As America’s fear of terrorism grows, a ‘wacky gun enthusiast’ supposedly threatens no one

“Right now it looks like he’s a wacky gun enthusiast and a police buff, yet he was going around pretending to be a federal agent – that’s troubling,” a source told the New York Daily News.

Mark Vicars

He had a fake federal air marshal ID in one pocket, a Ruger .380-caliber pistol in the other and was driving around Long Island with ballistic body armor and a loaded AR-15 assault rifle. He also had an arsenal of weapons at his gated home.

But don’t worry folks, Mark Vicars wasn’t a threat to anyone, Nassau County officials insisted Friday.

The amount of firepower is comparable to what terror couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik had during the massacre they committed Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif.

So why did the Nassau County Police Department spokesman Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun tell reporters, “At this time we don’t see any immediate threat to the public”?

[C]ops don’t believe that Vicars was up to anything nefarious — except for masquerading as a federal agent.

“We don’t see any nexus to any terrorism at this time,” LeBrun said, adding that no anti-American literature or links to terrorism were found at his home.

How about links to organizations such as Stop Islamization of America? Or indications of support for any of the current xenophobic, anti-immigrant GOP presidential candidates?

(Note also that in the current climate, “anti-American literature” is apparently a red flag raising suspicions of terrorism. It sounds like the police were less alarmed by the weapons Vicars owned, than they would have been had they found in his possessions a few books by Noam Chomsky.)

Even if it turns out that there’s no evidence to suspect Vicars might be ideologically motivated to engage in an act of terrorism, why should a heavily armed individual like this be any less a cause for public concern?

Along with his arsenal of weapons (“seven illegal firearms, three high-capacity magazines and 8,300 rounds of ammunition”) he was found (without prescription) to be in possession of steroids used for muscle growth — drugs known to cause aggression and violence.

For America’s gun lovers, pieces of steel are symbols of personal freedom, even though for many such individuals, this bond of affection thinly masks underlying fears of the rest of society.

This is the paradox of gun-bound right-wing patriotism: the country in whose name so much red-blooded passion gets vented, is one upon whose streets it is supposedly only safe to walk while carrying a weapon.

If Mark Vicars needed body armor, muscle armor, an arsenal, and a fake identity in order to feel strong, there must be a very weak and vulnerable man on the inside.

Unfortunately, fear is contagious and nowadays grips some sections of American society.

Unfortunately, the fearful are liable to lash out — to shoot first and ask questions later.

At a time such as this, a country needs leaders who through their own example can demonstrate that courage is stronger than fear. Instead, we are left to choose between the strident and the timid — an environment in which the loudest voices easily drown out all others.

A society built on fear will ultimately be no society at all, since fear leads to isolation.

As much as ISIS and other terrorist groups do indeed pose a real threat to America, a much greater threat is posed by fear itself because of the corrosive effect this has on social bonds.

Far from making America stronger, the easy availability of weapons simply makes this country more dangerous.

Rather than looking for ways to individually and collectively become more defended, reinforcing and amplifying our fears, what we need are more expressions of human solidarity and mutual support.

Unity built around antipathy is just another way of validating fear. Our real strength, however, can only be found on common ground — an understanding of and commitment towards a shared destiny.

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