The “Lone Wolf,”
“Thoughts & Prayers”
According to Wikipedia, “The term ‘lone wolf’ is used by US law enforcement agencies and the media to refer to individuals undertaking violent acts of terrorism outside a command structure.” (bold, italics mine) We’ve heard the term “lone wolf” over the years, most often connected to violent attacks on politicians or citizens somewhere in the United States. From JFK to Ronald Reagan to Steve Scalise, as well as the Pulse nightclub shooting and now the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas attack --- it’s always a “lone wolf.” If the shooter is a white male, though, we never hear that the perpetrator was a “terrorist,” despite US law enforcement identifying it as such. Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, was a terrorist. Dylan Roof was a terrorist. Police who shoot unarmed citizens are, in fact, terrorists. Striking fear into a citizenry, creating paranoia, uncertainty, and mistrust in individuals as they go about their daily lives attending church, listening to music, or watching a sporting event is at the core of a terrorist act. When we do not know who may attack us (or fear that those in authority may “take the law into their own hands”) it changes how we conduct our daily lives --- and how we see the world. That is the insidious nature of terrorism.
While we do not know the motive behind the Las Vegas attack, we know that at least 59 people have died already and over 500 are wounded. This is distressing, of course, but let’s note that:
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, a total of 273 mass shooting incidents have occurred so far this year, as of October 2. That's compared to 483 mass shootings in all of 2016. (according to the Gun Violence Archive – a non-profit -- a mass shooting is described as four or more individuals being shot or killed in the same general time and location. ) ABC news, Arizona
In other words, we simply don’t take note of every mass shooting, despite their occurring almost every day! In the same way, I would contend, our short attention span and the 24/7 news cycle will leave Stephen Paddock & Mandalay Bay in our rearview mirror pretty quickly (look at how fast the Pulse shooting disappeared). But that’s simply an extension of a nation that has, in fact, lived with massacres as a regular part of our history. Custer’s Last Stand and Wounded Knee and My Lai might spring to mind but there were many, many others --- as brutal and horrific as our recent Las Vegas story --- that have, quite literally, been confined to our “dustbin of history.” Here’s a few massacres that you may not recall --- simply because it’s 2017 and we really don’t like to recall “episodes” like these.
If you remember the whole “Confederate statue” controversy a few weeks ago you may have heard the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest mentioned more than once. That’s because General Forrest was responsible for the Fort Pillow Massacre. What started as a battle ended in a brutal massacre. According to Wikipedia:
The battle ended with a massacre of Union troops (most of them African American soldiers) attempting to surrender, by soldiers under the command of Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest. “Out of four hundred negro soldiers only about twenty survive! At least three hundred of them were destroyed after the surrender! “ NY Times April 24, 1864
Of course, if we want to situate our massacres closer to Las Vegas we can look at the Mountain Meadows Massacre. If you look this one up (Wikipedia, again) you’ll find:
The Mountain Meadows massacre was a series of attacks on the Baker–Fancher emigrant wagon train, at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. The attacks began on September 7 and culminated on September 11, 1857, resulting in the mass slaughter of the emigrant party by members of the Utah Territorial Militia from the Iron County district, together with some Paiute Native Americans. The militia, officially called the Nauvoo Legion, was composed of southern Utah's Mormon settlers. Intending to leave no witnesses and thus prevent reprisals, the perpetrators killed all the adults and older children—about 120 men, women, and children in total. Seventeen children, all younger than seven, were spared.
If that’s not enough, I’d encourage you to look up the Sand Creek Massacre, or the 1921 Tulsa/Greenwood “riots,” or the Rosewood (FL) massacre in 1923. Those involve racially motivated, terrorist massacres against Native Americans and African-Americans (like Dylan Roof in Charleston) but are historic massacres, nonetheless. United States history is rife with massacres! You can go back to the Pequot Indian Wars in colonial New England to observe the first signs of our ancestral savagery, so Las Vegas is shocking for its numbers, but not because we haven’t seen this before.
Our politicians, of course, tell us “This is not the time” to discuss gun control laws while offering their “thoughts and prayers.” What bullshit! They are about to pass a law legalizing silencers on guns! Really? We don’t want the deer we shoot to hear the bullet coming? What does it matter --- if you’re using your assault rifle on the deer he’s going to be pate anyway.
“Thoughts and prayers” do nothing --- particularly in an increasingly atheistic nation --- but also mean nothing from such a cynical and self-serving bunch as the U.S. Congress. The power of the NRA is stunning. Go to the website: https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?id=d000000082 to see what they have contributed to each member of Congress. It’s not a shocking amount, per capita, but cumulatively, along with their extremely effective lobbying has hamstrung the legal system. Convinced the “government” is going to take their guns away, “true believers” are convinced they must be armed to the teeth. It’s the American Way.
If 2nd Amendment fanatics are afraid of losing that Amendment’s Right, maybe they should start kneeling along with the 1st Amendment protesters during the National Anthem, rather than simply buying Congress to do their bidding.
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