In the midst of the horror and grief following 9/11, I do remember having one coherent thought.
Please, President Bush, I thought, please think before you act. Please ask yourself why this happened, and the best way to stop it happening again. Please don’t go off half-cocked in a knee-jerk reaction.
But of course he did. He set about whipping up fear and hatred – which goodness knows was child’s play in the circumstances – and threw in the odd bit of dubious ‘intelligence’ to justify bombing the shit out of Iraq for reasons that to this day remain spurious. And we all know how well that turned out.
In the wake of Orlando, I have two coherent thoughts.
First, Omar Mateen bought his assault weapon legally. I find this outrageous and insane, but perhaps I might finally have reached some level of understanding as to why American gun laws will never change.
In order to defeat an opponent as politically and financially powerful as the NRA and an attitude as firmly entrenched as that of America’s gun lovers, you must maintain your outrage at the results of their hysterical self-interest.
But how can you? With shootings an everyday occurrence, the basic human instinct for survival demands that you curb your outrage for the sake of your own sanity.
But it’s still worth thinking about the numbers.
2,996 people died as a result of 9/11
4,491 US service members died in Iraq between 2003 and 2014
33,000 + people die in the US each year from gunshot wounds.
My second thought was similar to my thought following 9/11.
Please, I thought, don’t anyone go off half-cocked.
But of course they did.
According to his ex-wife, Omar Mateen was violent, unstable and homophobic, but according to a couple who frequent the Pulse Nightclub, Mateen was a regular there. According to various sources, he was a terrorist sympathiser, but according to his father and the head of his mosque, he was religious but not radical. So it seems fairly unlikely that we’ll ever really know why he did what he did. Perhaps he didn’t know himself. Perhaps his last-minute claim of allegiance to ISIS was a desperate attempt at self-delusion, to put a noble spin on what was really a reaction to a deep fear that he himself was gay. We don’t know. We can’t know.
But according to Donald Trump, he is the only one brave enough to call it as it is: Omar Mateen is a poster boy for why all good God-fearing Americans should rise up against the threat of Islam.
Hitler tried this tactic in Germany, to make his country great again after the crippling reparations of WW l. It’s an oldie but a goodie – or it was: historically, nothing unites a country like a common enemy. But you see, Donny, the world’s changed since then. Hitler lost, remember. The Holocaust was not acceptable, and targeting Muslims the way Hitler targeted Jews will not unite America.
Oh sure, you might manage to whip up enough hysteria, as Bush did, to make the enterprise appear initially to be masterstroke of glorious patriotism, but it won’t last. Anymore than it lasted during Iraq. Because, you see, you can’t rebuild a country on hatred. Hatred begets hatred. It doesn’t win hearts and minds. It rots them, makes them bitter and suspicious until they turn on each other and everything implodes.
Orlando was a tragedy. Surely a country of America’s intelligence will not allow one shameless, egocentric buffoon and his gullible minions to manipulate it into something even worse.