Reflections on the aftermath of the Orlando massacre

Whenever there are senseless tragedies like the Pulse massacre in Orlando there is always an attempt to try and make some sense of it all. There is a desperate need in human nature to find some semblance of a silver lining from the most despicable acts of humanity. Unfortunately I have no silver lining or platitudes to offer after this tragedy. I have only sadness, rage, and a feeling of helplessness, confusion, and utter despair.

This was a horrible tragedy perpetrated by a twisted psychopath. Unless you are a psychopath yourself, I don’t think we can ever truly understand what kind of monster is capable of committing a massacre on this scale. I can’t fathom how someone becomes so self-radicalized to the point that they desire to kill other human beings. I don’t understand how someone uses religion as an excuse to kill other people. But, before we resign ourselves to defeatism, let’s consider some things we can change to at least lessen or mitigate any future massacres.

I don’t claim to have any perfect solutions only a few suggestions. However, I am far more of a pragmatist than an optimist so I don’t expect anything of substance to happen. Nothing changed after so many other massacres and nothing will change now. It’s easier to move a mountain than change the status quo with the level of gridlock in D.C. But we owe the victims in the photo below a promise to at least all try and do our part to make sure something positive will be different this time around.

Orlando Victims

United States Foreign Policy in the Middle East

It is  clear that ISIS needs to be completely eradicated and wiped off the face of the earth, but how do you defeat a a nihilistic ideology? You can kill every member of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and you will still have these home grown terrorists intent on death and destruction. If ISIS is completely eradicated in Iraq and Syria then Al Qaeda or some other charismatic mullah will inevitably pop up and fill the vacuum of hate. The Middle East is a complete quagmire and the United States doesn’t really even know friend from foe. Take a look at this diagram so you can better understand what a mess we are in there.

Mid east quagmire

Until we remove all American troops from the Middle east we will continue to be viewed as a major enemy combatant. I am not suggesting we simply pack up and leave overnight. ISIS need to be eradicated and after all the blood of our soldiers and the trillions we have spent in Iraq and Afghanistan it makes it very hard to quickly and fully abandon the area. But eventually leave we must. We must continue to move towards complete energy independence and then simply allow the people in the Middle East to sort out their own affairs. I strongly suspect that once no American troops are in their holy lands we would see a large decline in home grown terrorists as well.

Let’s not forget that after the 1991 Gulf war, the US maintained a presence of 5,000 troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.  In 1996, Bin Laden issued a fatwa, calling for American troops to get out of Saudi Arabia. In the 1998 fatwa, Al-Qaeda wrote “for over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.” 

Many very respected analysts have suggested that had we removed our 5,000 troops from Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War the 9/11 attacks would have very likely never occurred. It then follows that had 9/11 never occurred then neither would the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the loss of thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans. There would likely be no ISIS which was founded by displaced former Iraqi military leaders. And there would have very likely have been no massacre in Orlando.

Once ISIS have been neutralized the U.S.A. needs to leave the Middle East for good. We can still remain engaged from afar, continue with trade, try and broker peace treaties, and help in numerous other ways. But we must remove American troops from the Middle East. I am not suggesting we become isolationists but we need to recalibrate and re-examine where we station our troops.

Reinstate ban on rifles like the AR-15

ar15 gun showIt is terribly sad and pathetic that after every massacre the Republicans immediately start saying that guns aren’t the issue and the solution is to get more guns into people’s hands. After 9/11 when we observed that planes were being used as weapons we tightened airport security. After we discovered drunk drivers were killing other people we enforced strict DUI laws. We don’t allow certain people with criminal backgrounds to vote. We don’t allow people to buy machine guns, bazookas, or tanks either because we realized these weapons have the potential to cause mass casualties quickly.

It’s time that rifles like the AR-15 are banned again as they once were. A semi-automatic like the  SIG Sauer rifle used in Orlando has a maximum effective rate of fire of 45 rounds per minute. And before I get any comments from gun experts telling me it’s not “full-auto” or it’s not an “assault rifle” I already know that and don’t care what it’s called. Quick-cycling high-magazine-capacity weapons are a tremendous problem because no person should be able to own a weapon that can allow a massacre like the one in Orlando to occur again. We banned machine guns to prevent these type of tragedies and we should ban these high magazine rifle for the exact same reason. The AR-15 has been used in recent mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado; Santa Monica and San Bernardino, California; and now, Orlando, Florida.

Gun legislation that makes sense

People in the Middle East have been killing themselves over religion for thousands of years and nothing we can do will ever stop that. We are likely always going to have self-radicalized or mentally disturbed individuals in this country intent on killing and this is the area where we truly need better solutions. It is practically impossible to identify all of them before they decide to commit their murderous acts. So shouldn’t we then focus on ways to prevent them from having easy access to guns capable of killing or wounding over 100 people by themselves?  Shouldn’t we also focus on better background checks that will hopefully catch more of these people? Shouldn’t we ask questions when someone is buying hundreds of rounds of ammunition for an AR-15? Shouldn’t we close gaps in the law where someone who was once on a terrorist list should still send out red flags when buying guns when they are off the list?

Of course anytime you dare mention any sort of common sense gun controls the NRA launches a massive campaign that hijacks the discussion into an attack on the second amendment. How many of you knew that for most of the history of the NRA this organization focused  mainly on gun safety and training, marksmanship, and was a strong advocate of common sense gun controls? There was a coup that began in 1977 that changed the focus of the NRA to fighting any gun control legislation and morphed them into a lobbyist group for gun manufacturers intent on selling more guns. After the coup, the NRA ramped up donations to congressional campaigns and the current NRA  supports the right for a mentally-challenged, twice FBI-investigated, wife-beating individual with violent workplace tendencies to own a high-powered military-grade firearm.  They have moved away from their core purpose (which was education and training) to simply being shills and lobbyists for the gun manufacturers. Similar to the aftermath of  Sandy Hook I don’t expect anything of substance to pass in terms of better background checks. People like Omar Mateen will continue to be able to easily and LEGALLY buy all the AR-15’s and thousands of rounds of ammunition they desire.

The New York Times just wrote a great article called Time for a ‘No Buy’ List.  It is a very well-written article that doesn’t take sides.  It closes with this statement. “The best way to honor those who died in Orlando is to do everything we can to reduce the chances of more innocent lives being lost to terrorism. And we can do it while respecting the Constitution.”

A quick and dirty of an example of a ‘No Buy’ list might look something like this:

You were in a drunken brawl with cops involved = no gun for you
You were charged with beating a spouse or child = no gun for you
One of your guns was used in a crime = no gun for you
Your name is on a terrorist watch list = no gun for you

We must turn our anxiety into something positive

The one thing we can’t afford to do is to allow these savages to instill fear into our hearts. The ultimate goal of terrorists is to terrorize and we must not allow them to win. We can’t allow this fear to become disabling because that is precisely what they want. When we cower the terrorists have won. We must somehow channel all our fear and anxiety  into something positive. There are no simple answers or solutions but we must all be more vigilant and not be afraid to report to police people acting strangely with large backpacks. In all instances of these massacres there was always someone who likely noticed these killers before they acted and failed to report it to authorities in time. The military call it greater situational awareness.

But perhaps the best solution of all is unattainable and the most unrealistic of all. The solution is to stop hating entire groups of people based on their religion, their sexual preference, their skin color, their gender, or anything else.  Hate is taught and no one is born with hatred in their hearts. If you know any humans, you know why this is the most unrealistic solution of all. We seem to love to hate more than we love to love.

stop hate

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