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Sumra: US just suffered a terror attack, why aren’t we treating it like one?

Eish Sumra, Columnist

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As the dust settles on what was the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, questions will surely be prompted from all sides. From liberals, we’ll likely see the bombast of gun control, whereas the usual rhetoric — of mild sympathy mixed with a heavy dose of stubbornness — will unravel from conservatives. It’s the same every time. Well, not every time.

When an “Islamic extremist” attempts to blow up a train in London, the word “TERROR” gets plastered throughout news networks worldwide. Calls for immigration control are made as President Donald Trump and his band of followers renew demands for the border wall and travel bans. A tough policy line is formed and politicians push for restrictive measures to be passed through Congress.

The U.S. just suffered its worst mass shooting in modern history — but many won’t outrightly define it as a terror attack, because they don’t want to realize that this, in part, was caused by our country’s laws. When a brown man with a beard attacks a bridge in Westminster, London, it’s framed as an attack by an unruly, uncivilized foreigner. When it’s an old, white man with guns, it’s just a crazed citizen. This country refuses to accept the harsh reality that U.S. leadership facilitates these atrocities and then so frequently backs away from jumping to words like “terror” because deep down, we know it’s self-inflicted domestic terrorism. And that’s a hard pill to swallow.

From conversations on Twitter to statements by correspondents like White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it’s apparently “too early” to talk about gun control or policy, all under the guise of “respectful behavior” post-atrocity. This is shameful. The National Rifle Association’s hold on the U.S. is choking this country’s ability to take a long, hard look at one of the biggest problems we have and will continue to face. Yet few on the right even seem willing to hear these conversations. When attacks occurred in the U.K. earlier this year, British pundits like Katie Hopkins and Nigel Farage, known for their alt-right views, were brought on Fox News and raged against Britain’s open-door migration policy. We seem willing and ready to facilitate that conversation, but not the one that could save American lives.

The widespread reluctance to use “terror” in discourse surrounding the Las Vegas attacks directly reflects our seemingly inherent view that any “attacks on America” must be externally caused. We harbor over Mexican and Muslim immigration being such a threat to the U.S., but when a white man shoots civilians it’s just a tragedy with no action taken. It’s just something we tweet our sympathies for or say we’re praying about. After the horrible shooting in Orlando last year, many rallied against ISIS, but now, after an even more deadly event, there’s been no call for immediate pushback.

Huckabee Sanders is right that “there’s a time and a place for political debate” — that time was decades ago. This weekend marked the 273rd U.S. mass shooting this year, yet we frame our biggest enemies as foreign or Muslim. America was devastatingly attacked Sunday night — it must finally come to terms with the part it played in that terrorism.

Eish Sumra is a Medill senior. He can be contacted at eishsumra2018@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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