“Just a quiet couple living the American Dream,” neighbors reported. Only this quiet couple dropped their six-month old baby off at grandmas on the way to slaughter 14 people at a Christmas party Dad had attended earlier. And Mom posted a pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Baghdadi as they were carrying out the attack.
It comes only days after the mass murders at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado, and a few months after another all-American slaughter at a community college in Oregon. What is the difference between this atrocity in San Bernardino and “just another day in America,” to quote the BBC? Emotionally and spiritually, it’s a difference without a distinction.
Besides, despite his name, the hooded eyes of Syed Rizwan Farook are homegrown. He was born in Illinois and raised in southern California for God’s sake.
Most disturbingly, the latest slaughter in the United States represents the convergence of school/workplace mass shootings and terrorist jihadism.
The very fact that political and media elites in the United States are “still scrambling to determine whether they are looking at a terrorist attack or an extremely unusual and lethal case of workplace violence” indicates how the two have merged into one overwhelming reality.
Cable mouthpieces are having a field day. Be afraid, be very afraid. Watch your neighbors. Report suspicious activity.
Walking the quarter-mile home at dusk the day of the atrocity here in California, a boy down the street shouts hello from 100 meters away. One of the twin 11-year-old girls across the street, who always gives a friendly hello, says, “You scared us” as I pass.
The violence that now lurks around every corner is as much a manifestation of the deep pathology afflicting America, as it is pathology erupting from the Middle East.
Some months after 9.11, I met an old German fellow who was 15 in 1935. I asked if the climate in the United States resembled that in Germany before the war. He said it did, and if the zeitgeist weren’t addressed at the root in the people, it would get worse, much worse. That was 14 years ago.
Like pre-war Germany, the enemy is both outside and inside, ever-present and growing, requiring, according to every Republican candidate for president, a massive military reaction abroad and police state at home.
As the New York Times, ever too little and too late, reported, David Gergen, an adviser to four presidents, both Democratic and Republican, described a fear he has not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Gergen said, “I talk to people who worry that they will be shot on the streets of New York. I had one friend say it’s worse than 9/11.”
Mr. Gergen predicted things could get much worse. “There is this extra dimension working in Trump’s favor: Americans are looking beyond particular policy for the personality that looks like somebody strong enough, tough enough, big enough to provide security.” He added: “It’s almost animalistic. The human instinct is to seek safety.”
No, it’s a kind of madness, one that could lead to a real world war unless cooler heads prevail. I’m not referring to the coolest head of all, President Obama, who lacks the passion of his stated convictions. Rather, cooler heads in the country and the West generally, people who see and speak up against the exploitation of fear, deadness and hate that threatens to run amuck.
Look below the surface; ISIS is the mirror image of our vaunted Western civilization, with its “humiliation of purposelessness.”
The willfully blind who are well adapted to this decadent (yes, we must use that word, and not ridicule its use) culture of self-absorption, superficiality and 24-7 escapism aren’t just the people that buy into the shop-till-you-drop mentality. They are the politicians and their media mouthpieces that sing the praises of “our way of life.”
A diffuse, psychological threat from a few thousand ISIS thugs, who barely control a borderless swath of worthless (without oil), blood-soaked desert, has suddenly become “World War Three.”
“Our nation is under siege,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said at a cafe in rural Iowa. “What I believe we’re facing is the next world war. This is what we’re in right now, already.” And he’s one of the moderate Republican candidates.
The atrocity in San Bernardino is just bad enough to bring out the scary truth about the zeitgeist of the country, and the Republicans all too willing to exploit it, but not so bad (unlike 9.11) to devastate the land, and give an excuse for an even more stupid reaction than invading Iraq.
The country is being dragged in that direction however, and unless passionate truths are heard and heeded, the voices of halfhearted moderation will be swept away in a tsunami of fear and hate by the legions of madmen and mad women inside and outside America.
In short, “the existential threat to us” is from us.