On Sunday morning, coordinated suicide bombers struck several Christian churches and luxury hotels in the cities of Batticaloa, Colombo and Negombo. At least 290 people were killed and hundreds more injured. And sadly, it sounds like the Sri Lanka government had been warned that an attack like this might occur on Easter. Intelligence agencies from the U.S. and India warned the Sri Lankan government weeks ago. Through a series of government missteps the Sri Lankan government didn’t do enough, or perhaps anything at all, to investigate the threat. I actually just read multiple accounts that the Sri Lankan government has issued an apology for not taking the threat seriously enough. Of course, after the fact - that really does sound like empty words to me.
Anyway. An obscure Muslim military group called the National Thowfeek Jamaath (NTJ) is being blamed for the Easter morning terrorist attacks. But Sri Lanka Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that official investigation turned up evidence that the NTJ did not act alone, telling reporters: "We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country … There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."
Sri Lanka is actually, mostly a Buddhist country, with something like 70% of the population identifying as Buddhist. According to the US State Department, the remaining 30% of the population identifies as approx. 12% Hindu, 10% Muslim, 7% Christian with the remaining few percentage points coming in as “other/none.” Even though the Muslim population is comparatively small, tension between the Muslim/Buddhist communities have flared up after a series of back and forth aggressive actions that began, supposedly, a few years ago when a young Buddhist man was attacked and killed by a group of young Muslim men.
Sri Lanka has seen the face of violence many times since 1948, when the country gained independence from Britain. Mostly the violence was from the almost three decade civil war that went from the early 80’s all the way to 2009. A civil war that ripped the country apart and left an estimated 150,000 casualties in its wake. But since the end of the civil war, the country has been relatively free from large scale violence for a decade, which is why Sunday’s coordinated bombing attacks was so shocking.
As of today, 24 suspects linked to the attack have been arrested. Here is a partial list of some of the victims with information about their lives. If you want to help, here is a link to the Sri Lanka Red Cross.
Another white supremacist right-wing terrorist commits mass murder. I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. I’m not going to talk much about gun control because you already know where you stand on that issue. I’m not going to even talk about the actual massacre because you’ve probably heard all about it and, honestly, I doubt I have anything new to say. I do want to talk about the fact that I wish I was more shocked. I mean, do you actually remember a time when it would be shocking to hear about any kind of massacre? I certainly do, and I honestly feel like it was decades ago. Now, I just wait for it to happen, knowing it will.
Remember back in 2011 when a white supremacist right-wing terrorist massacred 79 people in Norway? I hope you do, because I actually forgot all about it. I seriously did. This morning I read Huffpost’s really excellent: Mass Shooters Have Exploited the Internet For Years. New Zealand Took It To A New Level. (No, seriously, it’s great, you should take a few minutes to read it because they accurately point out some of the social problems that lead to mass shootings). Somewhere within the Huffpost story, the writers mention the 2011 attack in Norway that killed seven nine people, and I immediately thought, “Attack on Norway? Jesus, I don’t even remember that one.” I had to look it up. It took me a few moments of reading to recall the details. And then I thought, “Oh, I think there's a Netflix movie about it that just came out a few months ago - maybe I should watch it.” Sadly, my thoughts were not “What a horrible, f**king thing to have happened!” Nope. My thoughts were, “Don’t remember it. Oh, right, now I remember it. I should watch the movie.” =(
I mean, there are plenty of mass shootings I do remember. Without looking anything up: Vegas. The Ariana Grande concert in the UK (I think this was a bomb and not a shooting, or maybe it was both, or maybe I’m mixing up concert attacks). The FL nightclub massacre. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Sandy Hook. The Synagogue attack in … um, I can’t recall which city (and I even wrote about that attack). The attack on the movie theater where viewers were watching Batman, but I don’t remember the name of the theater chain or the city it happened. Multiple attacks on black folks while they’re in church. Multiple attacks in Paris within the last five years. The Kenya school attack. The Australian massacre in Port Arthur and I only remember this one because of the Jim Jefferies stand up routine about the attack and his views on gun control (which, is a pretty good routine). The Amish school shooting in … actually, I don’t remember where. Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head and there are clearly important details that I just can't recall - like the horrible massacre in Norway where 79 people died! Five years from now, after another couple dozen mass shootings have occurred, I wonder which of the above I will have forgotten?
Obviously the point being that mass shootings happen often enough that I no longer even remember some of them. I don’t claim to have a solution; however, I do see a few things in common with modern day massacres.
And there we have our game of Clue: The modern day massacre edition! Pick a mass shooting and ask - who did it? Oh, I know! I know! Is it ”the crippling insecure white male right-wing extremist, in the city, with a semi-automatic weapon?” (Well, not 100% of the time but, close enough).
Hey, how about this for a new law - men are banned from owning and operating guns! No, that's illegal. Let's remember the Second Amendment here so, oh, I know! Men can own, like, a flintlock rifle or a blunderbuss, or something as equally inefficient in the modern world - but women are allowed to own Uzi's and 9mm semi-automatic pistols! That would probably cut down on mass shootings. =)
Anyway. We all know mass shootings are not going away. Maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to shoot up a movie theater - I’ll be there and get killed. Or maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to “ignite a race war” by walking into a church filled with black folks and gunning them down - you’ll be there and get killed. Or maybe the next time a cripplingly insecure man decides to walk into a nightclub and gun down dancers - your kid will be there and get killed.
But I hope not. I hope someone, somewhere has a solution. And I hope it comes sooner, rather than later. Until then, I will cynically just wait for the next mass shooting to happen. I’ll probably post a bitter story about that one too - "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
I had family in Las Vegas this week, so when I read that one man -- just one -- killed 58 people and injured another 515 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, I naturally called to make sure they were alright. They were, because they’re not into country music, which might have been why the concert was targeted.
My aunt said despite being just “next door” at the Luxor (half a mile away), they couldn’t hear gunfire coming from the 32nd-floor window at Mandalay Bay, where 64-year-old Stephen Paddock fired upon thousands of innocent concert-goers.
While ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, of course they have. It’s the deadliest mass shooting in United States’ history, which is exactly the kind of press ISIS seeks. But despite FBI Las Vegas Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse saying they’ve found no connection between the shooting and an international terrorist organization, it would make more sense if they do find a connection with ISIS.
If Paddock was indeed acting as an agent of ISIS, an outdoor, country music concert in Las Vegas is a prime target for an ISIS attack. It certainly makes more sense than an Eagles of Death Metal concert in France. First, it’s Sin City, so regardless of who the terrorist shoots, in his mind, she’s a sinner -- guilty by association. Secondly, the country music fan is almost certainly an American infidel, which couldn’t be said about any other genre.
A thoughtful editorial by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria opines that radical Islam is the product of "broken politics and stagnant economics of Muslim countries," so while the Quran endorses violence, it specifies a very vague enemy. Even Muslims trying to make it in America are targets of terrorism because they’re accepting the vulgarities of the modern world that’s left the Muslim world behind.
Regardless of whom a follower of Allah determines to be an enemy of Islam, they should not be able to injure over 500 people and kill more than 50 in a matter of minutes without strapping a bomb to their chest. Had the gunman been forced to shoot people with a single shot rifle or pistol, he would have been killed by police before he could reload. Automatic weapons with detachable magazines serve no purpose but to wage war; recreational entertainment is not a purpose.
Our entertainment is not reason enough to continue to allow more people to die en masse from gun violence than any other country in the world. I like firing automatic weapons, but I don’t need to fire automatic weapons, and neither do you.
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