What a week! Another shooting/massacre. 50 dead. 54 injured. Social media outcry from every direction. Non stop news coverage awash in every opinion imaginable (and a few I can’t even). Here’s a new catch phrase Self-Radicalization. Add it to your dictionaries and common verbiage at dinner parties. In all my life I’ve never heard that phrase roll off the tongue so easily, as if it’s been part of our public discourse for-EV-er. In the context of terrorism I understand its application. It’s fitting, completely describes this criminal and his actions. But it concerns me. What’s to say that a Christian who speaks in tongues hasn’t “self-radicalized”? Or that passing on that doctrine to their children is further radicalization? But then, that’s always the case when it comes to these things. Someone commits a horrendous crime and the buzz extrapolates to a point that people will condemn anything that doesn’t fit their narrative of life.
As Bruce and I were discussing this event I asked him “what would have prevented this tragedy?” Neither of us are gun owners and have no interest in owning one, let alone many. We don’t hunt, aren’t sportsmen, don’t reenact war battles and aren’t going to spend our weekends at the firing range. We aren’t against guns, we just don’t have an interest. We didn’t grow up with guns. Every so often we talk about going to a gun range but it’s way down on our list of to-do’s. If the 2nd Amendment were repealed it wouldn’t personally affect us. I wanted to give our oldest a gun for her 21st birthday. Pink cammo. She would have loved it then. I planned on including lessons and a FOID card… but her dad said “NO”. I scored points for sharing my idea with her…what moms will do for points.
This issue with guns is a real conundrum. Unless someone is going to go door to door and confiscate every weapon in America, then enforce gun bans I don’t see further gun legislation helping. People who legally own guns are the most likely to abide by a ban and surrender their weapons (unless they civilly disobey for 2nd Amendment cause) and people who own guns illegally will never admit it. In my imagination America is awash with legal and illegal guns. I read the news. I watched The Night Manager. I know how it is! Maybe, it would deter someone who is teetering on the automatic weapon fence–maybe. France wasn’t able to prevent it’s own semi-automatic tragedy despite it’s highly regulated system of ownership. More laws…? I guess we’ll leave that to the politicians, they certainly think it will help–unless they don’t.
So now we come to the shooting itself. What caused this guy to take a weapon into a night club and kill 50 people? Common theories? Hatred. Homophobia. Jihad. Evil. Mental illness. Derangement. Arguments can be made for any of these reasons. Can I just say? I’m weary of people assigning evil behavior to mental illness. Knowing mentally ill people for most of my life, (really) I am offended that they are lumped in with someone of this ilk. In my experience, mentally ill people hurt themselves first. They unintentionally hurt loved ones, but to intentionally commit violent acts against innocent people isn’t what I find common in the mentally ill. However, if you’re view of mankind originates with the theory that he/she is basically good then you draw that conclusion. How can you justify the behavior otherwise?
One of the things I heard an FBI agent stress was “If you see something say something”. It brought reminders of history lessons from the Inquisition and Hitler’s Germany. Tattling…mom’s pet peeve. Who wants to become a tattletale? Informant? FBI Pet? Not me. I understand the principle and if I actually saw something that was suspicious I might alert someone but hey, it COULD backfire on me. Calling in the FBI to vet my personal life, and you know they will, might present me as a self-radicalized, homophobic, conservative republican, homeschooling, Christian, nut-case with a grudge. Now who’s the criminal? How do you go about informing? Apparently in each case of homegrown terrorism there were things people saw but didn’t report which might have prevented tragedies. Might have is a big IF. And according to accounts, this man did everything legally before he opened fire. Not much to tattle on.
Isolation is an enormous issue in our world today. People are unknown outside of work and daily life paths. As we mentioned to each other, a terrorist could live on our street and we wouldn’t know it. We have limited relationships with our neighbors and we’ve lived on our street for 10 yrs! We’re not unfriendly and we’re connected to the people on every side of us but 3 doors down? Not so much. Community can happen in a vacuum and often does. Finding a like minded community on the internet is a snap. If your like mind is violence, who’s to know? I wonder what might have happened if this man had been more integrated into his neighborhood and embraced by the outside world. Maybe he chose isolation, but if he was ignored? Hmmm….
In other countries this type of violence has been around awhile. The IRA. Tribal violence in 3rd world countries. Drug cartels. Various forms of Jihad. From the British viewpoint, our Sons of Liberty were considered terrorists…Their violence wasn’t directed at innocents, just tea cargo and military establishments. Still, it was a form of violence in the name of religious and political freedom. Through the victorious lens of history we don’t see it that way, but in 1776ish it was. Point being, it’s not new and most likely will continue until it’s radically resisted. It’s tragic. Painful. I grieve for those affected, for all of us because it strikes terror (as it’s meant to) and it divides us into categories and factions that harbor fear and hostility. It causes us to look at each other suspiciously when we should be engaging in our communities. It furthers isolation.
What this event illuminates is how desperately the world needs Christ and always has. As you read the New Testament, line upon line tells of troubling times to come and not only for Christians. Jesus himself warned of evil days. Everyone will experience the devastating effects of sinful humanity on innocent lives. If ever there was a time to reach out and share the redemptive power of Christianity it’s now, before the next event happens and you find that your neighbor has been harboring weapons and radicalizing his/her life. Of course not all Muslims are terrorists, but in this day (I say this with great trepidation) most terrorists are Muslim. Befriend your neighbors whoever they are. Be interested in their lives, their children, their food, their faith, their acts of worship. If nothing else it will educate you in a wider worldview and give you a perspective that enlarges your heart for those who don’t know Christ. And it just might make it harder for someone to commit that next radical crime against humanity.
Personally, I don’t care that this fellow was a self-radicalized jihadist or that he chose a gay nightclub as his target. To me he was an evil criminal who violently murdered humans for an agenda only he understood. The rest is political, social and ideological mishmash and we all know the public script by heart. He isn’t the first and unfortunately he won’t be the last. Dying during this event was too simple a punishment for him. He should have endured life in an American prison living among like minded peers.
After all, it was his true community no matter how he appeared to the outside world.