SAN DIEGO – After the terrorist attacks in Paris, I lamented that Americans were not a serious people even though these are – all over the world – very serious times.
You could almost give our countrymen the benefit of the doubt because the atrocity occurred so far away. A sentiment you heard often was that Americans ought to let the French respond since it was their country that was attacked. Surely, if Americans were attacked at home, we’d all get serious in a hurry.
Now, after seeing the public’s response to a terrorist attack in San Bernardino that killed 14 people and left 21 injured, I’m sorry to report that Americans are no more serious about how to respond to a tragedy that occurs in their backyard than they are to one that happens overseas.
When someone spills the blood of their comrades on their soil, people in other countries gain resolve. Americans lose focus.
While others might change strategy, we change the subject. We’re distracted and disinterested. We’re trapped in our narcissistic bubbles where we keep up with the Kardashians, play fantasy football, and await the new “Star Wars” movie.
And then there are the holidays. I mean, really, who has time to worry about the global threat posed by radical Islamic terrorism when there are Christmas trees to decorate, cookies to bake, and presents to buy? Can we reschedule?
Of course, some of the least focused people are politicians.
California Gov. Jerry Brown, who traveled to Paris after the attacks for talks on more urgent matters like climate change, glibly blamed the tragedy back home on the lax gun control laws of neighboring states.
“California has some of the toughest gun-control laws of any state,” Brown said. “And Nevada and Arizona are wide open, so that’s a gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.”
The Republican governors of both Nevada and Arizona might say the same thing about California’s immigration policies – from driver’s licenses to sanctuary cities – providing a “gigantic back door” for illegal immigrants to enter their states. We would dismiss those comments as ridiculous, and we should do the same with what Brown said.
Our lack of seriousness was also evident in the fact that, within hours of the massacre, the White House and supporters of President Barack Obama initially tried to sidestep the terrorism issue altogether by characterizing the attack as potentially workplace violence.
Law enforcement officials quickly torpedoed that theory, citing the vast preparation and huge arsenal amassed by U.S. citizen Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his Pakistan-born wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, who had pledged her allegiance to the Islamic State.
In the days that followed, Democrats and their friends in the media dragged us into a circular discussion on gun control, even though the guns used in the attack were legally purchased and the terrorists’ arsenal included explosives.
By all means, we should have this conversation right now. We won’t get anywhere, and we’re wasting time. But a discussion on guns is just what we need to keep our families safe. Because when a terrorist travels thousands of miles to advance a murderous agenda that was many centuries in the making, nothing stops him quicker than well-written gun control legislation. Does anybody really believe that?
Democrats appear more motivated to destroy the National Rifle Association than they are to wipe out the Islamic State. This probably has a lot to do with which entity spends more at election time to defeat them. These are religious fanatics who don’t respect women, human rights, the sanctity of life or other religions. But somehow they have so much respect for Congress that they’ll fall in line behind whatever lawmakers decide to do in terms of regulating firearms?
Suddenly we’re debating whether Congress should prohibit people whose names appear on the no-fly list from purchasing guns – which has nothing to do with anything, except that it’s an issue that breaks along party lines. Democrats support the prohibition, Republicans oppose it.
In the middle of all this, Obama goes on television and tells the country that our strategy is working, that Congress must pass more gun control laws, and that we mustn’t discriminate against Muslims. What he didn’t do, however, was explain to Americans how he intends to keep them safe in their own communities.
And with that, in his lack of seriousness, Obama finally settled into the job. In these times, he’s the perfect leader for this country.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.