Ronald Reagan once explained the difference between a recession and a depression thusly:
“Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”
I take a similar view of the war against Islamic terror. Terrorism is when you hear on the news that somebody died, that some restaurant got blown up, or a building was destroyed, or dozens died… in some distant place. When 9/11 happened, I lived in California. It was a sad and terrible thing, but it was distant. I didn’t know any of the victims. It was all so far away.
This weekend, I didn’t hear of the terrorist attack in Orlando from the news. I didn’t see it on TV, or hear about it on the radio. I heard about it from friends who knew people in the venue. I was, that very night, right as the shooting was happened, DJing at a gay club in Tampa.
Yes, I’m a Conservative Christian guy, but I’ve DJed for the gay community for many years. They pay well, and they like my music. And they have been very good for my music career. The owner of the club I was spinning at Saturday night is well connected with the staff at Pulse. And many of the gays who were in the club that night were from Orlando.
Thankfully, the ones I account among my friends were in Tampa, there to listen to me spin and do their thing, so they were not slaughtered by an Islamic terrorist madman. Who would have thought that my music could save lives?
I know the club in Orlando well enough, and while I have not worked there, I worked at a number of clubs in the area (including the old Firestone club — not very far away from there). I know people who go to Pulse, and it’s entirely possible that I may have, at some time or another, met some of the actual victims.
In other words, the terrorism that was once a distant thing — something that happened to people in Paris, or New York — is now very local, it has reached my own circle of friends, coworkers, and fellow DJs.
My Facebook wall was, the following morning, plastered with people trying to figure out if their friends were safe or among the dead. It’s very surreal to see that.
It’s even more surreal to know that it could have been me. If our intrepid terrorist had been in the Tampa area instead of Orlando, it probably would have been the club I was spinning at that would have been hit. Crazy to think, isn’t it?
Am I going to have to start carrying when I go DJing in Ybor City? Usually I don’t — the bouncers know me, and nobody screws with the hired help in Ybor, not unless they have a death wish. But terrorists don’t seem to care.
So I will modify Ronald Reagan’s quote thusly:
Terrorism is when you hear about the attack on the news. War is when you hear about it from friends and family.
Yes, my friends, we are in a war with the Islamic world. Oh, I know not all of them are bad people, or our enemies. But neither was every German a Nazi, or the majority of Germans bad people. World War II still happened.
The reason the war seems different to us is because it is different. The war we are fighting today isn’t articulated so easily as a line on a map someplace. It is not accounted for in terms of war material; not in numbers of tanks, bombs, or warships.
The currency of this war is fear. It is a battle being waged at a psychological and moral level. It is fought between ideologies, not nation-states. William S. Lind calls it “fourth generation warfare.” I’m only an amateur in matters of military history, but the point is an apt one. There is something very different about the war we fight today, but it is no less a war for that.
I now have to legitimately wonder if DJing a gay club is putting my life at risk for Islamic terror. Am I a target? I was talking to one of the club’s frequent patrons yesterday, one who is recognized well enough to be able to use the back door. The discussion went right away to whether or not it would be advisable to pack heat, now, regardless of legality. I make no recommendations on that note, but it does make you wonder.
The war has come to my circle of friends. It has entered my personal world.
How soon before it enters yours?