The Orlando Massacre
To a world still reeling and grieving from the shocking massacre of forty-nine partying victims at an obscure nightclub in Florida over the weekend, the damning reality of America’s notorious gun culture is guaranteed to take the back burner at least for now. It is so because the depraved shooter claimed to be Muslim whose parents hailed from Afghanistan.
Genuine Muslims, the world over, will now have to watch in silent anguish as their cherished faith is misrepresented by people who know next to nothing about Islam. If the reports in the international media are to be believed, the repulsive gunman heeded the message put out by the ISIS hierarchy.
For committing the horrific crime in the holy month of Ramadan –a period in which real Muslims are expected to demonstrate the highest forms of piety and abstinence from all vices, he was assured that his reward in heaven - if he eventually makes it- will be ten-fold! What absolute rubbish!
We are told that Islam permits homosexuals to be thrown to their deaths from rooftops among other falsehoods. There is no room for extra-judicial killings in Islam. Unfortunately, in the days and months ahead, every Muslims in America will have to watch their backs as they navigate street corners all because of the senseless actions of this single individual.
But it is not only Muslims who will be recoiling in pain in the aftermath of the senseless slaughter. This tragedy could not have come at a more inappropriate time for Hilary Clinton, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party in the American presidential elections scheduled for November.
Just days before the incident, Hillary was literally walking on air having broken the proverbial ‘glass ceiling’ to emerge as the first female candidate for America’s highest office. The various opinion polls also showed Clinton to be ahead of the Republican Party’s Donald Trump, but only marginally. She was beginning to beat Trump at his own game.
Although the shadows of her fellow democratic candidate Bill Sanders and the ongoing FBI investigation into her use of a private email server during her tenure as the Secretary of State, still hung over her shoulders; she had virtually dispensed off her gloves as she began to focus on Trump. In several media appearances, she exposed the hollowness of his key thesis that America was in steep decline and required urgent salvation.
Her counter-argument that American greatness should be measured by its capacity to lead by robust multilateralism, and not necessarily by bullying lesser-endowed nations into line as like Trump suggested, was beginning to strike a code with potential swing voters. Now all the euphoria of the past one week on her candidacy is certain to wane in the wake of the weekend’s events.
By claiming to be a Muslim even when his antecedents and liaisons suggest otherwise; for pledging allegiance to ISIS in the midst of his unprecedented crime, Omar Mateen, the serial killer, has handed the initiative back to Trump just as both candidates are gearing up to hit the campaign trail hard for the final decisive pitch. His madness has handed a stockpile of ammunition to further advance Trump’s preferred strategy of employing bigotry and divisive rhetoric, both of which he hopes will play on the fear of Americans.
No thanks to Mateen, in the next several weeks and months, the emphasis will be on the identity of the killer and who he claimed to be, and not necessarily the circumstances and other dynamics that led to his crime. The tinge of the ongoing media coverage attests to this. How could such an individual - he was reportedly already on the FBI watch-list - come by such deadly arms so easily? There were even reports that Mateen could just as effortlessly purchased military-grade body armour off the shelf just a few days before the crime. In the raging debate that will surely ensure, the critical issue of gun control will resurface yet again. President Obama has persistently attempted to force a debate on the issue in the vain effort to compel Congress to act on the matter.
His efforts have been rabidly opposed by the American National Rifles Association (NRA) – one of the wealthiest and most formidable pressure groups in the nation. Having already endorsed Donald Trump, they are not likely to back down easily. They are backed by the Second Amendment of the American constitution. Knowing how sensitive the matter is to Americans, President Obama, or any other elected president in future, will struggle to force through the critical amendments required for efficient gun control laws.
The status-quo and intransigence of the NRA on attempts to curb the proliferation of assault rifles and other dangerous weapons in American society makes a mockery of what we already know about the chronology of gun crimes in America since the days of the Wild West up till the moment a bunch of mobsters, allied to Al Capone, lined up seven members of the rival Irish Moran gang in an obscure warehouse and machine-gunned them to death on St. Valentine’s Day - February 14 1929.
In 1971, Juan Corona was convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers in California. Their bodies were later found in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. Jeffrey Dahmer, also known as the "Milwaukee Cannibal,'' was convicted of sexually assaulting, killing, dismembering and eating some of his victims and preserving their body parts. He was convicted of 15 murders and sentenced to life in prison in 1992.
John Wayne Gacy, known as the "killer clown,'' was accused of killing at least 33 boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Many of the victims were buried beneath his Chicago home. He was known for entertaining children dressed in a clown costume. Gary Leon Ridgway, the Green River Killer, was convicted of 48 murders and later confessed to more, killing women and girls in Washington state and California in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ted Bundy confessed to 30 killings in seven states between 1974 and 1978, but his true death toll is unknown. The list is endless. Even under Obama’s presidency, no fewer than five lone gunmen, armed with sophisticated weapons, have killed many innocent Americans. The challenge for Americans, this time, even as they strive to come to terms with the latest massacre is in how they react to it.
What they cannot afford to do is to focus primarily on the religion or ancestry of the killers wherever they may pop up. Neither Al Capone, John Dillinger nor the other sadistic killers listed above hailed from Afghanistan, or anywhere in the Middle East. Yet they were are able to perpetrate their heinous crimes because of the ease with which they acquired their weapons.
Permit me to end this discourse by pointing out a few lessons which I believe Nigerian media practitioners can learn from: the serial killings in Orlando, Florida left piles of dead bodies in its wake. There were 49 dead victims. Let us pause for a while and contemplate on what would have happened if the America media had gone ahead to publish the pictures of the dead bodies. It will certainly have polarized the different faiths in America even further and also led to reprisal killings.
In the last several years I have noticed that our media practitioners have routinely failed to exhibit the requisite responsibility in the handling of similar tragedies. When gory pictures of victims of our ethno-religious crisis are carelessly published, they disrespect the victims; they further polarize Nigerians along their predictable fault lines.