An Islamic extremist killed 49 people in Orlando early Sunday. The president used the occasion for an angry denunciation of Republicans on Tuesday.
We learn much about human psychology from observing the reactions to the mass-shooting at the Pulse nightclub. We don’t learn much about the mass-shooting, its causes, and its motivations.
When a villain commits a terrible evil, ideologues reflexively blame what they regard as evil without reference to the facts. These a priori explanations require explanations all their own.
While Obama refuses to fault “radical Islam” for terrorism, his votaries plainly name “National Rifle Association,” “Christians,” “Republicans,” and other unusual usual suspects as the true culprits behind last weekend’s carnage. “This is a political distraction,” the president said about his reluctance to utter “radical Islam.” So, too, is the audacity-of-dopes effort to deflect blame onto all-too-convenient enemies.
Senate Democrats filibustered in non sequitur fashion to vote on legislation — specifically a bill to allow government to waive due process to determine, in its omniscience, who gets to own a gun and who doesn’t. But the government already issued Omar Mateen a badge and entrusted him to screen for weapons at a courthouse. The Florida Department of Corrections and G4S, a private security firm relying heavily on government contracts, gave Mateen authority, armed authority made possible by special state licenses in the latter instance, over other people. How would giving the government the power to pick and choose who retains Second Amendment rights have altered history here when the history here shows the government not only repeatedly deeming Mateen fit to guard its institutions, but taking him off the very terror watch list that Senate Democrats hope to use to disqualify prospective gun buyers?
John McCain labeled the president “directly responsible” for the massacre in Florida because he did not sufficiently intervene in the civil war in Syria. But three years ago, McCain, and Obama more softly, sought to intervene — on the side of ISIS. Back then Arizona’s senior senator euphemistically labeled Bashar al-Assad’s opponents as “rebels.” His 2008 presidential election opponent at least conceded that “some of Assad’s opponents are extremists.” The Orlando killer’s stated motivation of “vengeance” for “bombing the Islamic State” makes McCain’s issuance of culpability for a lack of military action especially peculiar.
“The Christian Right has introduced 200 anti-LGBT bills in the last six months and people blaming Islam for this,” tweeted ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio. “No.” ESPN’s Jemele Hill cited “the legacy of Christian homophobia” in reflecting on the tragedy. “So in a country where we have done everything possible to undermine the LGBTQ community,” she tweeted, “we are suddenly lecturing Islam on homophobia. Oh.” The New York Times pointed an Old Gray Lady’s long finger at anti-gay bigotry “driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.” Andrew Sotomayor of the Huffington Post maintained: “Everyone who watches Pat Robertson, Bill O’Reilly, FOX and Friends (or supports them with ad dollars) or bought books by Anne [sic] Coulter or Laura Schlessinger … contributed to this murder.” The Advocate also carted out the likes of Pat Robertson — Did Mateen watch The 700 Club? — as “perhaps more responsible for the deaths of 49 people last Saturday than one man with an assault rifle.”
The killer’s Democratic Party registration, homosexuality, and decidedly non-Christian religious affiliation would seem to complicate all this. But nuance and the narrative never mix well.
Why couldn’t he have looked like Tim McVeigh, loved like Bill Clinton, voted like Rush Limbaugh, and believed like Tim Tebow? For some people, that’s the real tragedy here.
You can kill 49 people but killing a narrative always serves as the greatest offense to the ideologue.
The president insisted on Tuesday that “across our government at every level — federal, state and local, military and civilian — we are doing everything in our power to stop these kinds of attacks,” noting that “these lone actors or small cells of terrorists are very hard to detect and very hard to prevent.”
But Americans repeatedly saw something and said something. The government did next to nothing.
A gun store worker suspicious of Mateen’s request for body armor and ammunition contacted the FBI weeks ago. Co-workers freaked out by boasts of his connections to terrorists contacted the FBI. Public school classmates shocked by the 9/11 attacks became doubly shocked at Mateen’s boisterous in-class cheers during the event’s live broadcast.
Not only did the government not stop him, the government gave him a job, and not only did they give him a job but they gave him a job with a badge and later let him guard a courthouse with a gun.
But why talk about all that? Better to say the Republicans did it.