Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Real Lesson Of San Bernardino

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the reaction of conservatives to the San Bernardino tragedy was as predictable as it was utterly wrong:  "thoughts and prayers" for the victims, and massive, utterly reflexive denunciations of immigrants otherwise, based solely on the fact that the female half of the husband-and-wife shooting team came to the United States on a K-1, or so-called "fiancee," visa from Saudi Arabia (although she was originally from Pakistan).

Never mind the fact that this is yet another tragedy that speaks to our willingness to make weapons so available that any jihadist can obtain them with little or no trouble.

Never mind the fact that, like the 9/11 attackers, the shooters in this case are not among the undocumented (or, if you will, "illegal") human beings currently present in the U.S., thanks to our unbelievably broken immigration system and our unbelievable unwillingness to take even the simplest, most practical steps to fix it.

And never mind the fact that the victims, as well as their families and friends, don't give a right royal damn about the thoughts and prayers of politicians with no interest in their suffering other than figuring out self-serving ways by which to exploit it.  (Incidentally, that's why calling out the aforesaid politicians in question is not "prayer-shaming," whatever the hell that is.  It is, in the words of the late, great Howard Cosell, telling it like it is.  A holy hypocrite is still a hypocrite; there's no shame in pointing that out, and there's certainly no disrespect to G-d in doing so.  In fact, I suspect that G-d would absolutely insist on our doing it.)

No, this is yet another golden electoral opportunity to focus on the one and only thing that holds the Grand Old Party together:  hatred of non-white people.

Sadly, in the process, two rather important points get buried in the process.

First, as was the case with the 9/11 attackers, the immigrant shooter in this case came into the country through the front door, fully vetted by the agencies and the process proscribed by law to welcome people into the country through the front door.  She passed though a process designed to be as thorough and careful as it is to be rigorous, and was allowed to come into the country without reservations.  She married a U.S. citizen to whom she was engaged, and therefore fulfilled the condition under which her visa was granted.

Second, despite desperate and dishonest Republican attempts to blame that process for allowing her to come to and stay in the U.S., the early analysis of the tragedy blunts any suggestion that she was any part of a terrorist organization at the time she arrived in the U.S.  If anything, that analysis suggests that any jihadist intentions that may have lain behind the shootings may have been part of a process of "self-radicalization."  In other words, she came to the U.S. without a jihadist mindset, and developed one while she was here.

Which should make a point to even the dullest of conservative minds.

In the so-called war on terror, we are not fighting one or more nations.  We are not fighting one or more peoples.  We are not even fighting an entire religion.  We are fighting a specific, twisted version of that religion believed in and spread by people for no other reason than to inspire fear--and, by extension, to gain power through that fear.  Putting it more simply, as did recently, we are fighting an idea, as well as the freedom to believe in and follow that idea.

And, as we should have learned in what we like to call the American Century, you don't fight a battle of ideas with hot power.  You fight it with cold power.  You fight it by accepting the nature of the battle, and waging a battle of ideas with better ideas.  You fight it by preaching and showing the superiority of tolerance, of understanding, of cooperation.  You fight by advancing knowledge, not by retreating behind fear.  To do the latter is to fight the enemy's battle on the enemy's turf.  Yes, there's an espionage, and even a military, component in the battle.  But their existence and purpose is to supplement the main battle:  the battle of ideas.

Even a battle of ideas has casualties; all battles do.  But, in both the short and long run, there will be fewer causalities than there would be in a hot war.  And that will be true, in no small part, because we won't be allowing the enemy to recruit in our midst.  That's the reason why San Bernardino is, if anything, an argument for comprehensive immigration reform that advances the idea of America as a place of refuge, and not a fortress for a lucky few.

And, sadly, it must be said once again, San Bernardino is also an argument to stop handing out guns and pretending that doing so produces safely.  If leftists in Scotland and conservatives in Australia can come to that conclusion, why the bloody hell (literally) can't we?

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