Americans were shocked, saddened, and enraged Sunday morning when they woke up to the horrifying news coming out of Orlando, Florida. A city that makes most people think immediately of sunshine, roller coasters, and Mickey Mouse would now be forever connected to one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history.
Orlando isn’t exactly a one-stoplight town, but it isn’t exactly Paris, New York, or Washington D.C., either. And Omar Mateen didn’t slaughter innocent people at Disney World, where you could think, Yeah, that seems like something these evil sickos would do. He went to a gay nightclub that could have just as easily been in Tampa, Jacksonville, or any other mid-size city in America. He appeared to choose Orlando not because of any particular symbolism but rather because it was conveniently near his hometown of Ft. Pierce. Like the husband and wife team in San Bernardino, he simply chose a target close to home.
If Mateen happened to have lived in Wilson, NC, we might be talking about the massacre in Raleigh today. If he happened to live in Fremont, Nebraska, we might be talking about the tragedy in Omaha. ISIS leaders didn’t plot out an attack on the Pulse nightclub from their stronghold in Syria; they didn’t need to. Their propaganda has seeped into American communities from sea to shining sea, and if there’s one central truth about our new reality, it’s this: These massacres can happen anywhere at anytime.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration is using this truth to cover another one. Because while it’s true that “defeating ISIS” will not be enough to prevent these tragedies in the future, it’s not true that these killings are as random as their locations. Omar Mateen may not have had any direct contact or funding from the Islamic State, but he was driven by the exact same ideology as the hijackers who brought down the Twin Towers.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, speaking on Fox News Sunday, said that nearly 600 people had been “convicted or charged or connected to terrorism” in the years since 9/11. Sessions said that “two-thirds of those people that were charged were foreign born, almost all Islamic individuals.”
“It’s a real part of the threat that we face,” he said, “and if we can’t address it openly and say directly that there is an extremist element within Islam that’s dangerous to the world and has to be confronted. We need to slow down and be careful about those we admit into the country.”
Omar Mateen may have been an American citizen by birth, but he was not one in his heart. He was an infiltrator, driven to mass murder by his religion. No, that doesn’t mean that every Muslim believes as he did, but as Sessions said: “Clearly, there is a problem here.”
So the choices are two: We recognize that problem and start making real progress or we continue to bury our heads in the sand and wait for the next attack – one which may just be in our own hometown.