As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, two days ago, at around 14:40 on Wednesday 22nd March, a 52-year-old man by the name of Khalid Masood drove a grey Hyundai Tucson onto the South side of Westminster Bridge. After running over a series of pedestrians, Masood crashed his SUV into the railings outside the Palace of Westminster. He then got out and sprinted through the gates into New Palace Yard, where he was shot after stabbing 48-year-old PC Keith Palmer. Four civilians who were hit on the bridge later died in hospital.
Attacks by Islamic radicals have become a depressingly regular occurrence in Europe’s cities. That being said, I’ve walked across that bridge well over a dozen times. A relative of someone very close to me happened to do so minutes before the attacker struck, so this one happens to hit rather close to home. Yet for many others, terrorism will continue to become increasingly normalised, and so to will be the usual responses.
Here’s a tip – You can find it within yourself to acknowledge that the religion of Islam has quite a bit to do with terrorism while also recognising the fact that the vast majority of British Muslims totally deplore such acts. Yet, in another indication of how polarised the world of politics has become, many seem all too keen to rush to extreme conclusions: one side proclaiming that Islam is wholly peace and the other that it only promotes violence. In truth, they’re both right – to a certain extent. As with the Bible, the Koran is a farcical collection of ridiculous contradictions, so much so that it could probably be used to advocate almost anything. There’s a reason why the Medieval European kingdoms found the Bible such a useful tool for controlling their populations, and why the Catholic Church fought tooth and nail against efforts to translate the text from Latin into the common languages. Because, in the words of Isaac Asimov, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
Anyway. There was another response to Wednesday’s attack, one that came from across the Atlantic and one which I seek to address here. As Fox News ran segments absurdly claiming that London was defeatist and demoralised (we survived the Blitz and the IRA and can certainly handle a lone maniac armed with an SUV and a knife), figure after figure on the American right, including Britain’s own biggest national embarrassment, Nigel Farage, lined up to claim that the attack showed:
- That Europe’s policies on immigration and security have failed.
- That Donald Trump is right about his travel ban.
Now, while the response from London’s police and other emergency services has been nothing short of exemplary, and while there’s certainly valid criticisms to be made about some aspects of our immigration policy, neither I nor anyone else on this continent will be taking any lectures from the American right about keeping our people safe. If you’re one of those individuals, pay attention, because I’m going to tell you a story.
At around 12:30 on Wednesday 22nd March, the same day as the Westminster attack, officers of the Rothschild Police Department were called to a shooting incident at the Marathon Savings Bank in Northern Wisconsin. When they arrived, they found that two people had already been shot and that the suspect had fled the scene. More shots were soon reported at around 13:10 and again at 13:30 when it became apparent that the shooter had barricaded himself in a nearby apartment complex. At just before 14:30, a heavily armed SWAT team arrived and began evacuating the residents, while a standoff with the gunman began. The situation drew to a close as, at roughly 16:55, more gunshots were heard and the suspect was brought into custody. Overall, three civilians and a police officer were killed. The event barely made its way into the national press.
A few days earlier, on the 19th March, a shooting occurred at a concert in Louisville, Kentucky. One student was killed and five others were injured. The incident was only reported on the local news and the gunman is yet to be found. The day before that, on the 18th of March, a 23-year-old man walked into a home near central Detroit and proceeded to shoot and kill three people. Two others were injured before the shooter was brought into police custody and the event only found itself mentioned on local news channels. CNN was too busy reporting on a terrorist incident in Paris (where only the attacker was killed).
On the 10th of March, three people were shot dead in New Orleans and two in Chicago. Heard about that? No, of course not. Between the 4th and the 7th of March, 16 were injured and one was killed in incidents spanning Topeka, Columbus, Sacramento and again Chicago. On the 3rd, 9 were injured in shootings between Riverside and Philidelphia, and 6 in Cincinnati the day before. I could go on, but I think you get my point. So far in 2017, 2599 Americans have been shot and killed by other Americans, while (since 9/11) an average of one per year is killed by foreign-born jihadists.
There are no reliable statistics concerning the amount of times that US Police discharge their weapons, but what we do know is that they had to shoot and kill over a thousand people in 2016 alone. Meanwhile, in a number that will surely make you proud to be British, police in England and Wales discharged their weapons on a total of 7 incidents in 2015 and 2016 combined, while the country at large has somehow managed a total of six consecutive years without a single mass shooting (hmmm, I do wonder why?).
So, if you’re a member of the American right who happens to have made it this far, I’ll give you this simple ultimatum – Sort out your own country’s insane gun violence problem before lecturing Europeans about security. And if you still refuse to do so – here’s your kind invitation to go fuck yourself.