That shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist, Sandy Hook, and the “profoundly unpatriotic effort to put war over every other policy priority”

Seven years ago yesterday, this happened.

Muntadhar Al-Zaidi paid a steep price for his act of defiance, but apparently thought it was worth being…

… beaten with cables and pipes and tortured with electricity immediately after guards removed him from a news conference for hurling both shoes at Bush. He said he was taken into another room and beaten even as the news conference continued.

However, he remained defiant about the incident that landed him in prison.

“I got my chance, and I didn’t miss it,” he said.

“I am not a hero, and I admit that,” he added. “I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.”

***

Yesterday was another anniversary, marking three years since the Sandy Hook massacre. The occasion has produced an abundance of hyperbolic hysterical reactions, but no concrete solutions to the gun violence crisis. In fact, the specific horrorshow of December 14, 2013, has been replicated numerous times in the past three years.

Here is a map of school shootings since Sandy Hook.

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And according to NBC News, 554 children under the age of 12 have died from gunshot wounds since Sandy Hook.

***

Of all the retrospectives and think-pieces marking the Sandy Hook anniversary, I thought Marcy Wheeler’s was the most compelling. In it, she synthesizes our (well, my) numbness over two ongoing catastrophes, the epidemic of gun violence in this country, and our government’s damn-the-torpedoes exportation of ultra-violence to the rest of the planet, otherwise known as the Global War on (a very narrow definition of) Terror.

The occasion of Wheeler’s post was to comment on president Obama’s remarks in reaction to the San Bernadino shootings of two weeks ago. I want to quote what I thought was the best part of it, and encourage you to read the entire piece.

The right wingers who insist on calling any attack by a Muslim “terrorism” — who insist on tying the San Bernardino attack to ISIS, even in the absence of evidence — do it to prioritize the fight against Islamic terrorists over all the other ills facing America: over other gun violence, over climate change, over the persistent economic struggles of most Americans. Theirs is a profoundly unpatriotic effort to put war over every other policy priority, even far more pressing ones. That stance has led to a disinvestment in America, with real consequences for everyone not getting rich off of arms sales.

Last week, President Obama capitulated to these forces, giving a speech designed to give the attack in San Bernardino precedence over all the other mass killings of late, to give its 14 dead victims more importance over all the other dead victims. Most strikingly, Obama called attacks that aren’t, legally, terrorism, something his critics have long been demanding.

It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.

And he lectured Muslims to reject any interpretation of Islam that is “incompatible” with “religious tolerance.”

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

Not only does this give too little credit for the condemnation Muslims have long voiced against terrorist attacks, but it holds Muslims to a standard Obama doesn’t demand from Christians spewing intolerance.

It was a horrible speech. But this line struck me.

I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

In context, it was about terrorism.

I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris. And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Well, here’s what I want you to know: The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.

But, particularly coming as it did after invoking dead children, it shouldn’t have been. Aside from those whose own kids narrowly missed being in Paris, why should we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris, rather than in the faces of the young people killed in the Umpqua Community College attack or the over 60 people under the age of 25 shot in Chicago between the Paris attack and Obama’s speech? If we were to think of a cancer with no immediate cure, why wouldn’t we be thinking of the 20 6-year olds killed in Newtown?

We have a cancer, but it’s not terrorism.

Wheeler goes on to compare and contrast Obama’s speech to Jimmy Carter’s 1979 Crisis of Confidence (“malaise”) speech. Again I encourage you to take the time to read the entire piece.