Monday, May 16, 2022

Why would an 18-year-old kill?

     Do you remember being 18? I do. Graduating from high school, going to prom, spending one last summer in my hometown, Berea, Ohio, baking biscuits at a Bob Evans restaurant. There were worries — I’d be going to college in the fall, living in a four-man dorm room. What about the mini-fridge? What if we all rented one? Then we’d have four.
     When news of the shooting in Buffalo broke Saturday night, everyone grabbed a fact that seemed most important and waved it around. Ten people dead! A supermarket in a Black neighborhood! Toxic white supremacism seemed to motivate the alleged shooter! A lunacy once on the fringe of American society, now planted and growing at the center of the Republican Party.
     The preparations this guy took — that helmet and body armor, which kept him from being wounded by the store security guard. He drove 200 miles. With an AR-15 rifle, of course. Few people even mention the gun, because it’s such an accepted part of American life. That would be like pointing out the air he breathed. Air is everywhere; everyone has access to it. Guns too.
     Me, I kept thinking about his age: 18. To be that young, and throw away not only all those other lives, but your own too. To spend your whole life in prison, probably. Worse than being dead. And for what? To scratch your itch for two minutes.
     Think of all the lives he destroyed or altered. Not just the dead: the wounded, the grieving, their city. I almost included us, too, in the circle of the harmed. But that’s bombast. These shootings are both shocking and routine. The Buffalo shooting was Saturday evening. I’m writing this Sunday morning, but first sincerely wondered whether by Monday this will fade so much as to be not worth addressing. Old hat. No, I think I can slip it in before we move on and forget all about it.
     I focus on the apparent shooter’s age because it’s the aspect I can most relate to — I’ve never been to Buffalo, or shot anybody, or wanted to, or been shot. But I was 18. Sitting in Introduction to Russian in the fall. Shto eta? Eta capoosta. “What is this? This is a cabbage.” Russia seemed a direction I might want to go. Because at 18, you can go anywhere you want. Not everyone knows it. Not everyone has the same resources. But most 18 year-olds have choices.

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  1. What are the odds he watched Fox [alleged] News all day?

    1. Probably minimal, because of his age, but I’m sure he went down many an Internet rabbit hole inspired/inflamed by their and similar rhetoric.

    2. Yes, some deny listening to Fox at all -- they insist that they have adopted their world view from intensive "research," i.e. the internet.

  2. Just Friday you seemed to foretell the events of the weekend. "If you bar immigrants because you are terrified at the thought of a diverse America, then the strawberries rot in the field, because we actually need immigrants to make the economy work — to be surgeons as well as pick fruit, I must point out."

    1. It doesn't take Nostradamus to see these coming. Before I wrote this, I pulled a generic post-slaughter column I wrote last year but didn't run, intending to publish that. But it seemed heartless. Maybe for the next massacre: not augury, there will be another, and another, and another.

  3. Just read that America is averaging ten mass shootings a week so far this year, a significant uptick over last year and the year before. A mass shooting is now defined (by whom...the FBI?) as at least four people hit by gunfire. The number of mass shootings has increased significantly since the start of the Plague.We're now averaging three of them every two days. Do the that rate, we will see almost 550 by the close of the calendar year.

    I was going to type that the time will come when,these events hardly make the headlines anymore, much like traffic accidents, but that day is already here. Only when they reach the "massacre" numbers (like double digits) do we get the breaking news, followed by the reporters in the parking lots, the piles of flowers, the candlelight vigils, the prayer circles, and the handwringing and the anguish. Until the same show, in the next town. And the next, and the next.

    It's no longer a question of when, but of how soon, and where, and of how many this time.Sometimes multiple mass casualty events on the same day, as happened yesterday (New York and California) Print and online journalists probably have a template by now: __ Killed, ___ Wounded In ______ Shooting. Just fill in the spaces...the number of dead, the number of wounded, the venue or the town or the state.They're as regular and as predictable as sunrises and sunsets and moon phases and eclipses. And a kind of numbness and insensibility may be setting in. Another and another and another. And then yet another.

  4. Interesting discussion on NPR by a U. of Chicago chap who is an expert on "replacement theory," the notion behind this particular atrocity. He points out that, like other revolutionary ideas -- e.g., the ones behind the American and French revolutions, those inspired to act are not usually the oppressed of the earth, but people who had middle class advantages. This kid doesn't seem to have been poor. or particularly dumb.



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