As the dark shadow of the Trolley Square killings recedes, one of the many tragedies it spawned is that we don’t talk about the lives and accomplishments of those murdered in cold blood.
Jeffrey Walker, Vanessa Quinn, Kirsten Hinckley, Brad Frantz and Teresa Ellis will doubtless be remembered by friends and family. They just won’t be discussed or debated nearly as much as their 18-year-old killer, Sulejman Talovic. It’s not that our culture deliberately glorifies killers and killing, although we’re guilty of that a lot more often than we’d care to admit. It’s the nagging, unrelenting “Why?” that holds us rapt.
Answering the question of motive does little to bring anyone peace but it can solve crimes and fulfill the human need of explaining the world in terms of cause and effect.
You’ve no doubt heard by now that many people had a ready motive in mind once they heard where Talovic and his family hailed from. I heard it myself the day after the shootings, as one of the best parts of my job is taking irate phone calls.
“I’d like to know why no one in the media is pointing out the fact that this guy was a Bosnian Muslim!” an angry voice told me over the phone.
Well, I answered, people used the religion and ethnicity of alleged Soviet atomic spies Theodore Hall and Julius Rosenberg to indict all American Jews during the Cold War. Was that right?
My caller was having none of it. Muslim clerics used Friday prayers before Talovic’s killing spree to condemn Valentine’s Day as un-Islamic, the caller pointed out. It was clear that Talovic heard those sermons, deciding then he would invade Trolley Square and kill Valentine’s Day shoppers.
This time I wasn’t buying it. If Talovic’s killing was all about jihad, why not strike on Valentine’s Day, rather than two days before? Why no reported shouts of “Allahu Akbar!” while he killed?
Before hanging up, the caller guffawed at my stupidity. If I were a “true reporter,” he said, I’d interrogate the imams of Salt Lake City’s two mosques to discover what was afoot.
Law enforcement’s still investigating the motive and reasons behind the killing. One week later, no one, Talovic’s family included, knows how their son got hold of his considerable firepower. What we all know is that, more than five years after 9/11, our country is increasingly divided between so-called “Islamophobes” and “Islamofascist” sympathizers.
The Islamophobes state their case somewhat convincingly on the WorldNetDaily.com, the same right-wing medium that warned about tofu and soy foods causing homosexuality. The Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad? The name alone tells you he’s Muslim. The 30-year-old man who killed a woman at Seattle’s Jewish Federal Center last year? He said himself he was a Muslim. How about the Egyptian Hesham Mohamed Hadayet who killed two at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2002? Muslim, of course. These, along with other cases, are what dogged critics of Islam call “spontaneous jihad.” It’s the “politically correct” liberals who ignore these incidents at our nation’s peril, as Muslims everywhere plot our destruction. WorldNetDaily.com’s article, headlined “Terrorism not ruled out in Salt Lake case,” points out that Salt Lake City’s Al-Noor mosque on 700 South was but a block from the site of the shooting.
Having read that article, I was shaking in my boots for sure, let me tell you. Talovic wasn’t motivated by violent Islamic jihad? You deluded, left-wing sheep can only wish! Talovic was engaging in jihad only until investigations prove he was not engaging in jihad!
The reasoning behind this argument isn’t altogether objectionable. If an Islamist network supplied Talovic with his weaponry, by all means go after them. So far, however, I doubt that’s the case. I never once felt the urge to take up guns and kill people but I certainly remember what being an alienated 18-year-old young man was like. Even then, I wasn’t as alienated as Talovic. It goes without saying that no level of alienation excuses what he did, but it certainly goes some way toward explaining why he might have done it. Bosnian Muslims are overwhelmingly marginal in their religious devotion, so much so that many of them drink alcohol. Saudi-funded Wahhabism tried desperately to win Bosnians over during the war in the former Yugoslavia, but a recent Boston Globe article reported an opinion poll that found 70 percent of Bosnian Muslims opposed Wahhabist Islam while 16 percent supported it in some fashion. We, on the other hand, fund Wahhabist Islam virtually every time we fill up our gas tanks.
Thanks to al-Qaeda and President Bush’s deranged attempts at showing the people of the Middle East we mean no harm, we know the world’s on edge. No, it’s the way right-wingers use incidents such as the shooting at Trolley Square to implicate everyone. Muslims are guilty until proven innocent, and refusal to take sides implicates you as a traitor. By the tone of this argument, we see that some people want nothing more than to bring the war over here, even if we had to attack Iraq because it was better to “take the war over there.” Sometimes, goshdarnit, there just isn’t enough war to go around. We need more of it!
That’s not the sort of America I want to live in. I suspect it’s not the sort of America most of us'Christian, Muslim or Jewish'would want to live in, either.