The nation demonstrated again last week how resolute it can be when threatened by murderous terrorists — and how helpless when ordered to heel by smug lobbyists for the gun industry.That is how Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist of the Washington Post, begins this column this morning, whose title i have borrowed for this post.
He goes through some of the background of reactions to the Boston Marathon attacks, including the unanswered questions about motivations of the attackers, and how some, like Senator Lindsay Graham, would like to see them treated.
He acknowledges that we are likely to "move heaven and earth" to try to get to any information that will explain the motivations and explore any possible foreign connections to their actions.
Then, in two sentences in adjacent paragraphs, he frames what for many of us is the real issue:
Since the 9/11 attacks, we have demonstrated that when alienated young men who are foreign-born and Muslim kill innocents, we will do anything in our power to keep such atrocities from happening again.The second of course is a reference to the failure of the United States Senate to pass a weak form of background checks, even in the aftermath of the deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.
Shamefully, however, we have also shown that when alienated young men who are not foreign-born or Muslim do the same, we are powerless.
The fear of terrorism is real. Will those who struck us strike again? Who are they?
Ironically, we are far more willing to react viscerally when the attackers are foreign, with motivations we ascribed to religions we do not identify with this country. Remember, in the immediate aftermath of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, many simply assumed that the perpetrators were foreign, dark-skinned, Mulsim, and were shocked when the main perpetrator turned out to be White, Christian, and not only American-born but a decorated veteran of the Gulf War.
For whatever reason, we seem unwilling to label as terrorist actions that clearly seek to sow terrorism against those with whom there are disagreements that are as much based in a perverted religious ideology as were the attacks on 9/11/2001. What else can one say of the murders of Bernard Slepian and George Tiller, or the bombing of the abortion clinic in Birmingham by Eric Rudolph, the man who also perpetrated the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics? Why do we not label those acts as terrorists?
Some say the FBI should have more closely tracked Tamerlan Tsarnaev because of the material he put up on the internet, but passionately use the First Amendment to defend those who run right-wing and anti-abortion websites, many of which advocate the use of illegal actions and violence against abortion providers.
That's the First Amendment. And then there's the Second Amendment, which Robinson addresses as follows:
Imagine what our laws would be like if the nation were losing 30,000 lives each year to Islamist terrorism. Do you think for one minute that a young man named, say, Abdullah or Hussein — or Tsarnaev — would be able to go to a gun show and buy a semiautomatic AR-15 knockoff with a 30-round clip, no questions asked? Would the NRA still argue, as it essentially does now, that those thousands of lives are the price we must pay for the Second Amendment?There is an anniversary upon us, from 30 years ago. The government released a document whose executive summary had near-apocalyptic rhetoric, to wit:
If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.In A Nation at Risk the Reagan administration sought to galvanize opinion by the fear of international economic dominance by other nations.
we might well have viewed it as an act of war
So is it wrong to remind us that if an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose upon us laws that led to the deaths of more than 30,000 Americans a year we would no doubt have viewed that as an act of war? Is it wrong to note that if an organization imposed upon America something that cost us more than 80 violent deaths a day we would be horrified?
It may not be an unfriendly foreign government, but an organization DOES impose upon us in that fashion, and we have laws that contribute to those 30,000 deaths of year, and we have an unwillingness to change our laws to address that need.
In our founding document, the Declaration of Independence, there is an extensive list of grievances against George III used to justify our declaring our independence, of meeting the requirement penned by Jefferson when people are dissolving long-established political bonds
a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separationThe first of the grievances listed is as follows:
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.90% of the American people want background checks. Well over half of the American people want further laws regulating the sale and possession of weapons and magazines.
The cost in deaths due to guns, of more than 30,000/year, is exceeded in only five of the wars in which this nation has engaged:
Civil War 625,000
World War II 405,399
World War I 116,516
and remember, two years of domestic gun violence - including accidents and suicides - exceeds the total in Vietnam of many years. The rate is even greater than that experienced in Korea, in which our involvement lasted more than 2 years.
The events of September 11, 2001 were horrible.
The next largest number of deaths from terrorism were the Alfred P. Murrah building, which was domestic.
The number of gun deaths each year are staggering.
Since Virginia Tech, more than 6 years ago, almost 190,000 people have died from guns.
So maybe we need to recognize our unwillingness, or even our cowardice, in not properly addressing gun violence in this nation.
Robinson puts it succinctly in his final words:
When we say “never again” about terrorism, we really mean it. When we say those words about gun violence, obviously we really don’t.And the deaths from domestic gun violence continue.