Since there was a Part 1 it was inevitable that there’d be a Part 2. But I think I’ll stop here unless something else really interesting comes up.
Today’s blog is inspired by two tweets retweeted to me (ages ago, now) by my friend @Halfrican_One:
@m_clem Faisal Shahzad’s politics are no less incoherent than Jared Lee Loughner’s. But one is a “Muslim terrorist”, the other “just a wacko”.
@andishehnouraee Let’s not generalize about large groups of people based on Jared Lee Loughner’s actions, unless it turns out he’s Muslim.
I chuckled a little at the second one, but it was one of those “this is cleverly worded but I am sad that it’s true” chuckles.
That is, it is, as I discussed last week, the case that everyone immediately wanted to link Loughner to right-wing anti-government rhetoric, Sarah Palin, and the Tea Party. But all of those people were equally quick to push back on that link (blood libel, anyone?). And the Right is culturally powerful enough that it worked. So it came to be that it was insisted that he wasn’t representative of any group, just a lone guy who went off the deep end.
But as these tweets point to what would have happened if it had been a different group he’d been connected to, however tenuously. If he were Muslim, or had been raised Muslim, or even had a Muslim-sounding name, that would have been the immediate explanation. And if he were exactly as crazy as he is, citing exactly the same mishmash of sources, it would still be the explanation.
Because–at least since 9/11, though maybe before; who can remember now?–Muslims automatically fall into that suspicious category in the American imaginary. There’s a sense in the general public that they can never quite be real, true citizens, that their loyalties are always divided, because Islam is inimical to America. It’s bullshit, of course, but that seems to be what people believe.
So, again, if nothing else good comes out of Tucson, it seems to be a moment to look hard at ourselves. Jared Lee Loughner is as American as apple pie because the shooting spree is as American as apple pie. In some sense, Nidal Hasan is utterly American, too, for all he really did have specifically Muslim-extremist connections, because he used our time-honored way of mass-killing. It’s Columbine. It’s the Beltway sniper. It’s Virginia Tech and, close to home for me, it’s Lindhurst High School.
Fewer guns with fewer bullets in them would be an improvement. So would a better mental health system. But as long as this is the standard way of doing rage in this country, any pissed off crazy person is going to think the best thing to do is get their hands on guns and bullets and go shooting.
Let’s start there.