My experience in Chattanooga the day of the shooting and thoughts on Islamaphobia and Imperialism

Chattanooga, Tennessee (TFC) – I heard about the shooting when I was in the gas station. A lot of speculation immediately entered my mind. After that I was on Lee Highway going to the doctor, which was on lockdown, but they let me in when they recognized me, and I was able to keep my appointment.

 (July 16, 2015) Police tape and a makeshift memorial frame the scene at an Armed Forces Career Center, where earlier in the day an active shooter opened fire, injuring one U.S. Marine. The gunman later moved to the nearby Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) firing multiple shots, killing four Marines and injuring one Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Damon J. Moritz/Released)

(July 16, 2015) Police tape and a makeshift memorial frame the scene at an Armed Forces Career Center, where earlier in the day an active shooter opened fire, injuring one U.S. Marine. The gunman later moved to the nearby Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) firing multiple shots, killing four Marines and injuring one Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Damon J. Moritz/Released)

I went to the shooting scene just afte,r and there were marines, cops, journalists, and other members of the military (both alum and current) scattered around. A young man, who was just there to take his ASVAB, was trying to get in contact with his recruiter. Another man, who said he was there when it went down, said the police wouldn’t let him talk. Another said he wasn’t allowed to say anything because of company policy. One person there said they heard what sounded like a helicopter, and another mentioned an AK-47. Another local establishment said they didn’t hear gunshots. Someone mentioned an unconfirmed hostage situation and an unconfirmed (apparently debunked) shooting at Bradley Square Mall in Cleveland. I was told the Hospitals, Erlanger and Memorial, were on lockdown, as was my school and most of the businesses on Amnicola Highway, where the shooter seemed to be .

I went to River Park and tried to walk into Chattanooga State and was abruptly stopped by security and told to go back to my car. I asked another security officer; he said this was a live situation and not a drill and that four marines were shot. The shooter was apparently in a silver Mustang. We were under a no fly zone. The police all had heavy firepower. There were police in unmarked cars all over the area as well.

And as shocking as this was, it made me wonder about places where this is all too common.

Imagine if you woke up every morning to hear your city had been attacked. Every day people, including military and civilian, lost their lives right outside of your school, shopping center, or place of worship. What if that was your everyday existence? What if it wasn’t one man with an improvised explosive device or a gun, but large foreign military bases with arsenals big enough to level a village? How many loved ones could you see lost due to another country’s intervention before you got a bit pissed? Would the loss of your kid or family drive you to the point of fighting back?

Now imagine you lived in that occupying country, and you happened to have similar characteristics of those the power is occupying. And everyday you dealt with racism and the feeling that these people not only want to kill you, but kill people of your culture with their tax money, and oil money. Many around you don’t even care, but in fact, applaud the planning of attacks on mosques and continued invasion of these other countries. How would growing up seeing that over and over effect your heart and mind?

Imagine if you see guys telling children, who don’t know any better, who might not get the cushy recruiting job when they leave basic, to go over to the Middle East to kill those they hate only because of the Islamaphobia they inherited from their parents’ obsession with Fox News. you might think that these guys are perpetuating the problem. If these recruiters are doing their job well, they will not only send poor farm kids off to die, but off to kill other poor kids who simply want to have their land back. It could seem like something that should be stopped. But the recruiters themselves are of course just doing their jobs. They didn’t ask for this system, they just took advantage of it for their own diverse, possibly misguided reasons.

Obviously, I don’t condone murder as a means of social change. And my thoughts go out to those families who lost loved ones. But not just today and not just the Marines and police, but every day in the countries our government deploys our troops: from the children killed by drones, the teenagers scarred by white phosphorous, the generations ravaged by agent orange, and the thousands enslaved by economic systems.

The top uses hate to divide us so we never see them. Their tool for the last few decades has been the fear of Muslims meant to justify their perpetual destabilization of Middle Eastern regions.

And this isn’t just perpetuated on the Right. Bill Maher and Sam Harris convert young atheists and liberals to a slant of Islamaphobia with their rhetoric against peaceful practitioners lumping them in with all fundamentalists. Meanwhile Right-wing Christian Militias pose more of a threat than Islamic terrorists, and apartheid goes on in the name of Zionism. But all of these religions are focused on less than Islam in both American media’s left and right discourses.

And so today, after I buy a candy bar and they ask me to give more to support the troops before I pump the oil for which both sides die, I have to ask… doesn’t that promote terrorism?

Today, if I wave the red, white, and blue am I promoting many Arab and Muslim people being beaten, bullied, tortured, or forced to watch as their friends and family suffer the same? Is this akin to waving the Confederate flag days after 9 people of color die in the Charleston shooting? Simply because the victim might be a patriot and fought for what he believed that flag stood for.. if I know better and know that the flag is what killed him and many like him on both sides…. do I still placate his ignorance with sympathy ending in the same militarism which ultimately brought about his death?

Do I perpetuate the double-whammy that black and brown Muslims now feel, having to endure both faith-based and racial discrimination, when I say God Bless America? When, in our city, people of color are shot almost every day and go through these horrible feelings in their communities everyday with little to no media attention.

I don’t know this guy’s motives, but I do know if we continue to hate and oppress other cultures things like this will become far more prevalent.

Perhaps one day we will fight together to save ourselves from ecocide rather than against each other for control of resources captured in arbitrary lines on a map using extraction methods that destroy the planet.