Someone committed an attack in Nice, France, killing 84 people. His name is not Bob or James or Steve — his name is Mohamed. He was born in Tunisia but has lived in France for 11 of his 31 years, under a residency permit. He was, until recently, a delivery driver in Nice, where he lived. He is separated from his wife/partner and has been recently charged with violent behavior. According to those who know him, he is “not a Muslim”, “not religious”. He is not on any French intelligence list or “watch list”.
In general, he is assumed to be connected to or inspired by terrorist groups.
No one is considering that he might be another angry young man, depressed at being separated from his family, perhaps drunk or under some other chemical influence, who just went off the rails on this festive national holiday.
Because he is Tunisian, because his name is Mohamed, the presumption is terrorism. There is no longer room for other motives or triggers.
We have had angry young men acting badly before the world was full of terrorists. There were angry young men at Columbine High School in 1999, in Oklahoma City in 1995, in Newtown in 2012, in Aurora also in 2012.
There were so many shootings in workplaces that it became slang – going postal. More than 40 people killed in 20 shootings between 1986 and 1997.
Maybe Mohamed, the Tunisian, was just pissed off. Or depressed. Or drunk.
Or maybe this is terrorism.
Maybe we should ask why our first and last assumption is terrorism.