In the aftermath of tragedy it is common for partisan interests to point fingers at those they blame to further an agenda that may or may not have anything to do with what in fact happened. One thing we know now for sure, if we didn’t already know it before Orlando, is that words matter and just as importantly so does silence. One does not need to pull the trigger to aide and abet in murder, genocide or hate crimes. One only need be silent in the face of hate filled invective to share in the incitement.
As details of the investigation become public it seems possible that the Orlando shooter had no more training in Jihad than from radical Islamist speeches he obtained over the Internet. It can also be argued that nuanced diplomatic language enables radicals like the Orlando shooter to frame their actions as nothing less than a clash of civilizations – when the stated motive of this subtlety is of course the opposite.
I am reminded of what Menachem Begin once said, that the Holocaust has taught us that when someone utters threats – we have to believe them. While President Obama and gun control advocates seek to frame the Orlando massacre as a gun issue, the truth is that this tragedy like so many others is first and foremost about words and inaction, guns are at best a secondary factor. For too long, we have allied ourselves with governments that allow hate filled sermons in mosques. We are forced to negotiate with countries that allow children’s textbooks filled with misogyny, xenophobia, anti – Semitism, homophobia and anti West hate to be taught in their schools. Words and a lack of response to them must share blame with the shooter. People, guns and words kill – it is up to us to do something about it.
Frankly, I don’t really care if the President or anyone else calls it Islamic Terror or not. I care that incendiary textbooks and hate sermons are not even an issue in diplomatic relations. When we sign international agreements with no demand that the counterparty cease sponsoring Holocaust denial conferences, calling for the destruction of Israel and executing homosexuals we become enablers of their hateful worldview. When we nominate a person to head a major party that calls for the deportation of one ethnic group and the outright ban on allowing in another, we are responsible for the crimes that provocation precipitates. And yes, when an Israeli Prime Minister running for reelection instigates racism by warning Jews of a large voter turnout in the Arab sector and we remain silent, we are culpable in the actions that follow.
When we are silent in response to sexual and psychological abuse by teachers and clergy we share the blame in what befalls the victims. When we brush aside as crazy those clergy that blame tragedy on gay marriage and pride parades – we are culpable in the violence it foments. Words matter, silence matters, we all have a stake in this and we are all responsible for our actions and inactions.
We need to revisit the gun issue but we also need to review just how much hate we will tolerate on government owned airwaves, from our allies, in our enemies and wherever it shows up. As far back as 9/11, 2001 the Orlando shooter spoke about his desire to fight a Jihad. Over the past few years he was investigated by the FBI for incitement and was let go. The US took out an American born cleric in a drone strike for inciting hatred and Jihad against the West, in other words we believed him. It’s time we started believing the haters on our home turf as well. Words matter, silence in the face of agitation matters, just as much if not more.