The videos circulating on social media and playing repeatedly on the newscasts are the stuff of nightmares. The audio is chilling; the sheer panic in the air is palpable.
Who among us cannot imagine ourselves in that same scenario—at a crowded concert, sporting event or other enjoyable activity when the unspeakable happens and deadly bullets slice through the air destroying families?
It will be hard to forget the rapid fire staccato of automatic gunfire raining down on the innocents. But let’s be serious, only for a handful of days until life returns to “normal.” And then we will go about our daily routines until we are interrupted again by the next tragedy, the next senseless mass assault, the next horror show that eclipses all previous attacks in size and scope.
In Las Vegas last night one sick and savage man pulled the trigger. His name is Stephen Paddock and his ultimate cowardice was displayed when he committed suicide rather than face justice or be help to account. But we are all to blame.
Every single day in America we are given clues that something like what took place Sunday night near the Mandalay Bay Hotel could be in store. Often, we are too busy entrenched in the mundane or the minutiae of our own lives to even notice what is happening around us. Like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the ground, we are hunched over our cell phones and tablets totally absorbed in games, mindless chatter and texts, scrolling through social media feeds and whiling away the hours of our lives.
But around us, we are missing unmistakable clues that should be sounding alarms. Most of us probably know or have seen somebody we should know is capable of a destructive act of domestic terrorism. We don’t need to profile for radical Islamic terrorists, dark-skinned people born outside our borders or illegal immigrants from Mexico.
America has its own terrorists. The monsters are already among us. First we have to recognize that fact. And then we have to act.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, security experts have warned us repeatedly about the dangers of large-scale attacks on soft targets. And sadly, they have come to pass. Young people dancing the night away in a club in Orlando, people enjoying a country music concert near the Las Vegas Strip. Our world is a study in tumult, our nation is in chaos, and what we continue to witness is the death, not just of our fellow citizens, but also life as we used to know it in the United States.
The type of weapon used in the Las Vegas attack was obviously a factor in how quickly the assailant was able to murder his victims. But the government could ban assault weapons, take away as many guns of all sizes and shapes as possible and still, we would see such tragedies. Evil finds a way, and bombs would replace bullets.
The men and women of law enforcement, who put themselves in harm’s way to respond to these events but also to prevent them, could catch 99 potential assailants. And yet the 100th would still exploit our free and open society to wreak havoc and commit acts of unspeakable horror. When it comes to preventing terrorism and stopping such assaults, the odds are not in our favor, and we cannot ever realistically expect to prevent these attacks 100 percent of the time.
So what can we do? What must we do? The answer is to become more vigilant, more aware of what’s going on around us. Instead of ignoring, mocking or laughing off the people in our society who seem disgruntled, angry or somehow “off”, we must report them. We need to take a more active role in not just paying attention to the people who give us an uneasy feeling, but to take the next step by alerting law enforcement even when we have no evidence of a crime, but have uneasy feelings or are worried about a person’s potential for violence.
Law enforcement needs private citizens to help prevent these attacks from occurring. The families, friends, associates and neighbors of people who seem troubled cannot afford to ignore warning signs. There are always clues. Threats posted online, angry or violent sentiments conveyed in conversations, guns purchased, ammunition stockpiled.
The shooter at Virginia Tech had worried his classmates and displayed signs of mental illness. The Columbine killers forecast their slaughter on websites and violent journal entries. Even lone wolves leave footprints.
We also must take a hard look at our laws and consider much more stringent penalties for making terrorist threats. Given the crisis we face, perhaps we should abandon the mentality that mass murderers and terrorists are innocent until proven guilty. Threats alone should be as intolerable as actions. Promising to commit these abhorrent acts should be grounds enough to bring them to swift and harsh justice before they act.
Our society itself is sick, and each and every one of us has a role to play if we ever hope to recover. Otherwise, the best we can do is plod about our day-to-day lives—and merely hope that we are not next.
Mr. Williams is Manager / Sole Owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year. Listen to Mr. Williams on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly 6:00-8:00pm EST. Follow me on Twitter @arightside