By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – Some people are slow learners.
In the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, many loud voices have demanded a quick solution to the problem of terrorism.
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
The loudest of the voices, not surprisingly, belongs to the king of the clueless – the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump.
(That rumbling sound you hear is Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan thrashing in their graves at the thought of The Donald bearing the standard for their party.)
Trump used the tragedy in Orlando not to express grief for the victims and sympathy for their loved ones, but to prove that a person can be morally tone-deaf and double-jointed at the same time. He patted himself on the back for being right, he claimed, about banning Muslims from this country.
The shooter in this case was born in the United States in 1986. His parents came from Afghanistan, a country that, at the time, we supported in its war with the declining Soviet Union.
Just how would imposing a ban nearly 30 years after the shooter’s birth have stopped this atrocity from happening?
But Trump’s complaint – and the complaint of the know-nothings who cheer him on – is that President Barack Obama and others refuse to call the shooter a “radical Islamic terrorist.” Trump says that’s a case of “political correctness.”
What other reason could there be for the president refusing to use those words?
Well, here are some.
Let’s start with the fact that thoughtful and fair-minded people, Republican and Democrats alike, are trying to avoid making this a religious conflict.
That means they refrain from attributing acts of evil and violence to a faith – Islam – that abhors such things. It is no more fair to refer to this shooter or other killers as representatives of the Muslim faith than it is to call Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber) or Eric Rudolph (the Atlanta Olympics bomber) a “radical Christian terrorist.”
Most American Christians would deny that their faith teaches or condones mass murder, despite the fact that some evil or misguided souls have thought otherwise.
The same goes for Islam.
We don’t hold an entire faith tradition accountable for the actions of the deluded few.
That’s the moral argument.
The practical one is that we don’t want to make it easier for the folks who wish to do us harm to recruit others to their cause.
We tried fighting a large-scale war against terrorism. It’s been more than 13 years since President George W. Bush stood on a flight deck and proclaimed “mission accomplished” in that war.
We’re still paying for that mistake.
Bush’s swagger and boastfulness – which is nowhere near as pronounced as Trump’s – helped energize and, yes, radicalize opposition around the world. The seeds of arrogance and ignorance we planted more than a decade ago have blossomed into murder and mayhem.
Intelligent people have learned from that experience and realized that, while fist-shaking and chest-thumping may make us feel good for a moment, they aren’t substitutes for genuine problem-solving.
I also disagree with Trump on the use of the last word in the phrase that means so much to him – the word “terrorist” in “radical Islamic terrorist.”
The word “terrorist” grants these folks a dignity they don’t deserve. It suggests there is some political purpose or military goal to their murderousness – that they are, in some way, distant cousins to soldiers.
Soldiers don’t set out to kill civilians or to slaughter innocents by the dozen, the hundred or the thousand.
The shooter in Orlando isn’t any kind of soldier or even a terrorist.
He’s a murderer and nothing other than that.
If the nearly 15 years since Sept. 11, 2001, have taught people who have been paying attention anything, it is that some things are too serious – or at least they should be – for posturing. Mass murder is one of them. We don’t run victory laps at a funeral.
Donald Trump and his amen crowd aren’t among those who have absorbed that lesson.
Some people are slow learners.
And some never learn at all.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.