Another day in what was a cosmically miraculous paradise prior to our species’ ruinous, tyrannical reign, found police in Maine searching for a suspect in a mass shooting which took the lives of at least 16 people.
An assailant armed with a military-style rifle opened fire at a bowling alley before moving on to a nearby bar in Lewiston, population 40,000. That counts as a “large” city in Maine, where just 29 murders were reported in all of last year. I don’t know what this year’s total was before Wednesday, but it seems fair to suggest this individual will singlehandedly be responsible for most of the murders in the state in 2023.
Earlier this week, I bewailed the plight of both everyday Israelis and Palestinians, for whom life will always be more precarious than it should be by virtue of locale. But as Lewiston can now attest, nowhere’s safe.
The Mideast is especially dangerous, though. It’s a place where religion and related fantasies about holy territory regularly serve (in the minds of the deranged) as a justification for senseless violence. Even where it’s relatively safe and where average people are prosperous, citizens are subjects, ruled by garish emirs or, in Israel’s case, free people nevertheless beholden to a cartoonishly conservative, increasingly autocratic right-wing security state which apparently isn’t very adept at providing security these days. Outside of the UAE and Israel, people’s quality of life falls on a continuum where semi-benevolent monarchy is the best case, Iran’s repressive theocracy is somewhere in the middle along with Egypt’s flailing military dictatorship, and a lamentable grab bag of failed states together comprise a nightmarish worst case.
It’s unfortunate, to put it mildly, that a region which arguably boasts the richest historical heritage on the planet is a place where you can’t live freely or without fear of religious violence, but… well, alas.
On Thursday, the Israeli military said it conducted a brief incursion into Gaza with tanks and infantry in a prelude to what most observers still believe will be a prolonged operation. The IDF said it was “operat[ing] to prepare the battlefield.” Other preparations included more than 250 airstrikes in 24 hours.
Benjamin Netanyahu, in one of countless speaking engagements this week, declined to detail the timing or scope of any ground incursion, and the US has pressured Israel to wait as long as possible to allow for Qatar to secure the release of hostages. The IDF updated the total number of kidnapped to 224 on Thursday. Whatever the case, the ground incursion is a question of “when,” not “if.” “When we enter Gaza, we’ll make Hamas pay the price for its attack,” Netanyahu said. “When.”
More than 6,000 Gazans, the vast majority of them civilians, have so far “paid the price” for Hamas’s attack, although at this point, the death toll is impossible to verify. It’s reported by Hamas officials. Joe Biden said he doesn’t have a good reason to trust the count. Well, a good reason beyond the self-evident: When you drop large bombs on populated areas, lots of people will generally die. Whether it’s 4,500 or 6,500 or 3,761 is in some sense irrelevant.
On Wednesday, Wael al-Dahdouh, the Gaza bureau chief of Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language service, lost his wife, son, daughter and infant grandson in what Al Jazeera described as an Israeli airstrike at the Nuseirat refugee camp. Al Jazeera is, of course, owned by the monarchy in Qatar. In 2022, a Palestinian American journalist working for Al Jazeera was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank. In the current conflict, two-dozen journalists, most of them Palestinian, have been killed.
Hospitals in Gaza are either overrun or not functioning, according to the WHO, and the UN said fuel shortages are now acute enough that efforts to feed and shelter Palestinians have been scaled back by necessity. “Fuel, which is desperately needed to run backup generators, remains banned by the Israeli authorities,” the UNRWA remarked.
So, shelter in place, besieged Gazans. The chances you’ll be killed today are quite high unfortunately. The same goes for a lot of innocent Israelis, particularly those near the border with Lebanon where Hezbollah is itching for a fight. And, in a testament to just how godforsaken this world of ours really is, the same warning applies to citizens in southern Maine, where several towns were under shelter-in-place orders until police could locate the suspect in what looks like the worst US mass shooting of the year.
If there is a God and he’s conspiring with Mother Nature on a plan to eradicate us as a species, the two of them could scarcely be blamed.