03 February 2017

"History, Despite its Wrenching Pain, Cannot be Unlived, but if Faced with Courage, Need not be Lived Again." -- Maya Angelou: A Memory of the Bowling Green Massacre

"I bet, there was very little coverage — I bet it's brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized — and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. I mean, most people don't know that because it didn't get covered.” - Kellyanne Conway, Special Counselor to President Trump, on February 2, 2017

We all remember where we were that day. I had just gotten home from work and was looking forward to relaxing in front of the TV when the first reports flashed across our television of yet another mass shooting. This one was in the sleepy town of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The preliminary reports were sketchy but I do recall that Fox News was adamant from the beginning that the perpetrators were white nationalists. Indeed they went with that narrative long after confirmation that the attack was carried about by Islamic/Muslim/Jihadi/America-Hating/Extremist/Puppy-Killing terrorists who hate our freedoms.

As we watched scenes of the carnage, television coverage was briefly interrupted by a statement from NRA President Wayne LaPierre who boldly pledged that the NRA would not only support, but themselves offer, legislation for “meaningful gun control, including background checks, waiting periods and strict limitations on the sale of assault weapons.” LaPierre continued tearfully, “we haven’t done enough and for that I am deeply sorry. My heart goes out to all victims of gun violence. We've got to do better as an organization and as a nation.”

Meanwhile our TV screens showed the eerie quiet, the placid scenes of a town trying already ready to move forward as if nothing had happened. The empty streets, the busy streets, the sorta busy streets, belied the horrors that had visited Bowling Green that day. The carnage, though unseen was being seared across our national consciousness.

President Obama spoke to a shattered nation ordering all citizens to keep the victims and their families in their thoughts and prayers asserting that that is the most effective method for dealing with tragedy. In a surprising digression from the tragic events in the Bluegrass state, the president speculated about how the ratings would go up if he were a judge on American Idol. He also boasted about “whipping McCain’s ass three years prior.” (It was subsequently reported that he then got on the phone with the ambassador to Liechtenstein and berated him about a perceived slight. Obama’s petulance and pettiness stands in stark contrast to the humility and graciousness of our current Chief Executive.)

At one point we switched to CNN which had a dazzling array of life sized charts and graphs relating to violence and terrorism. None of said charts and graphs made the slightest sense but they made for captivating viewing. The network then showed tweets from ordinary citizens, most of which condemned the attacks or offered sympathy but some railed about the media using social media comments as part of news coverage. The irony was lost on CNN.

Donald Trump, not yet a political figure, called into MSNBC and offered a lengthy and nuanced history of terrorism and its roots saying that an immediate response should always be measured and that tactful diplomacy should always be the first option. Trump further cautioned against stereotyping people of different religions or nationalities. “For instance we should always remember that Islam is a religion of peace and we should embrace our Muslim brothers and remember that terrorists merely appropriate a religion for their own twisted agenda. Let us build a wall," he boldly continued in what was to be a theme in his 2016 landslide victory, "to keep out hatred and bigotry.”

For many of us the saving grace to the Bowling Green Massacre were the live reports from the scene by the respected journalist, Kellyanne Conway. Her eyewitness account was noted for its graphic detail tempered by an eloquence rarely matched in the annals of TV journalism. With words alone Conway pained a picture none of us could see of the horror that visited Bowling Green that day. It was then that the nation learned of Ms. Conway’s courage and commitment to the truth. The Pulitzer Prize she went on to win was well-earned indeed.

Sadly in the aftermath of the horror at Bowling Green most of us in the United States went back to our daily routines and our prurient interest in scandals, celebrity gossip and the latest fads. There were those, such as Ms. Conway, who refused to “just let it go.” The Massacre was briefly back in the spotlight on its anniversary with the release of Conway’s book about that tragic day, “I’ll Never Forget.” Unfortunately the Ron Howard directed film based on the book was a box office dud, many felt the casting of Gabourey Sidibe as Ms. Conway was a critical mistake.

Fortunately through her high level position within the current presidential administration, Ms. Conway shines a light on truth, be it actual or alternative. And she will never let us forget that awful day.

On February 3, Conway admitted she had inaccurately referred to the 2011 arrest of two Iraqi nationals for terrorism in Bowling Green, Kentucky. However, no one was actually injured or killed in any event.The men charged with federal terrorism had attempted to send both money and weapons to Al Qaeda forces in Iraq. The men both pled guilty; one is serving a life sentence while the other is serving 40 years in federal prison. Neither of the two were ever charged with attempting to plot attacks inside the United States.

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