America has just tragically faced its worst mass shooting in history.
At least 50 people have been killed and more than 200 injured at a music festival in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, that death toll is very likely to rise.
The Independent is reporting the shooter as "Stephen Paddock: Las Vegas gunman identified by police as 64-year-old white male"
The police have said it is "not terrorism."
When incidents like this happen, I used to always leave analysis for the days later, out of respect for those killed and fighting for their lives.
But what I have realised, in our social media age, is that by then it is too late. People have already formed emotional and reactionary narratives. And, if I am brutally honest with you, things move so fast these days, sometimes people have already "moved on".
Social media makes us have instant emotional outbursts and a very short attention span. This would in all other circumstances be called irrationality. These days all we do is reinforce irrationality and call it the norm. Worse, we call it the truth
So, perhaps to truly respect these unnecessary deaths, one must try and cut through that clearly, in an attempt to recalibrate our narrative in a way that can actually be preventative, rather than a cycle where the only thing that changes is our mode of denial.
In the wake of the Oct. 1 2015 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon (almost 2 years to the day ago), then President Barack Obama said “have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who've been killed through terrorist attacks in the last decade and the number of Americans who've been killed by gun violence, and post those side by side on your news reports,”
From 2005 to 2015 that was 24 deaths for terrorism and 280,024 for gun violence.
BUT one would say. Ha! That doesn’t include 9/11 does it.
That’s true. 9/11 horrifically killed an estimated 2972 people. There were 29, 573 gun homicides that same year.
Beyond that there is still an institutional and inherent bias on what is deemed terrorism.
The instant nature of authorities calling something terrorism or not is hugely problematic.
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives" (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).
Objective in almost all cases cannot be determined this quickly. There is an over reliance on stereotyped norms and fears (that authorities are not immune from). A mentally ill, criminal American may shoot a night club, because he is muslim. it is called terrorism. No time to investigate or later back track the statement. That he was gay himself. Violent. Angry at past partners. A moment of reflection may have concluded revenge attack.
Alternatively we have already been told this awful Las Vegas attack is not terrorism. Why? We haven’t searched the internet history of this man, we don’t know his political affiliations, what he was angry at. What message he was to send.
The instant assumptions, are, I believe, to provide a framework to build narrative, and that this must be done DESPITE evidence.
This is hugely problematic. And this is why we have no solutions.
Because it is this purposeful attempt to create a society with these inherent biases that has led us to the mess we are in now.
An America – and far too many Americans – who have double standard and skewed view of themselves, their society and others within it and outside it. This is a historic, socio-political ailment of America, that has made it more and more unwell.
What we are seeing unfold in America today; with the rise of Trump, fascism, white supremacy is all a symptom of that sickness. And too much of America continues to hold on to its untruths. Denial has turned in to delusion.
This is why we shouldn't be surprised by Donald Trump. He is not un-American but in fact embodies so much of the inherent rhetoric OF America perfectly.
Against this backdrop, symptoms like this Las Vegas shooting seem even more stark.
America has become the addict telling itself - and us - lies to get a fix.
And we all know with addiction, the first step to recovery is sincerely admitting you have a problem.
We cannot help you, until you do.