Thursday, December 3, 2015
Who cares why they do it?
Who cares why they do it?
Why does the motive matter?
Another day, another mass shooting — this one in San Bernardino, California. We only have two questions now: how many dead? And why did the killers do it?
The answers can't matter to the victims, of course. Or their families. If your son or mother or wife or brother is gunned down in a public place, do you care, particularly if they were a lone victim, or one of a 100, or whether shot by someone for the greater glory of Allah, or because someone imagines fetuses are the Gerber baby, or because a guy's dog told him to kill people? It can't matter, all that much.
So is it just idle curiosity? Something to think about a bit more abstract than the gross specificity of carnage?
Maybe we care because the cops care. It is something for them to find out, to investigate. Keeps them busy, gives the appearance of activity. Guilt is typically sitting right there in plain sight. Seldom a big mystery to these shootings. But there are valid questions. Is this part of a conspiracy? Are there others?
And the public cares. Why? My gut tells me it's because we have rhetorical slots to fill. The Planned Parenthood killings—Friday's mass shooting—seem to have been done by a guy upset about that Planned Parenthood video. As well as someone a few bricks shy of a load. That first explanation suits political purposes, as another example of why the superheated rhetoric of the Right is unacceptable. It's part of a pattern of violence that Republican leaders at least tacitly encourage. I see that. Words have consequences, sometimes.
Wednesday's slaughter in San Bernardino was conducted by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik—Muslims, so that's fresh meat for those who hate Muslims anyway, who want to bar refugees. Though it might have been just a well-planned workplace rampage. Someone on Twitter asked, When is a crime defined as terrorism? and I almost answered "When a Muslim does it." But that seemed too glib for the circumstances. Though there is truth there too. If there's a pattern of responsibility behind the Planned Parenthood killings, there has to be some responsibility here as well. I know I always stress that the vast majority of Muslim people have nothing to do with these atrocities, because that is the most important thing to keep in mind, lest the public begin taking its cue from ISIS. But if there is a vigorous campaign within Islam to tamp down such violence, to stress how wrong this violence is to the devout and undercut it happening in the future beyond canned condemnations, well, let's say they're hiding it. We've seen the outrage a cartoon can unleash. When does this carnage evoke anything close?
To be honest, after this latest rampage, I'm beginning to suspect that motive doesn't matter. We can conduct our political Punch & Judy without dipping our fingers in the fresh blood of others to illustrate our point. The only thing that's significant is that this is another random gun killing. And for a ray of hope, you hear politicians—the president, Sen. Dick Durbin—talking about the need for gun violence legislation. I first heard the phrase, "gun violence legislation," and smiled and thought, "ooh, good word. "Gun violence." Good use of rhetorical jujitsu. Cause we can't control guns. But gun violence? That's a different matter. I'm being semi-sincere. It's about time the Democrats got themselves out of their intellectual rut on this issue, gathered up the broken pieces of their courage, and started to do something about this.