13 December 2011

In Europe: Amoklauf or Terror?

Here's a quick quiz. There have been two multiple-shooting incidents in Europe today. In Liege, Belgium, a man with an Arabic-sounding name and a criminal record involving marijuana and guns attacked a Christmas market with bullets and grenades, killing three people and injuring dozens more before dying himself. In Florence, Italy, a reputed neo-fascist with a hatred for immigrants opened fire on Senegalese street vendors, killing two and wounding more before dying himself. The question is: which of these stories will we see more about in the U.S. news media? Here's another: which of the two killers is more likely to be called a terrorist?  How about one more? A decade ago, Americans asked whether terrorists hated us for who we are or what we do -- but what if we define terrorists exactly by who they are rather than what they do? Won't that be the impulse behind every accusation that the Belgians are "covering up" something by denying that the Liege shooter was a terrorist? Won't some people claim that any discussion of what happened in Florence is a distraction or an evasion of the real issue?

What is the real issue, anyway? As always when we notice these stories, the base issue is the fact that too many people in the world have guns, and the base problem is that too few people can think of any solution besides letting more people have guns. It could be argued that a deeper moral issue underlies the gun question -- why do so many people feel entitled to kill? -- but the question becomes less grave as it becomes lethal. Some may claim that moral reformation should take priority over curtailing people's rights, but how long would we have to wait for the moral reformation to kick in? I'd rather not be shot before then, by a would-be killer or a would-be defender -- nor do I wish to entrust my safety to my own skill with a firearm. A moral reformation is desirable, but every practical step to ensure public safety will also help. And if that idea makes you feel helpless before the leviathan of government, you're part of the problem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The problem in answering your question is that it can't be answered until a different question is answered: What is a "terrorist"?

Unfortunately, for most Americans, the word seems to be quite easily defined as "arab" or "muslim" who kills a non-Arab or non-Muslim. In which case, anyone who seems to perhaps maybe likely to be of middle-eastern background is going to be automatically be a "terrorist" and anyone who kills a muslim is going to automatically be a "patriot" (even if they're not America).