Thursday, innocent victims were killed in what is as of Friday, being called a home-grown terrorist attack, possibly inspired, but not planned, by Daesh or ISIL. It is the worst terror attack on American soil since the Boston Marathon attack. Like Boston and the Oklahoma City bombing, this was the act of an American citizen, unlike 911. The pedigree of the murderers, however, does little to comfort the grieving families and others who are emotionally affected by these acts of violence.
After the recent attack in Paris, the people of France and many world leaders came together to honor the dead and resolve to prevent future attacks. After San Bernardino, many, especially politicians and political commentators, prefer to attack each other including innocent Muslim-Americans.
If anyone does not feel that we are two nations living under one flag, the response to San Bernardino should cause you to reconsider. After 911, Americans immediately came together to support each other in the wake of the tragedy. Americans came together after the Oklahoma City bombing as well. The same can be said about the Boston Marathon, but signs of politicization and division began to appear after that attack. In the aftermath of San Bernardino, sadly, division, politicization, and hatred, and conspiracy theories are staining our national response.
Immediately after 911, all members of Congress—Republicans and Democrats—came out to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, held hands, and together sang the National Anthem. After San Bernardino, members of Congress immediately went into their political corners and engaged in blame, political attacks, and even Muslim bashing.
President George Bush, and others, made an impassioned plea for religious tolerance after 911. He eloquently told the grieving nation not to blame Islam; not to hate Muslims for the act of a few; and he said the terror is not part of Islam, saying it is a peaceful religion. Many Americans today, ironically mostly members of President Bush’s own Party, are making anti-Muslim statements—some subtle, others not so much.
Politicians of both parties used the event to make statements about guns—Democrats called for gun safety legislation; Republicans responded by killing legislation for background checks and voted to allow terror suspects to buy guns, like the assault rifles that killed and wounded the victims in California. They felt compelled to show their allegiance to the NRA, fearing public opinion might demand gun safety laws. This came before a single victim had been buried, and only one of the recent victims in Colorado Springs had been buried.
Presidential candidates gleefully used these deaths for political gain. Democrats immediately called for gun legislation. Republicans attacked Democrats and Obama, saying gun legislation would not have prevented this attack. That is not true, however. Had Republicans not repealed the Brady Law banning assault weapons, the killers would not have been able to legally purchase the guns that killed and wounded so many.
Donald Trump used the attack to further his Islamophobia and bring his birther conspiracy back. He told an audience in North Carolina Friday that there was “something going on with Obama that we don’t know.” The audience went wild with cheers of approval. Trump was inferring that the president of the United States is not an American, a secret Muslim, and somehow behind the recent attack.
An attorney hired by some family members of one of the killers raised another conspiracy theory. Friday he said that the attack was a fake, staged by gun control proponents (Obama) to take away our guns. Right-wing commentators made the same charge after Newtown. Ask the grieving victims if they believe these were fake.
The New York Times ran a front-page editorial calling for gun legislation. But, next to it they ran photos of one of the killers in her hijab and photos from the killer’s home showing a Quran on the table, sending a subliminal message that this crime was an attack by Muslims. When pictures of the Christian killers in Charleston and Oklahoma City were shown, no photos of Bibles in their homes were shown on the front page of any paper.
There are two Americas, each with its own reality. The political discourse in this nation is no longer thoughtful, reasoned, or civil. It has become vicious, personal, and self-righteous. This has accelerated after an African-American was elected and especially re-elected as president. For many, that is proof that the “real” American is gone and needs to be taken back.
This is serious, and we either do something about it, or continue to grow apart like in 1861.