It's long been said that Nero fiddled as Rome burned. That story has persisted since Rome was nearly destroyed by a great fire in 64 A.D., and it leads modern people to believe that the extremely cruel emperor stood on the balcony of his palace and played a violin backlit by the flames of the city and accompanied by the screams of his citizenry. We now know it was all myth.
Yet, regardless of the historical truth, "fiddling while Rome burns," is part of the American lexicon that's come to mean being obsessed with other things while oblivious to the real problem. And boy, are we now "fiddling" and ignoring the real problem.
At a time when we face an existential threat from a terrorist movement with its roots in the faith of more than a billion people, we're acting like it will go away if we just ignore it. Since 9/11, counter-terrorism experts have warned that the one thing we couldn't let the jihadists do was establish a state where they could plot and plan and work on weapons of mass destruction. But that's exactly what we have allowed them to do. And now many of our leaders act like the threat from the extremely brutal and extremely dangerous "Islamic State" is nothing more than a fly to be absent-mindedly swatted.
The result of our failure to concentrate on the jihadist threat has led to the recent horrific massacre in Paris. And the free world is now looking to France and Russia to lead the fight against the terrorists, something that 10 years ago would have been laughable. Heck, the hacking, anarchist group Anonymous has done more damage to ISIS than the Obama administration, which claimed the very day of the Paris massacre that ISIS was contained.
So what has obsessed President Obama over the last year or so while ISIS has grown strong and extended its tendrils throughout Europe and into the United States and Canada? Well, among other things, police brutality. But not actual police brutality, perceived police brutality, controversial officer-involved shootings that have proven to be justified after extensive federal and local investigations.
And it's not just the president. Many of our political leaders who refuse to ascribe attacks to "Islamic" terrorism are quick to accuse officers of "murdering" unarmed suspects before investigations are complete. The result is a mob mentality of hang 'em first then investigate among groups like Black Lives Matter.
But I would remind Black Lives Matter that the very same officers you paint with a broad brush that says they are all "racist" brutes will be the ones fighting to save your lives when ISIS launches a Paris-style swarm attack in an American city. And when that time comes the attackers won't give a damn about your skin color or your politics. They will just see Americans.
The American people have been fortunate since 9/11. Military, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals managed to prevent al-Qaeda from launching another major terror attack on U.S. soil. But a lot of factors are coming together that will likely spell an end to that grace period. And the most important of these is that we have a new enemy. Al-Qaeda was all about the spectacular attack. That takes lots of planning and money, and in contrast to a smaller attack, it's easier for intelligence and law enforcement to uncover. Groups like ISIS see just as much value in smaller atrocities that can be executed by a small group of zealots. They would love to hit us with an atom bomb or smallpox, but they will settle for launching a smaller-scale attack. As long as they are killing us and spreading chaos, they are happy.
So the American people need to be unified and our public safety professionals need to be trained and equipped to respond to horrific attacks. But instead we are shattering along racial fault lines and political affiliations and doing our best to disarm our law enforcement officers.
The Obama administration is forcing law enforcement agencies to surrender armored vehicles that were acquired through the 1033 military loan program at a time when they are most likely to need them to fight heavily armed terrorists. Law enforcement officers are being treated as the enemy by Americans who believe those officers should not have guns. And college students are demanding officers stop wearing ballistic vests to avoid looking "militaristic."
This is madness. The American people and our leaders are fiddling away at a time when the enemy is at the gates and the flames are rising.