by Barry Lord
“The World’s in a terrible state of chassis (crisis).”
The famous quote of Captain Jack Boyle to his friend ‘Joxer’ Daly in Sean O’Casey’s ‘Juno and the Paycock’ summed up the past week perfectly.
And I say that with the deepest sorrow.
After more squabbling over the future of the EU and the scenes in Marseille of disgraceful hooliganism from a bygone era, news of a mass shooting in Orlando, Florida was emerging in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Both television and the internet were awash with scenes all too reminiscent of Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan theatre shootings in Paris last year.
50 members of Orlando’s LGBT community went clubbing on Saturday night, dancing and laughing away another weekend.
By Sunday morning, their bullet ridden bodies were strewn across the floors of Pulse nightclub, victims of what is now reported as the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil since 9/11.
It’s a tragedy which, like the Paris attacks, has an all too familiar pattern. We have the blame game, the inevitable fallout that follows a loss of this magnitude. We saw it after the shootings at Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the Bataclan theatre.
So who, or what, do we blame?
The FBI? The killer, Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan descent, had been under the bureau’s watchful eye but deemed a ‘low level risk’, leaving him free to legally purchase the semi-automatic weapon he used to reap a terrible destruction.
Religion? Mateen’s Muslim faith has been cited as the primary motivation behind his supposed homophobia, something his father has denied.
Wherever you believe the blame lies, there is no question that the subject of gun control cannot be dismissed from the discussion.
For America’s gun lobby, there is an easy out in this latest tragedy because the words ‘extremism’ and ‘terror’ have loomed large in all the major coverage, thus ensuring that religious fundamentalism, not gun control, is the central focus.
We know that prejudice exists in our society. It’s when a person has the means to act on such prejudice – as Omar Mateen did, procuring an assault rifle as readily as a packet of paracetamol – that the alarm bells start to ring.
But is anyone heeding the warnings?
Put it this way, if the murder of 20 children in Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012 wasn’t a watershed moment in the battle for tighter gun laws, I suspect the hope that this latest killing spree could lead to significant change is a forlorn one.
If anything, scenes like those witnessed at Pulse nightclub will only strengthen the resolve of the American right to ensure there are more guns, not less, in the hands of its citizens, particularly if a certain Donald Trump seizes control of the oval office.
So what can we expect in the coming days and weeks? Like any tragedy on this scale, the shock and despair will be felt for a time, some dialogue will be exchanged, politicians will make pledges and everyone will move on, except the families of the victims who will carry their burden of grief to their own graves.