Whenever we get the horrible word, by no means rare now, that innocent people have been slaughtered, our leaders inevitably reach for the same weasel word: "senseless."
Whether it is the well-planned massacre of fourteen people in San Bernardino, the gunning down of police officers in Dallas or Baton Rouge, or a terrorist attack in Miami or Nice carried out by ISIS devotes, our leaders find the act "senseless."
That was the term President Obama used when remarking on the police shootings in Dallas, as did a wildly diverse group that included Hollywood's Shonda Rimes, Silicon Valley's Tim Cook, and Dallas Catholic Bishop Kevin Farrell.
When a self-proclaimed "soldier of Islam" climbed into a lorry and purposefully ploughed over a holiday crowd in Nice, France, killing eighty-four people and maiming many others, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau found that "senseless" too.
An online dictionary defines senseless as "unconscious" or "without discernible meaning or purpose." By this definition, the acts commonly designated as senseless by our leaders are anything but. None were unconscious and all had discernible meaning unless you are absolutely bound and determined to remain blind.
Micah X. Johnson, the Dallas assassin, did not act unconsciously or without discernible meaning or purpose. He was a black militant who hated the police (among others). He posed for his Facebook profile wearing a dashiki and raising a clenched fist. A black liberation flag supplies the backdrop. Johnson, according to the Daily Beast, liked on Facebook pages relating to Elijah Mohammed, founder of the militant Nation of Islam, and several militant and black separatist groups, among them The New Black Panther Party and the African American Defense League.
The Daily Beast looked at what the league posted on Facebook after Johnson murdered the officers: “ATTACK EVERYTHING IN BLUE EXCEPT THE MAIL MAN, UNLESS HE IS CARRYING MORE THAN MAIL.” Seeing a pattern?
Baton Rouge killer Gavin Eugene Long, who dropped his "slave name" and became Cosmo Setepenra online, reportedly belonged to the Moorish Nation, a black militant group. According to the Washington Times, a man charged with conspiracy to blow up the St. Louis Arch (in the wake of Ferguson) belonged to this same group. Long seems to have been inspired by the police murders in Dallas. In a video, Long said after the Dallas shootings, I’m not gonna harp on that, you know, with a brother killing the police... You get what I’m saying?” He also said of the Dallas rampage, ""It's justice."
Gavin Long had to go to considerable trouble to murder the Baton Rouge officers, an act that required renting a car and driving from Kansas City to Baton Rouge, where he hung out several days, preparing to kill. Does it sound to you that this is an act without a discernible purpose?
In a way, it makes sense that our leaders would want to call these actions senseless. The truth is awful to contemplate: we're probably less likely to be frightened if we think of these attacks as random and incomprehensible. That's scary, of course, but the idea that these are planned, purposeful attacks carried out by people who want to bring down our society is more frightening. Some of these killers, to be true, mix criminal backgrounds in with their ideology--but that should not be used as an excuse to dismiss the intent of the attackers.
Whether because they have embraced a radical form of Islam or because they regard the police as upholders of a social order that oppresses them, they mean us harm.
We need to confront this reality head on. America obviously has a long way to go in ridding our society of racial bias.
Republican Senator Tim Scott, who is the only African American in the Senate, and who has always refused to call attention to his race, recently admitted that he, too, had faced prejudice (including several non-violent but nevertheless humiliating encounters with police officers). This is dreadful, and speaks to a need for reform. This is a far cry from advocating the violence too many of our leaders are tepid about condemning.
The murders and mayhem these enemies of society commit are by no means senseless. They make infinite sense and are purposeful to a high degree. And it doesn't make sense for our leaders to try to fool us with banality.