Monday, November 28, 2016

Musical Monday - The Greatest by Sia Furler

I was going to post a Christmas video for my Musical Monday selection today. I had some music from A Charlie Brown Christmas all lined up accompanied by a post about how disappointed Charles Schulz would have been that even fifty years later, we still haven't figured out how to have a Christmas that isn't commercialized to the hilt.

Those plans were derailed by the news today that there was an active shooter at the campus of Ohio State University. Students were told to take shelter, set their cell phones on "vibrate", and prepare to "run, hide, fight" if necessary. People across the country appeared to brace for the worst, as initial reports of nine people taken to the hospital and one more dead came out. Initial reports said there were two attackers, one with a gun and one with a large knife. The implications of the early reporting was that the body count would rise, as it always seems to when such incidents occur. Like so many other attacks, we expected that as the hours passed, the news would report an ever-increasing number of casualties - both wounded and dead.

And then it didn't happen. The number of wounded sent to the hospital rose to eleven, but no more deaths were reported. It turns out that there was only one attacker, and he was the one dead body, apparently killed by the police when they arrived on the scene less than two minutes after the incident began. The question is, why was this attempt at a mass attack so different from so many others that had preceded it?

The answer is simple: The perpetrator had a knife, not a gun. Omar Mateen was able to kill forty-nine people and wounded fifty-three others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando because he had a gun. Dylan Roof was able to kill nine people and wounded one other in Charleston because he had a gun. Adam Lanza was able to kill twenty-seven people in Sandy Hook because he had a gun. Seung-Hui Cho was able to kill thirty-two people and wounded seventeen others at Virginia Tech because he had a gun. Elliot Roger was able to kill six people and wounded fourteen others in Isla Vista because he had a gun. The list of people who were able to kill and wound large numbers of people because they had easy access to guns goes on and on. Abdul Artan, currently identified as the attacker in the Ohio State University incident, had no gun. He was unable to kill anyone. He wounded under a dozen people before his rampage was stopped.

Sia's song and video commemorates the Pulse nightclub shooting where, as noted before, Oma Mateen killed forty-nine people and wounded fifty-three more, The truly shocking thing about the Pulse nightclub shooting is that it wasn't really all that shocking. After the shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Isla Vista, Aurora, and so many other places, an armed man killing or wounding more than a hundred people in a night seems almost normal. As a people, Americans have decided that sacrificing hundreds of people on the altar of Gun Rights is acceptable. These sorts of mass murders don't happen with similar frequency in other nations, when confronted with yet another horror involving a mass shooting, as the Onion put it Americans simply throw up their hands and say ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. The common denominator in the bulk of the mass killings in the United States is the easy access to guns. To preserve this ease of access, we turn away from the hundreds murdered as a result.

One might seize upon the fact that Artan is a Muslim, and Mateen was also a Muslim as support for the theory that Muslims pose a particular danger to citizens of the United States. It seems an attractive theory until one actually considers the identities of the perpetrators of mass shootings in the United States. For example, Dylan Roof is not a Muslim. Adam Lanza was not a Muslim. Seung-Hui Cho was not a Muslim, Elliot Roger was not a Muslim. Jerad and Amanda Miller were not Muslim. Jaylen Fryberg was not Muslim. Micah Johnson was not a Muslim. Gavin Long was not a Muslim. James Eagan Holmes was not a Muslim. When one looks at the perpetrators of mass shootings in the U.S., one finds a Muslim here and there, but they are lost in the sea of non-Muslims who have set about shooting their fellow Americans. The case for Muslim's being a particularly dangerous source of violence is remarkably thin when one looks at the array of perpetrators who have gone on violent and deadly rampages within the United States over last few years. The common element is that they were all young, male, and armed with firearms.

One might assert that Artan's assault proves that immigration is the cause of problems. After all, Artan is an immigrant from Somalia. But even though Mateen was Muslim, he was born in the United States, in New York specifically. Syed Farook, the Muslim man who orchestrated the San Bernadino shootings that left fourteen people dead and another twenty-two wounded, was also born in the United States, in Chicago. They may have been Muslim, but they were home-grown murderers. Multiple studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to be criminals than native-born citizens. Immigrants aren't the prime cause of mass shootings in the U.S. - native-born Americans are. We are literally killing ourselves, and all anyone can do in response is throw their hands up helplessly.

The root of the problem is not Muslims or immigrants. The root of the problem is the easy access to guns that the laws of the United States permit. Some people have tried to put options on the table to reduce the frequency of these types of killings by reducing the ease by which firearms can be acquired, but such efforts have thus far been thwarted by the Republican servants of the National Rifle Association. I remember when Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered thirteen people and wounded twenty-one more at Columbine High School and it was an incredibly shocking event. Now, it is just one of many, and not even among the most . Given the results of the recent election, this is not going to change in the next few years. I expect that the Pulse nightclub shooting memorialized in this video, like all of the other shootings mentioned in this post, will soon be overshadowed by some new tragedies in the years to come.

Previous Musical Monday: Fiddler on the Roof Pogrom Scenes
Subsequent Musical Monday: Christmas Time Is Here by the Vince Guaraldi Trio

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