paddock’s or Kelley’s episodes, and then consider the Trump response, which was, in effect, “He’s an animal,” and “I would consider sending him to Guantanamo,” I am mindful of the political dynamics associated with how our country in general, and our President in particular, deal with attacks differently, based on a political agenda, and, dare I say, race, ethnicity, and religion.
Allow me to cut to the chase. When a guy, even one who happens to be American and white, assembles an arsenal, and uses it to systematically murder 58 people and wound 527 others…in America, he has exacted terrorism on the victims, and upon our country as a whole. The same thing applies to an American, even one who happens to be white, who enters a House of Worship and mows down 26 people, several of them children/infants. The individuals who conducted themselves in this manner committed terrorist acts when they conducted those assaults.
Our President likes to characterize himself as a counterpuncher. Undoubtedly, there are occasions when what he does can be accurately described as returning fire against someone who has personally attacked him. But there are also instances in which his attacks are designed and scripted for political reasons and effect.
To say in one breath that our justice system is a laughing stock, and moves slowly, but then in the next breath that he might send/support sending Saipov to Guantanamo, is not only political, aimed at stirring up his base, but a classic case of being ridiculously inconsistent, and also counterproductive, based upon his own stated objectives. The justice system has been incredibly effective at dealing with terrorists. It has an over 90% conviction rate. However, Mr. Trump’s budget would take millions of dollars away from the justice department’s terrorism fighting initiatives. Moreover, for all his railing about how slow the justice system works, Guantanamo moves at a snail’s pace, by comparison. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, principal mastermind behind the atrocities of 9/11 resides there, still not having been tried.
Trump’s propensity to diminish the heinous acts of American mass murderers, relatively speaking, while demonizing Muslims for their acts of terror is likely a manifestation of his America First mantra, and a key plank in his quest to Make America Great Again. It probably does bolster his support with his base. I won’t use this space to assess their various motivations. At least I will not do so today. Suffice it to say, however, If Trump and his acolytes used nearly as much energy to figure out ways to decrease the volume of gun violence in this country, as they do when a terrorist act occurs at home or abroad, I believe our domestic tranquility would increase dramatically. He joined the classic GOP refrain after the Vegas incident, claiming that was not the time to dwell on guns. After Sunday’s Texas shooting, he offered thoughts and prayers, but declared the matter not a gun problem.
The way things are shaping up, it’s almost as though, as long as angry, or “ill” white men are using guns to commit mass murder here in America, we are sworn to recognize some sort of non-intervention manifesto. Ergo, here we are, recovering from another tragedy…”Terror in Texas: Punctuating A Tough Week!”
I’m done; holla back!
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Thk you. The President makes it easy.