As I watched this situation develop throughout the morning (Pacific time), I had to guess, based on the method of attack, that the perpetrator was a radicalized Muslim. Originally there were reports of an “active shooter” to go with the information that someone had driven an SUV into a crowd of people. But the “active shooter” situation was then resolved so very quickly that it seemed doubtful a gunman was actually involved.
Instead, it turned out that the attacker began going after people with a butcher knife. He wounded 9 victims, as of the latest report, before being killed himself by gunfire from law enforcement.
The usual sequence went through my head. “We don’t know for certain yet. But the pattern of the attack fits that of a number of previous attacks by Islamic extremists around the world. ISIS has been calling for vehicle and knife attacks. The strongest likelihood is that the perp is a Muslim.”
And he is (or was). He said so.
Abdul Razak Ali Artan, 20, also said in the “Humans of Ohio State” interview that he was scared about what might happen if people saw him, a Muslim, praying on campus somewhere.
So we know that the grievance industry will gear up in short order to blame his attack on the “white people” who made him so scared. Indeed, it will all be the fault of Donald Trump and the sick white-male populist alt-right, with its fake news, its toxic masculinity, its open fascism, and its affinity for a Russia that has suddenly become the focus of evil in the modern world.
I don’t think I’ve left anything out, there, but remind me if I have.
Most Americans don’t, in fact, think it’s OK to just live with this kind of thing — this never knowing where the next attack will come, and how many people will be hurt or killed while just going about their lives.
The answer to the question whether this is a “new normal” is “It can’t be. We won’t allow that.”
What the people who voted for Donald Trump are hoping is that he will make decisions from that perspective. What exactly that will look like, in terms of policy specifics, is another question.
It makes it tough, that Artan would have been about 11 when his family left Somalia as refugees in 2007, living first in Pakistan and then being admitted to legal permanent residence in the U.S. in 2014. In 2014, he was 17 or 18. At that point, it may well have been that he showed no signs of radicalization.
But that is really the point. We need to remind ourselves once again that there are more humanitarian policy measures available to us than merely accepting refugees into our country. And if accepting refugees creates new security threats for Americans, then there need to be other measures to address that.
But those measures cannot change the very nature of our nation — e.g., turn us into a police state in which the people’s freedoms are infringed. If anything, we should go in the opposite direction. If we consciously decide to increase the random threat to our campuses, places of work, nightclubs, and so forth, then the people should be better armed in their daily lives, and more able to not only defend themselves, but deter attacks before they happen.
Even in a police state, there will never be enough police to prevent all random attacks.
And a police state is too high a price to pay for every outcome, including that illusory one.
We have reached the point at which the debate is, and must be, about what kind of nation and people we will be. We can’t make any more decisions now that are not about that. There’s no margin left. If we remain on our present course, the arrival of more and more immigrants from all kinds of sources, without any reset of our just and enforceable expectations, will make America over into something else.
Is letting America be so transformed the only morally defensible option available to us? Up to now, the elite opinion-makers would have it that the people saying “no” to that question are a pack of cursing, obscenity-throwing extremists with bad teeth and worse education, whom the “elites” label xenophobes, Islamophobes, racists, and so forth.
But those elites really need to answer the question why they do not recognize the need to defend our character and way of life, when it is so urgently obvious. It just isn’t good enough anymore to silence well-intentioned people with ridicule and defamation. The margin isn’t there, for riding it all out and calling this global shock-migration interlude a minor course correction.
The fate of our civilization hangs in the balance, and the only way to make it not “about” a teenage refugee from Somalia is to have different policies that make it about something else.