SAN DIEGO – In the aftermath of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and what appears to be the latest attack by an Islamic militant on U.S. soil, it’s essential for Americans to know our enemies. We have two: fog and noise.
Fog is what politicians create to keep Americans from seeing what they don’t want us to see. They’d rather we stay focused on narratives that benefit them and hurt their opponents.
Noise is what the media generate to steer the discussion toward what they see as the real problems and away from angles of the story that make advertisers squeamish. Reporters have no problem talking about the fact that there are too many guns in America, but they are careful to point out that an assailant who is Muslim is also a U.S. citizen.
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There is a lot that will make people uncomfortable in the story about how 29-year-old Omar Mateen grabbed a semi-automatic rifle, walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning and mowed down dozens of people – killing 49, and wounding 53 more.
For instance, Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about how easy it is for Americans to buy military-grade weapons of mass murder, or how the massacre illustrates that homophobia can help produce a national tragedy.
Instead, Trump creates fog by implying that President Barack Obama may have additional insights into these attacks that he is keeping hidden from the American people. During an interview on Fox News, Trump said: Obama “doesn’t get it. Or he gets it better than anybody understands.”
Meanwhile, Obama and other Democrats seem to pretend there is no war against Islamic militants. And so they have no interest in engaging the American people in an uncomfortable but necessary discussion about whether the Orlando carnage – along with an attack on police officers Monday by an Islamic State sympathizer in France; the bombings in Brussels in March; the attack on a holiday party in San Bernardino last December; and the murderous rampage throughout Paris last November – is part of a massive global assault by Islamic militants intent on killing infidels wherever they’re found.
Instead, Democrats create the fog that this is primarily about guns and the undeniable headlock in which the National Rifle Association has Congress. They’re also eager to talk about the need to increase tolerance and decrease hate crimes toward the LGBT community but they’re squeamish about encouraging more hatred or violence toward Muslim Americans.
It’s a tough spot for the left. It would be more convenient if the shooter belonged to the tea party. You have to feel bad for the liberal who wants to take a stand against homophobia but doesn’t want to contribute to Islamophobia.
But this is also a tough spot for the right. It’s surreal to watch Trump talk about how people outside the United States “hate” us, when he has, in the last year, worked so hard to stir up hatred against so many groups of people in the United States.
After all, it was “Latin Night” at the club in Orlando and so many of the deceased have names like Sotomayor, Almodovar, Martinez and Velazquez. Hasn’t this community of Americans suffered enough? Is the new message to Latinos: If Trump doesn’t get you, a terrorist will?
These people were already on the outskirts of the American experience, told implicitly by Trump and other conservatives that their loyalties lay with the countries that their parents and grandparents emigrated from and that they weren’t real Americans.
Mateen didn’t see it that way. These victims were real Americans to him. Real enough to be killed as symbols of a country that the Islamic State is at war with, whether most of the people who live in that country realize it or not.
How about we take a break from being international social workers and societal engineers trying to build the world’s most enlightened society and concentrate on telling the truth?
Americans would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to hear the message being broadcast from the dark corners of the Middle East. After the Orlando massacre, a spokesman for the Islamic State called Mateen “one of the soldiers for the caliphate in America.”
Don’t look now, but the fog may be lifting.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com.