Killings in the US are condemned, while American violence abroad is ignored or glorified.
The attack came early. Like any coward, the killer wasn’t interested in a fair fight, and chances are he didn’t even know whom he was killing. Having stalked his prey for reasons that even now aren’t entirely clear, he struck when his victims were most vulnerable: as they prayed in their house of worship. Within minutes, a once-peaceful place became a war zone, blood-smeared floors littered with the lifeless bodies of worshipers. And for what?
But Sarah Palin didn’t tweet about it. No major-league sporting events were interrupted with a moment of silence. Barack Obama didn’t issue a statement expressing his sorrow. Mitt Romney didn’t try to out-sorrow him. If anything, when reports of the carnage hit Washington, it only served as that famously overcompensating town’s afternoon Cialis. No flags were at half-staff, but something else was.
That’s because the victims of this particular massacre made the dubious decision to be born and raised in a suspicious land called Somewhere Else, a strange and often swarthy place where moral principles like “hey, try not to kill people, yeah?” need not apply to the natives.
“The drone fired two missiles and hit the village mosque where a number of people were offering Fajr (morning) prayer,” Roashan Din, a village elder in the rural Pakistani town where the strike took place, explained to NBC News. At least 10 bodies were pulled from the wreckage, a direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to dramatically escalate the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Being suspiciously foreign - who would live in northwest Pakistan anyway? - those bodies aren’t associated with any names or faces or families or lovers. They’re just bodies, statistically better off dead than alive based on an algorithm developed by the CIA. And we sure as hell don’t mourn them.
What difference an arbitrary political border makes. And how glaring the hypocrisy of American elites - pundits, politicians and their corporate backers - when one of their discarded products does the same thing at home.
Three months after the country’s role-model-in-chief carried out that particular mass murder in Pakistan, a former US soldier, Wade Michael Page, opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, killing a half-dozen defenceless worshippers. If he’d done the same thing overseas, you’d be lucky to get a surrogate for the president or his challenger to comment. He might even get a medal and a Senate seat.
But the incident happened within US borders, not Over There, so the condemnation was swift. In a statement, President Obama said he was “deeply saddened” by the shooting, emphasising - because it was a shame? - that it “took place at a house of worship”. Just so we’re clear: this is the same person who but a few months earlier authorised the missile strike that took out that Pakistani town’s place of worship. But that’s okay: he also emphasised that this crime was different because the victims were part of “our broader American family”.
For his part, Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger in this year’s tediously dull, let-us-just-crash-into-the-sun-already presidential campaign, issued a statement lamenting “a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship”. He’ll walk that statement back once an adviser informs him that Iran has those too.