Interestingly, for the first time ever, 50% of Americans do not favor the assault weapon ban. For political reasons, the intensity of pro gun people has kept this in check, but this is a big change that seems to reflect two things. One, people are genuinely scared of terrorism and the potential for disorder and, second, do not trust the government to keep them safe.
Obama’s response to the San Bernardino attacks included denying the terrorist motive until the last moment, calling for gun control, defending Islam, and saying his policies on ISIS would not change and were working fine, even after Paris and the local attacks. This understandably makes people nervous and skeptical of the government’s good faith. In a higher trust society, they may be willing to give up some liberty, even their gun rights, for the greater good. But they rightly won’t give up any liberties when the only consequence is to be disarmed in the face of inevitable attacks the government has no real plan to stop, because its policies are clouded by through-going liberalism, which includes the multicultural refusal to examine Islam on its own terms.
Incidentally, there is more real talk than ever regarding Islam. The FBI searches in vain for the “real reason” for these killers’ radicalization, when they tell us why themselves: They believe their religion commands them to. We’re told instead this is a small minority, but why should I believe my own interpretation of Islam over that of someone willing to kill and die for it? And how small of a minority is it if tens of thousands of them have gone to Jihad Woodstock in Syria?
I have spent some energy engaging Islam and, while there are undoubtedly peaceful Muslims and some disagreement within the community over violence, overwhelmingly the history of Islam is one of violence, and the pro-Jihad movements arguments are not inherently laughable in the face of Islamic text. Indeed, they’re pretty persuasive if you accept the Koran as the “revealed” word of God.
The killers are reminiscent of the suicide bomber in the excellent 2005 movie The War Within, which I wrote about here. Perhaps the most important insight to me from the movie was that violence was not simply the inherent way of all jihadists; it sometimes involved a struggle to do what is unnatural and unpleasant. Much like the San Bernardino killers, who were universally described as pleasant and nice and gentle in the years leading up to their killing of coworkers, the protagonist struggles, but is fortified by the following passage from the Koran, “Fighting has been enjoyed upon you while it is hateful to you. But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (Koran 2:216).
Surely part of the confusion is a real lack of intuitive understanding for how religious belief works in practice by our secular leadership. They don’t get it, don’t know history, and mistakenly assume psychology predominates, rather than the realm of ideas and belief. So they say without much basis these Jihadists have hijacked what George W. Bush called a “beautiful religion.” Surely, there is much projecting and wishful thinking going on, and the American people are increasingly sick of the stranglehold of political correctness, which is just another term for applied liberalism.
In a low trust society, we are circling the wagons, looking for a champion, getting prepared for conflict, and unwilling to give up for the common good–which Americans were willing to do in times of higher trust. There is no sense of good faith or shared destiny among the leaders, whom we perceive as working for the interests of groups other than ourselves, often against ourselves. The rhetoric of critics is becoming shrill and hateful, castigating whole swaths of traditional America as irredeemable, racist, evil, unworthy of sympathy, and the like. The Trumps and Cruzes of the world are flourishing in this environment, and the Jebs and Lindsay Grahams look increasingly out of place.