The Batman massacre at a movie theatre on July 20, in Aurora, Colorado, was an act of pure terror. It had no purpose other than to create havoc. Yet, the emphasis within the US has been on its individual psychological dimensions, rather than on its wider sociological aspects. Emphasising the psychological element enables pundits to depict it as the lone act of a deranged individual.
Then, there is the gun lobby, moneyed and powerful. This, plus the cheap and easy access to guns, furnishes the means and opportunity to wreak havoc. The US Congress - so easily swayed to endorse foreign military adventures - finds itself hapless to curb gun-related violence by the necessary countering of the pro-gun lobby.
It is an indicator that a bigger problem may be brewing inside the American “melting pot.”
Under the banner of liberal progress, there is an emerging mix of arrogance and ignorance, coupled with a smug notion that “we know better.” It has led to the melting of traditional barriers of modesty and discipline. Among its casualties have been the binding ties of family and friendship, which have been loosened, and the settled notions of relationships and matrimony, which have been turned upside down. Its repercussions are beginning to be felt now and will be felt much deeper with the passage of time.
According to the Washington Post of July 25, there have been 645 mass-murder events in 34 years in the US. It has almost become a persistent signature unique to American culture.
Law enforcement authorities, along with psychiatrists with all their resources and sophisticated training, appear mystified by the surge in home-grown havoc.
Part of the blame has to be shared by Hollywood and media, which through over-coverage of vicious exploits, in effect, glorify the killers. So, alienated and enclosed individuals on the margins of society who feel left out and socially insignificant are given an excellent incentive to seek a shortcut route to celebrity and notoriety by going on a slaying rampage.
Some of the worst US mass shootings include massacres on campus, such as the August 1, 1966, killing of 16 people at the University of Texas at Austin; the April 20, 1999, slaying of 12 classmates and a teacher by two students at Columbine High School in Colorado; and on April 16, 2007, the killing by a Korean-American student, Cho, of 32 people and himself on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Inherent in this atrocity is the unspoken element of dual standards. Had the killer been a Muslim, there would have been a rush to judgment and there would have been multiple attempts to extrapolate from an individual act to make a sweeping indictment about Islam.
As is often the case, the real enemy is within. The easier path, however, is to search for foreign devils and to divert attention by fighting futile wars elsewhere.
n The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.