Domestic terror, fear & voters' anger
Larry Fitzpatrick woke at 3 a.m. two Fridays ago, hours after five servicemen were gunned down in Chattanooga, Tenn., and just knew he had to do something.
A few hours later when the Armed Forces Career Center opened in Lincoln Village, mere yards from Fitzpatrick's home on the old National Pike, he sat on a folding chair in a parking lot, a .22 rifle at his side. Despite the sweltering heat, he vowed to protect the unarmed military recruiters in his neighborhood.
Under federal law, the men and women from each military branch who work in recruiting centers are not permitted to carry weapons.
Ever since terrorist Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez killed four Marines and a sailor at Chattanooga's Navy operations center, after shooting up a strip-mall recruitment center similar to the one in Lincoln Village, many Americans have felt outrage that nothing has been done to protect vulnerable military men and women across the country.
“When the recruiters arrived to work, I introduced myself and told them it tore me apart what had happened in Chattanooga, just broke my heart,” Fitzpatrick said, and any terrorists would “have to take me out before they get to you.”
“I may have scared the young lady” recruiter at the center, he admitted. “To be honest, I'd understand that — they didn't know if I was a nut job or not.” But then they thanked him, he said.
On Monday he sat again with bottled water at his feet, an American flag on his T-shirt, and a gun at his side. “I do not plan on leaving here until they have protection,” he vowed.
In Ohio it is legal to carry an openly displayed handgun or rifle.
“People keep talking about how angry everyone is about politics,” said Fitzpatrick. “I say at the root of that anger is fear, and Americans don't like to be afraid in their own country.”
Fitzpatrick strikes a nerve with that statement.
What if fear is the origin of all the anger that voters feel toward Washington? Not just fear over economic stability in our homes and communities, but fear for our personal safety, our nation's security? When was the last time that felt stable?
Numerous terror attacks have occurred in Main Street America since 2009. In June of that year, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad shot at a Little Rock, Ark., recruiting office, killing one soldier and wounding another.
Five months later, Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan shouted “Allahu-akbar!” (“God is great!”) as he opened fire at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people and wounding more than 30.
The Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, carried out by brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, took four lives.
In 2014, an aspiring jihadist beheaded an Oklahoma woman, and Ali Muhammad Brown went on a killing spree in two states in the name of his faith.
As each awful event occurred, the Obama administration refused to state the obvious — that each was an act of terrorism based on a fundamentalist version of Islam; it even insisted that the Fort Hood massacre was “workplace violence.”
In January of this year, during his State of the Union address, President Obama declared that the greatest threat to America's future was neither terrorism nor nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran. “No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” he said.
Just once, we'd love a little honesty and a lot less political division from the White House, so that guys like Larry Fitzpatrick know that Obama has the backs of our military — and so they don't feel compelled to arm themselves and protect a military recruitment center.
On Thursday of last week, FBI Director James Comey told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum that the threat of ISIS on U.S. soil keeps him up at night. The rest of us had figured that out already, of course.
Larry Fitzpatrick plans to start a Go Fund Me account to raise money for bulletproof glass and a double security door for the local recruitment center.
“If they aren't allowed to accept that, we will donate to a veterans' group,” he said.
“We have to protect our military, we just have to.”
Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (email@example.com).