Whom should we fear?

Three public shootings in the past week have set off my moral radar enough to make me risk having an opinion in public. You know what happens on the Internet to people who make that mistake.

John F. Kennedy, and many others, have misquoted Dante Alighieri as having written some version of, “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who in times of moral crisis remain neutral.” Of course, Dante wrote no such thing. He did, however, in Inferno, canto iii, express the foundation of this thought about neutrality or silence in the face of moral crisis. At a particular level of Hell, the Master was asked about a set of poor souls, and the reason they were suffering. His rather longer answer can be abbreviated: these are sorry or worthless souls who lived “sanza ‘nfamia e sanza lodo” (without disgrace or controversy and without praise). According to the Master, we should “non ragioniam di lor, ma guarda e passa” (not speak or argue with them, but merely look and pass them by).

The modern transformation of Dante’s words are a bit more pithy – language in 1317 was a bit more dense and obtuse, but even today we can get the gist: if things are going to Hell in a handbasket, one should not keep quiet.

So, I said all that to make this observation about violence in our society, and whom we should fear.

We have had a constant barrage of vitriol for the past three years about the sub-human infestation of refugees and migrants who want to come to the US from shit-hole countries around the world: how they are criminals and dangerous, and how we should fear them.

I find this attitude beyond cosmically ironic.

As admittedly only one measure of whom we should fear, let’s look at the mass killings in the US over the past three years. By mass, I’ll use the common definition adopted by the press – three or more dead, excluding the gunman. Under this definition, the shooting last week in Southaven, Mississippi, where only two died, didn’t even make the news cycle in competition with El Paso and Dayton.

What, then, do we have? Since 2017, at least nine mass killings. Here’s the basic info.

Las Vegas
58 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 68 years old.

Southerland Springs Church
26 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 26 years old.

Stoneman Douglas High School
17 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 19 years old.

Thousand Oaks
12 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 28 years old.

Pittsburgh Synagogue
11 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 46 years old.

Santa Fe High School
10 Dead – Shot Gun and Pistol – White Male, 17 years old.

Gilroy, CA
3 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 19 years old.

El Paso
20 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 21 years old.

9 Dead – Semi-Automatic Weapon – White Male, 24 years old.

Commonalities? Semi-Automatic weapons, White Male US citizens, far right/white supremacist Internet postings.

Lesson? Perhaps that one is much, much, much more likely to be killed by a young white male US citizen with an automatic weapon and a white supremacist fingerprint on the Internet than one is ever likely to be harmed by an immigrant.

And yet the hate, the vile language, and the demonization continue. As a people we should be better than this. And by “this” I mean both the propensity to acts of mass violence and the willingness to dehumanize our fellow human beings. As that wise sage, Pogo, once observed, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”