Armed security guards accompanying a tourist tour on an excursion last year through Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city .
Armed security guards accompanying a tourist tour on an excursion last year through Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city .

by Garry Pierre-Pierre

Since the weeks following the World Trade Center disaster on that balmy day in September of 2001, the America we used to live in has ceased to exist.

It would have been a dereliction of duty for political leaders not to have taken stern steps to guarantee our safety. And boy did they ever. Air travel was radically altered. Islam as a religion was labeled a threat to Western values. The Patriot Act peeled away our civil liberties. And we waged war on two different nations: Afghanistan and Iraq. Both wars are still going on today—to our detriment.

However, nearly 20 years later, it is becoming clear that the real enemy is within state lines. It is not Islamic radicalism, but white supremacy and all of its facets, including Nazism, Fascism and white nationalism, that is the enemy.

They are running amok, staging massive rallies and unleashing a terror of death and destruction on the American people in our most sacred and traditionally safe havens: places like schools, churches, concerts, and movie halls.

The latest fusillade took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, a once placid town dotted with horse farm estates in West Broward County. The carnage left 17 people dead and a lifetime of psychological scars.

We as Americans are becoming more complacent to the violence around us. We are quickly normalizing the Pakistan-ization of the United States. Like the U.S., Pakistan has been fighting its own demons, including the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda offshoots. A far right-wing group bent on destabilizing the country because it feels that Pakistani political leaders have sold out to the West, particularly the United States. They’ve unleashed their reign of terror on the Pakistani people.

As a response, the government deployed its own forces—The Rangers, an elite military unit within the Pakistani army—and began to rout the Taliban, forcing them to the hills. But in the process, The Rangers have turned most of Karachi, and the country at large, into a fortress zone.

In 2016 and 2017,  I visited Karachi twice to lead a television production training for Pakistani journalists. Although I was bleary eyed when I arrived at my hotel from a grueling flight, I immediately became awake and alert when the driver had to pop the hood and trunk as heavily armed security guards stood erect with automatic weapons aimed at the car. Another guard scanned the bottom of the vehicle with a long stick with a mirror at the end. A metal barrier with spikes popped up  so our tires would be shredded to pieces if the driver were to try to back up.

This was a five-star edifice in the heart of the business district. The next day, I headed to the university campus where the training was being held. The front gate was a 20 feet sentinel, surrounded by sandbags with a heavily armed security guard standing ready while our car was searched—again.

This seemed quite normal to my Pakistani colleagues. These security measures were a better alternative than the body parts that littered the streets after repeated bombings .

I am afraid that the United States is heading in that direction. The debate in the aftermath of the Douglas High School massacre is an apt example. Some people have argued with a straight face that we need to arm teachers to prevent such incidents. The argument goes that a good guy with a gun is the best deterrent for a bad guy with a gun. Never mind that these deranged gunmen—and they are all men—are packing military-grade weapons, weapons meant to kill and maim.

I was astounded to hear a Florida school superintendent advocating for schools to be retrofitted with Kevlar, a synthetic materials able to sustain bullets. He also suggested doors in the hallways with magnetic cards and security cameras. He also, of course, advocated for teachers and staff to pack heat. His conclusion, in essence, was to turn school into a prison to keep us safe.

Some of the more sensible options debated in legislative halls across the United States are frankly cosmetic and meant to appease some NRA apologists rather than solve the problem. Gun violence has become a scourge in our society and is threatening to undermine our way of life and the liberty we have taken for granted—forever.

Veterans say they fought wars to protect our way of life; that America is losing its meaning quickly these days as the enemy within is escalating its war against us with alarming force.

I don’t own a gun, but I respect other people’s right to do so. I don’t believe that an average citizen needs to tote a military-style weapon. They should be banned or made difficult for a person to buy. It’s just sensible. I know enough to know that the National Rifle Association would rather destroy this country than allow such a ban to take place. Heck, the mere talk of restricting the age of gun ownership to 21 has sent them in panic.

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Have you heard this argument before? Some even go as far as suggesting mental health as the primary reason for these shooting sprees. That is nonsense because mental health problems are a world phenomenon, but we don’t see this problem afflicting other nations like ours.  Other civilized nations know that the average person doesn’t need to carry around an AR-15.

The NRA and their enablers are playing a cynical game of misdirection:

According to a recent New York Times column on this issue, “The gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety” studied 133 acts of mass murder committed between January 2009 and July 2015 and found that only one of the murderers had been “prohibited by federal law from possessing guns due to severe mental illness.” In only 11 percent of the cases did the group find “evidence that concerns about the mental health of the shooter had been brought to the attention of a medical practitioner, school official or legal authority.”

But we will continue to have that argument and the problem will continue, despite the actions by young people across the country. They realize that they face an existential crisis if the gun problem in the United States is not solved. If we continue to follow the NRA, the Pakistan-ization of the U.S will be normalized before we realize it’s not normal.

Garry Pierre-Pierre

Garry Pierre-Pierre is a Pulitzer-prize winning, multimedia and entrepreneurial journalist. In 1999, he left the New York Times to launch the Haitian Times, a New York-based English-language publication serving the Haitian Diaspora. He is also the co-founder of the City University Graduate School of Journalism‘s Center for Community and Ethnic Media and a senior producer at CUNY TV.

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