“He enlisted in the Virginia National Guard in April 1996, according to spokesman A.A. Puryear. He was assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team as a 13B cannon crew member. He was discharged in April 2002 and held the rank of specialist at the time, the spokesman said. His records did not indicate overseas deployments.” —CNN on latest mass shooter
We’re supposed to overlook this bit of information. We’re supposed to focus on mental health questions or the inscrutable incomprehensible mystery of the inevitable human tragedy of mass shootings, which bizarrely and unfairly are inflicted by the universe on this particular 4 percent of humanity living in the United States, which quite irrelevantly has been glorifying violence through endless wars for many years.
Is it relevant that Virginia and the United States bestow greater rights on guns than on human beings? Of course it is. In Charlottesville two years ago, the city refused to ban any weapons as armed fascists came to town, but a year later banned all weapons other than guns.
If I could speak perfectly honestly, I’d probably blurt out something like this: Ban the damn guns. All of them. Everywhere. Do it now, you idiots!
But that would be inappropriate.
Is it relevant that every mass shooter is male? Well, sort of. We can’t exactly ban males, but we could develop a culture that viewed proper manhood as opposing rather than celebrating violence.
Is it relevant that you can just about count on each mass shooter having been trained in mass shooting at public expense by the U.S. military?
Hell no! If they hadn’t been trained by the world’s most far-reaching and expensive ever killing machine, they might have learned their shooting skills somewhere else — like from video games funded by the U.S. military. If they hadn’t been praised for that training, and in many cases for actually engaging in mass killing (of the right people), they might have imagined such praise (by picturing themselves in movies funded by the U.S. military).
Last November, U.S. Marine Ian David Long failed to stop doing his job. He had been employed by the U.S. government to fire a machine gun at people. That had been his job for years, and part of that time he had participated in the war on Afghanistan. He had been given awards for the fine job he’d done in combat. Nobody had been outraged. Nobody had called him names or questioned his sanity.
CNN’s inaccurate headline, “Thousand Oaks gunman went from Marine vet to mass shooter. Investigators want to know why,” created a mystery where none existed. The question is not how he became a mass shooter but how so many others have managed to cease being mass shooters.
While you can almost count on each new mass shooter being a veteran, you can of course by no means count on each new veteran being a mass shooter. Most veterans are no such thing. How that happens is where the investigators should focus.
Ian David Long died in the most common manner for participants in recent U.S. wars, namely by suicide. The difference is that he killed a lot of other people-who-matter first. But this, too, is not as unusual as we might wish. At least 35% (probably much more, and it seems to have be rising steeply since I made that calculation) of U.S. mass shooters were trained by the U.S. military.
Imagine if 35% of U.S. mass shooters were . . . anything at all: black, Asian, Muslim, atheist, female, wealthy, foreign, red haired, Latino, gay . . . can you imagine? It would be the leading news story for weeks. There would be chairs endowed at universities to study it. But the fact that so many of the killers are men who were trained to kill by the world’s leading killing institution is not only unworthy of mention, but is depicted in each isolated instance as a mystery to be explained in some other terms.
Imagine if the mounting death count from all of these shootings included not just the hundreds killed within the U.S. but also the hundreds of thousands killed outside it. Imagine treating the vast majority of the victims as if they mattered.
A public debate over how to tackle a mass murderer is as insane as a public discussion of how to build a stronger house on the beach. If you won’t address the training of murderers, and you won’t ban guns, and you won’t stop destroying the earth’s climate, what’s left is madness.
Often the madness takes the form of repeating the evil that goes unmentioned. Stick an armed security guard in front of every building. In November that policy simply determined the name of the first victim. It may even (one can only speculate) have presented the killer with an inviting or rationalizing sense, a familiar sense, of taking on an “enemy.” The solution is not even more armed guards.
The solution in the war on Afghanistan is not even more armed killers. The war on Afghanistan came “home” to California, but how many people know that? How many people know the war is still raging? How many know that Obama promised to escalate it and did so, and that Trump promised to end it and escalated it (albeit on a smaller scale)? How many were outraged when Ian David Long was killing mere Afghans? How many are outraged that thousands of U.S. and NATO troops are still over there making Afghanistan worse and bringing the war back with them?
The most passionate supporters of current wars call them premeditated murder and themselves premeditated murderers, but not like it’s a bad thing — like it’s perfectly acceptable.
How many can put 2 and 2 together and recognize that all the just-retired U.S. commanders in Afghanistan who have said the war is counter-productive have been right, that it endangers the very people who think the sound of fighter jets ruining their vacation at Virginia Beach has something to do with “freedom.”