Sunday, June 12, 2016

Orlando's Tragedy: Many Questions, Few Answers




“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”
            Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian (1892–1971)

In Orlando, Fla., 53 people are confirmed dead and over 50 confirmed injured.  A gunman now identified as 29-year old Omar Mateen-- an American-born citizen of Afghani heritage-- apparently entered a gay-culture nightclub in the wee hours of June 12, 2016, and began a shooting rampage.  Hostages were held, and police eventually arrived on the scene.  Before the chaotic assault was over, dozens were left dead, including Mateen.

Based on ongoing information released by police authorities, Mateen allegedly called 911 prior to beginning his assault, pledging an affiliation with global terror outfit ISIS.

Among the far-ranging questions raised by this incident is an enduring narrative of how and why an American citizen manages to commit himself to the cause of a foreign terror outfit, manages to facilitate the purchase of high-powered weaponry, and then proceeds to carry out acts of cold-blooded premeditated murder on an unsuspecting group of people.

The reasons why, sickening and infuriating as they may be, aren’t necessarily that difficult to parse out.

Thanks in part to the connectedness enabled via the Internet, gang recruitment has gone global.

To elaborate: What does a gang offer its recruits?  Love.  Protection.  Pride.  Family.  Strength.
What does a gang demand of its recruits?  Loyalty.  Obedience.  “Courage”.  “Boldness”.

Thus there is a deeply ironic commonality between street gangs, the historical Ku Klux Klan, quasi-military militias and the religious-jihad ideology of ISIL (among others), that demands blind fealty to an often-times amorphously-defined cause, with a rotating list of enemies and offenders, that is more erratic than informed; internal ethics and rules are more contrived than consistent.  The prospect of the annihilation of the “other” is at once an afterthought and a righteous goal to be upraised.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a country ponders how to move forward after yet the latest in a seemingly semi-regular series of mass shootings that leave high numbers of the dead in their wake.
Hopefully, one doesn’t have to “agree” with homosexuality to acknowledge that it’s ghastly to feel justified in committing acts of wanton murder like those that were committed by  Mateen.

Unfortunately, it’s quite likely that there are many people (dozens? Thousands? Millions?) who are disconnected enough to not care, since it wasn’t their loved ones who were injured or killed.  In the era of interactive devices attached to hips, hyper-tribal disconnectedness is far from unknown.

There are many caring and charitable people (dozens? Thousands? Millions?) who will balk at the remotest notion of addressing the myriad forms of firearms manufacturing, avenues of distribution, and means of purchase, ostensibly within the context of preventing self-protection rights from being vacated and shielding the 2nd Amendment from being sweepingly voided by government overreach.

There are many otherwise well-meaning people (dozens? Thousands? Millions?) who will at least tacitly, quietly (and even semi-openly) agree with Mateen’s acts, given that the assumption is many (though, quite possibly, not all) of the attack’s victims and the venue where it took place represent “the Great Babylon” of Biblical-derived lore and literature.  For some, this is not an act to flatly condemn, but a prescient, if obliquely delivered, warning to the greater society to turn away from a laundry list of sinful indulgences.

There are many otherwise pious and morally-centered folks (dozens? Thousands? Millions?) who will likely blame the killer’s religious identification, and thus go about their lives looking askance at anyone with a certain ethnic look or who have a certain wardrobe.  There may yet be others who quietly or openly endorse retaliatory violence or political marginalization of those assumed to inhabit these qualities.

Hopefully there are many—preferably in the hundreds of millions—who believe that love is stronger than any one’s—or any group’s—hatred and animus.  The cacophony of statements,  counter-statements and counter-counter-statements that take place after events like this have clearly availed little or nothing in the way of public policy or cultural shift that can arrest this form of anti-human aggression that leads to this unique form of malaise.

Time will tell.  In light of the palpable tragedy and the immediate loss as these events occur-- wherever they occur (e.g., Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, South Carolina, California, etc.) however often they occur-- and to whomever they occur (college students, children, racial minorities, members of a particular religion, LGBT folks)-- an arguably grimmer and foreboding tragedy is seeded, birthed, nurtured, and mainstreamed.

The worrisome realization that deliberately executed mass losses of life, ultimately-- are now just plain normal.


“With great power, must also come great responsibility."
               Stan Lee, author (1922 - )

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