The things we do to one another

The news all afternoon has been consumed with the still-developing story of yet another mass shooting in the United States. This time the scene was the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, a facility that serves people with developmental disabilities, though the specific target appears to have been a conference room in which a group of San Bernardino County workers unrelated to the Center were having a holiday party. So far 14 people have been killed and another 14 wounded, and the shooters–there could have been as many as three of them–appear to have escaped entirely. If you’re following the story, I’d recommend the LA Times liveblog, given that San Bernardino is in their backyard.

Any discussion about who the shooters were or what their motive was would be pure speculation. The specific nature of the target, and the fact that the shooters escaped, suggests something other than jihadi terrorism, although again there’s literally no way to rule anything out at this point. Without being too morbid, it seems like the casualty count here could easily have been much higher if these were people who were just looking to create carnage as opposed to people who had a particular end goal (one that apparently included getting out alive) in mind. San Bernardino’s police chief, Jarrod Burguan, suggested the same thing; he told reporters that “we have no information at this point to indicate that this is terrorist related, in the traditional sense that people may be thinking,” which is a hell of a roundabout way of saying “we don’t think any Muslims were involved.” Not to contradict Chief Burguan, though, it seems to me that it’s too soon to call it “terrorism” at all, given that, again, we simply don’t know anything at this point.

But, you know, terrorism or not, there are still 14 people dead in what is the 355th mass shooting in the US this year. The San Bernardino shooting wasn’t even the first mass shooting today; that honor goes to a shooting early this morning in Savannah, Georgia. You can expect that if Muslims were involved, this shooting will be followed by a robust political discussion of, I don’t know, deporting all immigrants, or banning Islam, or building a dome around America, or whatever. On the other hand, if no Muslims were involved, then the shooting will be followed by a robust non-political discussion about not politicizing tragedy. Anybody who mentions guns or gun control will be immediately escorted out of the public discourse. And that shouldn’t surprise or even infuriate anybody anymore; it’s just the way things are in the USA nowadays, and if the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook didn’t change anything, then this sure as hell won’t.

Meanwhile, just a short time ago, the UK House of Commons voted by a large majority to authorize British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The Guardian has been liveblogging that vote. Why is the UK going to start bombing Syria? Beats me! To be fair, though, when you consider the airstrikes currently being conducted in Syria by the United States, Russia, France, Canada (though they’re stopping soon), Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Syrian air force itself, adding British air power to the mix will definitely be the decisive factor in achieving…uh, something (“further immiserating the Syrian people” is my best guess). And since there’s evidence that the current air campaign is actually boosting ISIS’s Syrian recruitment, more airstrikes must surely be a good idea. Good work everybody.

Welcome to the world in 2015. We drop bombs on countries that are already being saturated with them, to little effect apart from creating death and destruction, because we’re scared that if we don’t Do Something, a Bad Thing might happen to us. Then we go out and do Bad Things to each other anyway. Terrified human beings are the authors of more terror, and half the time we don’t even know why we’re doing it except that we’re scared, and angry, and we apparently want everybody else to be scared and angry along with us.

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Author: DWD

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