What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
Except for what happened last night. When, during the Route 91 Harvest Festival near the Mandalay bay Casino, Stephen Paddock had opened fire onto the crowd, killing at least 58 people, and injuring hundreds more. We all know the facts: he was found dead in his hotel room afterwards, surrounded by tens of automatic weapons, he played poker for $100 a hand, and ISIS is baselessly claiming responsibility, his father was a troubled man, and amidst all these facts, one crucial detail is left unspoken; Stephen Paddock is a terrorist.
Yes. He is a terrorist. He isn’t a “lone wolf,” he isn’t a “gunman,” or a “murderer,” he is a terrorist. And it isn’t because of any possible ties to ISIS that I call him a terrorist. He is what he is because of what he did and it is an irrefutable fact. He was a deranged white man and he committed an act of terrorism. He condemned innocent men and women to death for crimes they didn't commit by the hand of someone who had no right to pass judgement.
But why is nobody calling this tragedy an act of terrorism?
It’s no surprise that people are remaining silent in labeling Paddock as a terrorist. After all, that’s a word we tend to reserve for one group of people. The word “terrorist” has been associated with Arabs, especially after 9/11. No one ever called the Sandy Hook shooter a terrorist, but they rushed to call the kid who made a clock out of a potato in Texas one.
Because they have privilege. Because they belong to a group that apparently cannot be convicted of terrorism. Because they’re a demographic of victims and people who can only be convicted of every crime except terrorism. Because, well… because they’re white.
Don’t get me wrong; not all white people fall under this demographic, but tell me, when was the last time a white man was recognized as a terrorist? The only one that comes to mind is Ted Kaczynski, commonly known as the Unabomber. Here’s the distinction between a terrorist, and a mass murderer; there must be some sort of political aspect involved. The shooting last night in Vegas was anything but politically motivated, as far as we know. But can we still call it terrorism, even if there’s no political motivation?
Because terrorism shouldn’t be politically motivated. Killing people and instilling fear in a population shouldn’t require politics and is shouldn’t be labeled only as a mass murder, because that only implies that people were killed and there wasn’t any sort of intimidation or fear factor. And because, certainly, even if it isn’t explicit, and even if it doesn’t exist at all, there are some politics at play with the Vegas shooting. Because now, like after ever massacre we’ve had for the past decade, politicians will gather around and discuss one thing; the second amendment. And the debate will come and go as it always does and nothing will change, but the rhetoric for reform will still pulse on even after the tragedies we fight so hard to prevent occur. It's a war that can never be won but is still fought regardless because it's more about doing what's right than it is about winning.
But that's another discussion on its own.
And that is politics enough for the Vegas shooting to be considered an act of terrorism, because any sort of incident that’s large enough to start discussion in Congress is indeed an act of terrorism, because at that point, when the government needs to step in, you’ve introduced politics. And with some sort of political aim at hand, the holocaust that Vegas had just experienced is now indeed an act of terrorism. We've held the word in such a regard that it can only be used to describe attacks made by those who aren't American, but what we've failed to realize is that the moment the blood is shed by your bullets and the cries are heard because of your actions, you are no longer American.
It shouldn’t matter what his race was, or what he did in his life, what matters is the lives he took and the damage he caused. Undeniably, the Vegas shooting is the single greatest mass murder in the modern era. But because nobody will rush to call a white man a terrorist, that’s all it will ever be for time immemorial and forever more, because bystanders condemned to fleeting moments of death will not receive another opportunity on Earth.