One of Orlando’s most popular gay nightclubs, Pulse, became a horror show Saturday night when a man opened fire, eventually killing approximately 50 people and injuring 42 others. SWAT officers ultimately killed the assailant as dawn arrived, and all early indications pointed to an act of Islamic terrorism.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference Sunday morning, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said, “This is an incident, as I see it, that we can certainly classify as domestic terror.”
FBI Special Agent Ron Harper, asked by reporters if the gunman – identified as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen – was linked to Islamic terror, said, “We do have suggestions that individual has leanings towards that.”
If confirmed, it would make the Orlando shooting one of the worst incidents of Islamic terrorism to occur since 9/11 as well as the single worst mass shooting in American history.
“This will have a lasting effect on our community,” said Orlando Police Chief John Mina.
While that’s undoubtedly true, it remains to be seen whether or not it will have a lasting effect on the nation as a whole.
After the deadly terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California last year, it seemed for a while that Americans would wake up from their cocoon of complacency. Then again, it seemed that way after the Boston Marathon bombing as well.
And no, the country should not live in constant fear. That’s not what this is about. And it’s not about some vague notion of “letting the terrorists win.” Go out, have fun, do what you’re gonna do. Life’s too short to spend your time worrying about finding yourself in an astronomically-unlikely terrorist attack situation.
But how many lives must be destroyed before we face up to the fact that we have a real, ongoing problem on our hands? President Obama, at the State of the Union address in January, said that ISIS did not pose “an existential threat” to the United States. And sure, if by that he means that the Islamic State is not going to overthrow the U.S. government, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree.
But in another sense, that’s exactly the threat they pose. That threat may not come under the specific name of “ISIS” or “Al Qaeda,” but we can’t make the mistake of thinking that radical Islam is limited to the terror groups we’ve already heard of. This is an ideology that is spreading like a disease across the world. And no matter how many bombs we drop in the Middle East, we’re not going to crush this ideology until we recognize it for what it is.
It’s time to unshackle ourselves from the handcuffs of political correctness and have the courage to face reality. This is a war. It’s time we started acting like it.