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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?