Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Living In the Shadow of Orlando

Another day since the early Sunday morning slaughter at the gay night club in Orlando FL. I wrote a bit about it yesterday and since then, a few more bits and pieces of information have come to light. They're not exactly making me feel much better.   

The American born Omar Mateen legally purchased an AR-15-style weapon within the past week which he used in the attack on the Orlando night club. Mateen has been investigated in the past by the FBI for possible links to terrorism. But this was in and of itself not sufficient to block or hinder Mateen in the purchase of this weapons. To be legally barred from buying firearms for criminal activity, under federal law, an individual must be convicted of a felony.

Now you might be thinking, gee, why didn’t someone think that maybe suspected terrorists should be barred from buying guns? Actually, that very thought did occur to someone. That suspected terrorists can legally purchase weapons in the U.S. has been a fierce point of contention in Congress and among gun-control advocates. An amendment was put before the Senate in December 2015 to block suspected terrorists from buying guns and explosives. The amendment failed to pass. Efforts to reintroduce the amendment also failed.

Several Republican lawmakers responded to the Orlando massacre by stressing the threat of terrorism — not guns.  How are terrorism and guns mutually exclusive topics? Terrorist use guns! They're especially fond of assault rifles and other automatic weaponry.

The terrorism angle is hard to ignore, granted. Mateen was a Muslim who pledged his support to the Islamic State in a 911 call prior to the shootings. Later, ISIS claimed credit for the attack. ISIS has done this before, taking credit after the fact for acts of terrorism commited by lone assailants with no actual direct links to ISIS.

Further investigation into this tragedy is forthcoming and may provide unexpected answers. But it seems to me that the main driver of Mateen’s evil act of murder was more his own personal homophobia than any strong adherence to the ideology of the Islamic State.  Just my opinion, I may be wrong.

But the fact of the matter is that Islamic radicalization has become part of the conversation and there are those who are willing to pounce on that for political gain. And none more so egregiously than Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Trump tweeted on Sunday that he had received “congratulations for being right on terrorism”.  

Pardon me while I call bullshit on that. First of all, even if you’re right about something, less than 24 hours after the horror in Orlando is not the time for any decent human being pulling a “I told you so” rant like the spoiled petulant child uou are. Secondly, right about what, you dumbass? Your big idea to stop Islamic  based terrorism is to keep Muslims from coming into the country. What would such a ban have done to stop Omar Mateen, born in the USA and legally able to procure weapons here? 

As offensive as Trump was on Sunday, he waded deep into the waters of vague conspiracy theory in an interview on Fox News Monday. Trump insinuated that President Obama is turning a blind eye to terrorism due to some secret agenda. He brought up the old chestnut about Obama not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”, warning that “there’s something going on there.” This is where Trump gets dangerous because there are millions of Fox News viewers who already believe that Obama is a Muslim out to destroy America. 

In a time of crisis, of a deep and terrible tragedy that has really hurt this nation, all Donald Trump can think of to do is point fingers, assign blame and divide us.  

And there is a lot of blame to go around; it’s just not in the direction Trump and his ilk are determined to look.

Yet again, we have an American citizen with easy access to guns unleashing an act of mass murder. Go ahead and call it terrorism. I would not disagree that the poor souls trapped in that club certainly felt terrorized and there are a lot of people all over this country spooked by the idea that this could happen again, anytime, anywhere.  Hell, we were already feeling that way before the massacre in Orlando; the murder of Christina Grimmie, also in Orlando a day earlier, had set us on edge. 

Yes, terrorists are a threat. Yes, let's call a spade a spade and call it radical Islamic terrorism. Yes, these terrorists pose a danger to us and to innocents all over the world. 

But since 9/11, every attack of mass murder on our soil has been from isolated individuals born and residing in America. Some have linked their murderous intent to radical Islamic terrorism: the Boston Marathon bombers, the shooters in San Bernadino CA; the mass killer in Orlando FL. But many others have linked their homicidal rage to other causes. 

The biggest source of danger of extreme significance is America’s obsession with guns and the hyper inflated paranoia that the right to bear arms is under threat. Damn it, we had a chance to have a law to keep automatic weapons out of the hands of suspected terrorists. And that law got shut down hard by the US Senators who have their heads far up the NRA's ass. And the result? A suspected terrorist is able to legally purchase an automatic weapon and use it against American citizens. 

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, "We cannot fall into the trap set by the gun lobby that says if you can't stop every shooting… you should not try to stop any. How many more of these mass tragedies do we have to live through? We need to get these weapons of war off the streets."

Or as the front page of the New York Daily News put it:  "Thanks, NRA. Because of your continued opposition to an assault rifle ban, terrorists like this lunatic can LEGALLY buy a killing machine and perpetrate the worst mass shooting in U.S. history."

What will it take to end this vile grip of terror that we've inflicted upon ourselves because of the shortsightedness of some of our so-called leaders? When will we learn our lessons and do what has to be done? Not just inane lip service to offering thoughts and prayers. Not just bullshit threats to take actions that have no bearing on the problem at hand. 

Because the threat is real but we're looking the wrong way. The sun may be out where you are but all of us are living in the shadow of Orlando and staring down the barrel of a gun we're pointing at ourselves.   

OK, that's that for this post. But if you don't mind, I would like to do a 2nd post for today on a somewhat more uplifting topic. So keep an eye out for that. 

Until then, remember to be good to one another. 

Citizens in Orlando FL lining up to donate blood to help those injured in Sunday morning's attack.   

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