I scrapped my column for today. It was partly written when I decided to take a break and turn on the television. What I saw took a moment to sink in. After that, there was no way I could write about anything else.
Yet another horrendous tragedy, this time not that far away in Florida. At least 50 people killed and another 53 injured in a shooting spree at a gay nightclub. Call it a hate crime, call it a terrorist attack. Whatever it is, surely it must finally be a wake-up call. The attack is the largest mass shooting in the entire history of the United States and the worst of any kind since the 9/11 attack on The World Trade Center. But since then, there have been so many more unthinkable acts of terror, in Boston, in Paris, in Brussels and, yes, in Halifax and on Parliament Hill to name just a few. When are we going to say ENOUGH ?
It was sad to see U.S. President Barack Obama address his nation today about this current tragedy. He has had to do it at least a dozen times before and each time it was with visible anger, empathy and resolve. This time, although he said all the right things, it was scripted and not spontaneous as he usually is. He just sounded defeated.
Although the investigation is barely underway, it already seems clear that the killer was a disciple of ISIS and may have had direct ties to them. It is also clear he worked for a national security business and was able to access arms capable of mass destruction, with impunity.
Finding the ‘root cause’, as one politician put it a year or two ago, for these consistent terrorist attacks that have now taken on global significance is not the answer. The time for that is long past. Nor is blaming an entire ethnic entity for the actions of radicals within their midst. It is simply a waste of time and resources when all energy needs to be directed at the bad guys, wherever they are and whoever they are and taking them down as the animals they are.
Too many of us have stuck our heads in the sand and ignored what is happening to our drastically changing world, believing it can never happen here, when in fact it has. We have just closed our eyes and moved on. We may be correct in insisting that acts of violence will not change who we are and will not change how we live or act. But we ignore at our peril the consequences of allowing terrorists, domestic or external, racist or homophobic, or just plain nuts, to continue to gnaw on the fabric of our society. It is time to stop them dead in their tracks, pun intended.
So how do we do this? First we need to give intelligence and enforcement agencies every tool they need to stop terrorist attacks before they happen and apprehend those who try to make them happen. I know that there are those committed to preserving our civil rights that have great trouble with this. But withholding the ability to ultimately protect those civil rights is not the answer. I would not hesitate to throw any official who misuses these powers in jail for a very long time. Until that happens, however, they need to have the ability to do their job.
Second, the almost wholesale availability of guns, especially those that only belong in a war zone, has to be addressed. I understand the defense that guns don’t kill, people do. But people can’t kill if they don’t have weapons. I also understand that most Americans believe that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by their Constitution. But terrorism and criminal acts are not. At the very least we need to know where these guns are, what kind of weapons they are, and who has them. For the life of me, I cannot see how this violates anyone’s civil or constitutional rights.
Finally, we need to get to the heart of the cancer, whether it is ISIS, Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist cells, whether they be foreign or domestic. If boots are needed on the ground, we must put boots on the ground. If governments need to work with others they might otherwise spurn, they must do so. Whatever it takes, this radical approach to unacceptable and drastic change in our world must be stopped.
If I sound angry, I am. More than that though, I am deeply frustrated. Frustrated because none of the above will likely happen. Intelligence agencies will still be handcuffed, weapons of all types will still be readily available and governments will prevaricate on taking any substantive action. Most likely, we will simply close our eyes and move on with a stiff upper lip until the next step in this horrendous change in world order occurs, as it surely will! We will just pretend that it will never happen. And that, in my view, is a damn shame.
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