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Another Homegrown Terrorist, This Time in Tennessee

Posted by Cyn | Posted in News | Posted on 28-07-2008

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Police: Man Shot Church­go­ers Over Lib­er­al Views

Knoxville, Ten­nessee — An unem­ployed man accused of open­ing fire with a shot­gun and killing two peo­ple at a Uni­tar­i­an church appar­ent­ly tar­get­ed the con­gre­ga­tion out of hatred for its sup­port of lib­er­al social poli­cies, police said Mon­day.

That makes a lot of sense. This whack­job is unhap­py because he lost his job, gets a let­ter say­ing he’s los­ing his food stamps too, and instead of blam­ing the Repub­li­cans who have been in charge of the coun­try for the past eight years, he trots off to the near­est UUA con­gre­ga­tion and opens fire dur­ing a children’s per­for­mance.

Two peo­ple are dead, one because he gave his life in an attempt to save oth­ers. Five more are injured – no chil­dren, at least.

What did those peo­ple do to upset the home­grown ter­ror­ist?

The Uni­tar­i­an-Uni­ver­sal­ist church pro­motes pro­gres­sive social work, includ­ing advo­ca­cy of women and gay rights. The Knoxville con­gre­ga­tion also has pro­vid­ed sanc­tu­ary for polit­i­cal refugees, fed the home­less and found­ed a chap­ter of the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union, accord­ing to its Web site.

Good­ness. How upset­ting. Obvi­ous­ly, they caused him to lose his truck­ing job. Yep. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

Sam Har­ris’ views on reli­gion make more sense every day.

Comments (5)

Our friend Jess used to co-run the Spec­trum queer youth min­istry at TVUUC. The gen­tle­man that got killed was a dili­gent vol­un­teer and pas­sion­ate about help­ing queer youth. There’s a lot of stunned incom­pre­hen­sion here.

I wasn’t coher­ent enough to put that togeth­er with where y’all are. If we can do any­thing to help, please let us know. *hugs*

I have found this case dis­turb­ing at a very fun­da­men­tal lev­el, per­haps because it is the liv­ing exam­ple of the prob­lem with free speech.

The issue of “the only answer to hate speech is more speech” seems to be wrong (despite the fact that I des­per­ate­ly want to believe in it). Our soci­ety seems to have a bro­ken polit­i­cal dis­course (in addi­tion to the bro­ken health care sys­tem, the bro­ken fam­i­ly sys­tem, and the bro­ken finan­cial sys­tem).

I don’t think that the killer was reli­gious, or shoot­ing because of reli­gious views. He *said* he was out to kill peo­ple for their polit­i­cal views, and tar­get­ed a church where peo­ple of the polit­i­cal view that has been dehu­man­ized by Fox et al. con­gre­gate. How­ev­er, I not­ed a cou­ple of oth­er things about him: he was adopt­ed as a new­born, grew up in a church­go­ing fam­i­ly (and appar­ent­ly dis­ap­proved of being forced to go to church) and tar­get­ed the church to which his ex-wife belonged — the ex-wife whom he had threat­ened to mur­der (Google Liza Alexan­der for more about this; she was his fourth ex-wife, and I did not see any infor­ma­tion about any of the oth­ers). More­over, he did this just before his food stamps eli­gi­bil­i­ty was about to run out.

So he had rage (unem­ploy­ment, lone­li­ness), fear (no food, com­ing right up, and ris­ing costs), and a strong soci­etal voice say­ing that the peo­ple he was mad at (his wife, and the com­mu­ni­ty that embraced her when they were divorced) were trai­tors and should be killed. More­over, he had mil­i­tary train­ing (Air­borne?) which implies anoth­er strong voice that shouts “kill-kill-kill” inside his head. And ear­ly sep­a­ra­tion trau­ma.

And what’s scari­est is that there are many peo­ple just as angry, just as des­per­ate, and hear­ing just the same mes­sages.

You know a lot more about his back­ground than I’ve seen so far, but I’m Googling to catch up now.

Yes, he had many prob­lems – but, as you say, so do many oth­er peo­ple. I believe that the anti-intel­lec­tu­al­ism of this coun­try, the refusal to encour­age crit­i­cal think­ing, con­tributes to this kind of crime. Did it make any sense for him to lash out at peo­ple who had no direct con­nec­tion to his prob­lems? No. Did his ex-wife cause his prob­lems? I seri­ous­ly doubt she had any­thing to do with them. But he lashed out, because they were an easy tar­get and, as you said, those who share lib­er­al views are vil­i­fied reg­u­lar­ly.

That’s exact­ly it — there are many oth­er peo­ple in this coun­try who have been giv­en tac­it soci­etal per­mis­sion to lash out mur­der­ous­ly at a dehu­man­ized, neb­u­lous enti­ty vague­ly referred to as “those lib­er­als” by a spe­cif­ic stream of anti-democ­ra­cy pun­dits (which are on the right wing side of pol­i­tics here and now; the left wing has had its share, of course).

Con­sid­er­ing the fact that pres­sures are ris­ing and the U.S. has near­ly zero by way of sup­port net for those who will fail, I am afraid of an epi­dem­ic of repeats.

And of course, his ex-wife didn’t cause his prob­lems. They divorced in 2000, more than eight years ago. (Yes, I’ve been googling this all day). The *cause* of his prob­lems is a bro­ken soci­ety, where peo­ple become des­per­ate and enraged and have no way to express these feel­ings that is soci­etal­ly accept­ed except for the form known as “sui­cide by cop”.

Oth­er soci­eties have had oth­er ter­ri­ble respons­es to these same sort pres­sures: killing minori­ties, going to war, clamp­ing down on var­i­ous per­ceived Oth­ers. Where in the world is there less of this sort of thing in times of cri­sis? Can we learn from any part of his­to­ry how NOT to become col­lec­tive­ly hostages of mad­men in tough times?