As I opened the paper this morning the headline read, 14 Dead in California Shooting, and as I unfolded it to read the whole article a flyer fell out. It was advertising a gun sale. Handguns and rifles, assault and otherwise, just in time for Christmas.
There were two mass shootings yesterday. One in Georgia got lost in the media frenzy around San Bernardino. That makes 355 mass shootings this year alone. Two in one day. And, of course, this has become so familiar, the “new normal” as some say with a glib tone, that we are ready for the equally familiar response. Prayers and platitudes while we do scant little to think about how we have shaped this atmosphere, what we have contributed to the situation with nothing more than the way that we live our lives. It seems like the dynamics of the Paris climate change talks only on a different subject.
The shooters have been killed. At least at this point it seems like they acted alone, but the whole situation is so bizarre that we certainly don’t know all of the details. But we do know something that I’m quite certain will fuel all kinds of speculation. The shooters have been identified as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27. They were a husband and wife, both of Pakistani origin and both Muslim. Cue the speculation.
It seems, according to reports, that Farook was an environmental specialist who had worked for five years for the same county health department whose holiday party he attacked. He and his wife were heavily armed, possibly in body armor, with legally purchased firearms. They left their 6-month old with relatives and went to kill and die. Of course why is going to be the big question. And for many, the “why” is decided. He was Muslim. He was a “jihadist” and he took his wife along with him. End of story.
But what has me more concerned this morning is not the Muslim part. It’s the American part. See, Farook was born here, raised here. Whatever twisted logic informed his life, whatever evil theology or mental illness or social disorder, he arrived at here. What if what we have generated here, the obvious crisis of shooting rampages, predominantly by white males, is a reflection of something domestic that we don’t want to address, not something foreign that we can easily reject? What if we have met the enemy…and the enemy is us?
Should we be, in fact, more worried about the American part of Farook, not the Muslim part? Should we be worried, in the same way that some government leaders were, that access to weapons is as critical an issue as any twisted ideology? As long as freedom is defined without responsibility, as long as my rights extend so far out that they threaten your life, as long as we call one thing “isolated, loner acts” and another thing “terrorism”, then we’re walking a very dangerous line…one at least as dangerous as Islamic fundamentalism. It is Constitutional fundamentalism. It is ideological fundamentalism.
Are we worried about the right things?