In the immediate sense, 12 innocent Americans, one of them a six-year old girl, were killed, and 58 others injured, some of them for life, by a lone crazed gunman. But in the larger sense, all of these people were killed or wounded by the gun lobby.
Yet even after the massacres at Columbine, Virginia Tech, and the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, not to mention countless individual acts of gun violence every day throughout America, few of our politicians in either party have the courage to speak out against America's senseless policy of letting virtually anyone who wants to do so buy even the most dangerous and destructive kinds of weapons.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York deserves to be commended by all Americans for speaking out in favor of tougher gun control laws, which have been blocked by the craven kowtowing in both parties to the all-powerful National Rifle Association. While this writer has no less sympathy and prayers for the victims of this latest mass murder and their families, and good wishes for the speedy recovery of all the wounded, than the president, his Republican challenger, and all other Americans, one cannot help being appalled by the obvious fear that President Obama showed in his speech to the nation on Sunday night to touch the subject of gun control, lest he be instantly doomed to a one-term presidency.
While of course, the victims should be remembered and the many acts of courage and heroism shown in this latest despicable act of violence praised, at the same time there is something surreal in all the vigils, speeches and other commemorations of an incident which could in all probability have been prevented. by stricter gun control laws.
To take the liberty of making yet another reference to classical literature, in the opening of the Iliad, Homer describes how the god Apollo causes a plague to break out in the Greek army besieging Troy because of an insult to one of the god's priests by Agamemnon, the Greek king. Back in the 8th century BC, when most scholars believe the Iliad was composed, most people in fact believed that plagues were caused by the gods.
Comparatively few people attribute a divine origin to illness today, and it would be somewhat strange if people were to hold prayer vigils for victims of diseases that are easily preventable or curable now by an injection or two or a few pills. But this is exactly what is happening in the case of mass murders by the use of guns which society has the power to keep out of the hands of vicious madmen such as the Aurora killer, or at least make it harder for such people to acquire.
Why did 12 people die and 58 others suffer wounds in this latest incident? Because our politicians are afraid to stand up against violence in the form of guns. President Obama, Mitt Romney and many other politicians in both parties are also terrified at the thought of standing up against hate, especially hate directed against immigrants. To their shame, Romney and most of his party are also actively exploiting this form of hate in order to try to take over the White House and both houses of Congress.
Because of the failure of leaders in both parties to take a stand against hate, many more than a dozen people have already died at the Mexican border and in immigration concentration camps (a/k/a detention facilities). Almost 400,000 people are having their lives destroyed though separations from their loved ones and crushed hopes and shattered dreams each year in our deportation system.
Other people, such as the distinguished Indian cancer researcher whom I mentioned in my comments last week, are being prevented from pursuing work in the US which may have the potential to save thousands, if not millions, of lives worldwide. Where is the courage to stand up against the evil of anti-immigrant hate and prejudice, which ruins countless lives just as surely as is the scourge of easily controllable gun violence?
Where are the vigils, the prayers, the television coverage, the marches, the speeches and, above all the action, for meaningful immigration reform and the end to hate and prejudice against immigrants who are here only to seek a better life in the US?
As a final note, suppose that the Aurora killer, dressed up in full military uniform and using high powered weapons to kill as many people as possible, had had an Hispanic or a Middle Eastern name. Would not the media be full of shouts for America to close its borders against all immigrants in order to protect against "terrorists", and to speed up deportations of Latino and Muslim immigrants even more?
This writer is willing to bet that if the Aurora killer had had an Hispanic name, either President Obama would have announced an immediate reversal of both his "prosecutorial discretion", and his "deferred action" initiatives for DREAMERS, or he would be under tremendous pressure to do so. However, the killer was white. Prayers and vigils will be enough this time, thank you.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.