The greatest casualty of the massacre in Orlando was one of the fundamental ideas upon which our civilization is based: individual responsibility. Even before the victims’ blood was dry; all manner of commentators had launched a well-organized campaign to absolve the mass murderer; Omar Mateen, of all blame.
Since the butchery; Mateen’s name has been conspicuously absent from a large percentage of the commentary and coverage. Instead pundits, politicians, radio hosts and writers have blamed ISIS, “Radical Islam,” Islamic Terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, immigration policy, the internet, social media, the President of the United States, the clash of civilizations, guns, homophobia, and the National Rifle Association for the tragedy.
The obvious reality that Mr. Mateen acted alone and without any help or support, is obscured or even ignored. The possibility that he was driven by his own personal demons or mental illness is completely discounted. Instead all the commentators assume some outside force whether it be ISIS ;or the gun he carried, drove him to carry out the attacks.
Both Candidates Disgrace themselves
The mind-numbing crescendo of denial and hysteria reached its apex on June 13, the day after the shootings. That was when the presumptive presidential nominees of America’s major political parties took to the microphones to shift blame away from Mateen. To make matters worse both candidates used that denial; as a pretext for advance policies that would strip Americans of their basic Constitutional rights.
First up was Democrat Hillary Clinton; who used the horror as a pretext to demand restrictions on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Instead of Mateen, Clinton blamed the weapon he carried; and by implication firearms manufacturers and gun owners for the tragedy.
Not to be outdone; Republican Donald Trump blamed an entire religion, a class of citizens, immigrants, immigration policy and even the president for the crime. The Donald then added insult to injury by advocating policies that would effectively shred the First and Fourth amendments. Since Mr. Mateen is dead, Trump wants to punish all Muslims for his crimes.
The Truth about Orlando we do Not Want to Face
The truth about Orlando is that Omar Mateen was responsible for the murder of 49 innocent people. He thought up the plan himself and carried it out on his own. Yes, Mateen apparently called 911 and pledged “fealty” to ISIS; but there is no evidence he had anything to do with that foul organization.
Mr. Mateen did not swim ashore from an ISIS submarine; he drove to Orlando from his home in Port St. Lucie Florida. The weapons he used were purchased from a gun store in Florida, not supplied by Al Qaeda.
Mateen was not a vanguard for global Jihad or an invading terrorist. Nor was he an intruder from the Middle East. Instead, Mateen was an American born in New Hyde Park, New York and raised in New York and Florida. The cultural influences that shaped him were primarily American, not Islamic or Afghan.
The uncomfortable truth about Mateen is that he was a product of our nation and civilization. Mateen was a troubled loner, who had more in common with Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes than with the soldiers of ISIS. The murderous rampage in Orlando was a failure of our society, not a clash of civilizations.
Ignoring Individual Responsibility will make Matters Worse
Mateen was not brainwashed by propaganda, nor did ISIS boss Abu Bakr al-Baghadi wave a magic wand and transform him into a terrorist. Mateen made a conscious decision to kill other human beings, yes he used Islam as justification for his acts, but he and not ISIS made the decision.
We need to start placing responsibility in these crimes where it belongs on the person who holds the gun, not on every fashionable boogeyman in existence. Even in death, monsters like Omar Mateen need to be held accountable for their evil acts.
Blaming organizations, religions, inanimate objects, technology, immigrants and “the other” will not prevent tragedies like that at the Pulse night club. Instead, it will make them more likely because we will have no true understanding of the crime, or the criminal.
Worse, Americans will be set against each other for little or no reason. The hatred and suspicion generated by the conspiracy theories and blame will create more bigotry and hysteria; which will inspire more such killings in the future. We need to revive the concept of individual responsibility and pin blame where it belongs; on the criminals that carry out the actual crime.
How the Denial of Individual Responsibility Threatens our Freedom
The efforts to absolve Mateen, should frighten us because individual responsibility is a cornerstone of human rights, freedom and the rule of law. A society can only remain free as long as each individual; is regarded as a conscious person capable of making his or her own decisions.
When the group; and not the individual, is blamed for all actions, nobody is responsible for anything they do. Any crime can be justified; or ignored, because it is carried out in the name of the group. Only the group is held accountable, the crimes of the individual, no matter how horrific are justified and ignored.
Even worse all members of the group must be held accountable for the crimes of the individual. Every Moslem; everywhere must be punished for Omar Mateen’s murders. So must every gun owner, and every NRA member. That is the thinking that leads to concentration camps and genocide.
Such sick logic was the basis of almost every crime against humanity in history, including Mateen’s. It is also the antithesis of our system of law and constitutional government. The first act of every modern tyranny including; Communism, Nazism and ISIS itself, was to abolish individual responsibility and blame some group for the world’s problems. The second act is to punish that group for “crimes,” real or imagined.
Our first reaction to the Orlando massacre must be to revive the concept of individual responsibility. If we do not; the very concept of freedom itself is threatened.
Correction: the original version of this story misidentified the Aurora theater gunman as Robert Holmes. His real name is James Holmes, the late Robert Holmes was a great British television writer responsible for many classic Doctor Who stories.