Wednesday, December 02, 2015

The Family That Preys Together

Right now just about everything you're reading and hearing about the massacre in San Bernardino is speculation, whether it's the usual "completely pulled outta my ass" type that clutters the internets, or the perhaps more pernicious sort that takes known facts as they drip out to the public, and conflates them with long-held assumptions and prejudices.

So it's no surprise that when the name of the main gunman is found to be Syed Farook, it's only a matter of time before someone says "ISIS". It's as predictable as the sun rising in the east, or Charlie Sheen having every sexually transmittable disease known to man, and probably more than a few that were previously confined to livestock.

What can we observe about ISIS' terrorist efforts so far, or the efforts of al Qaeda or Islamic terrorist attacks in general? When they attack targets in the West, what sort of targets do they tend to be? Densely populated areas of cities that everyone in the world has heard of -- New York, Paris, London, Madrid. There are pretty obvious reasons for choosing such targets.

Have you ever been to San Bernardino? As a kid, I lived for several years just a half-hour up the I-10 from it. I know it very well. There is nothing distinguishing about it; it is basically one of the last few cities of any appreciable size on the way to Vegas from LA. I'd bet that a good number of Americans outside of California don't know where it is, and certainly nobody outside the country would know of it unless they've been or have people there.

Put it this way:  San Bernardino is not a place for a fanatic representing an internationally-based religious terrorist group to Make A Statement. That doesn't mean that it's impossible that it's ISIS, just unlikely. Added to that the other known fact that as of this hour, the shooting occurred at a holiday party of county employees, and Farook was a fellow employee, and you have a far more mundane -- and almost uniquely American -- dynamic, that of the disgruntled psycho.

Get ready for the usual idle speculation and fabulism all the same, since a good chunk of us have collectively decided that "facts" and "knowledge" and "evidence" have no value, and are merely quaint notions that our ancestors were forced to deal with in simpler times. Now you can just make shit up, put it on the internets, get people to like it and share it, no problem. Hell, you can be full of shit and proud of it, and run for president.

When tragedies like this occur, another dopey (but harmless) custom in the online era is to Show Your Support by taking a couple seconds and typing "prayers to the families" or some such. Coming from random strangers across the ether, it's a nice enough thought, if easy and essentially without real power or lasting impact. Je suis Charlie and all that.

But when those anodyne electro-homilies emanate from the pulpits of the various hyper-christians vying for the Grand Deacon spot, and every one of said godly men promise to do everything they can to retain the current status quo that has resulted in more than one mass shooting every day this year, the words not only ring hollow, they sting a little. We know that none of these men would do anything at all to curb lunatics from acquiring as many assault rifles and banana clips as they can carry. That's not speculation; they are not at all shy about telling you this fact as a selling point.

So really the only surprise in this sordid narrative so far is that a fairly well-known publication has actually stepped up and said in response to those men, "Your prayers mean jack shit." That is a rare thing. This nation's political and speechifying discourse is rotten with pointless benedictions and catch-phrases, and we're all just supposed sit and listen quietly and pretend to be respectful, knowing full well that they don't respect anyone who believes differently from them.

Can you imagine the outcry if the sekrit mooooslin in the White House failed to end a speech with "God bless America"? The people who will tell you till they're blue in the face that Obama is a traitor who has irreparably fucked up this country are the exact same ones who will yammer on and on about being gawwwd's most favrit nation. Okay, well, if He likes us so danged much, then why did he saddle us with Black Hitler for eight years, hunh, hmm? They don't seem to have an answer for that one, they just continue jabbering in their Idiocracy patois of barely decipherable grunts and squawks. Seriously, pick any ten random comments from the Breitbart link. These morons make YouTube commenters look like Rhodes scholars.

It needed to be said, and it's a good thing that someone finally said it out loud. Again, prayers and kind thoughts from strangers are nice, if essentially without a practical function. Coming from politicians who can actually affect policies that would in turn affect or even prevent future incidents like this, which have become alarmingly routine, it's at best an empty sentiment, at worst a flat-out insult. I'm not necessarily convinced that any or all proposed gun control measures would work -- again, we don't have very many facts at all right now -- but I can definitely tell you one thing that will not bring any of the slaughtered back, nor prevent the next inevitable incident.

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