Check In: Where last I left off, I was talking about the problematic alternative history of Homefront: The Revolution. I already talked about the difficulty of invading and occupying the United States, and since then I’ve been researching the history of Korea, and the unlikely notion that it might become an economic superpower, in lieu of California. And so it turns out that Korea has a rich, tempestuous history featuring spies and assassins and meddling by competing, neighboring powers that all want the Korean peninsula as their own. Things got turned up-to-eleven when nations from the west started bring in their own trade and religion, and lots of gunboats. Anyway, I’d been working on that at length. It’s still a work in progress when, well, when the Douglas High School shooting happened.
I will get back to the Korea thing.
Yesterday, Nikolas Cruz (still only a suspect), alumnus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to his Alma-mater with an assault rifle (currently listed as an AR15-style) and killed seventeen victims. I can’t find any reports of wounded at the moment, and I hope that means there are no other casualties. Curiously, it’s been acknowledged as the anniversary of the Northern Illinois University shooting but not of Valentines Day, proper, nor the infamous Saint Valentines Day Massacre. Though were I to guess, only Valentines Day is likely to be of significance.
If it bleeds, it leads, the old saying goes. My morning scan of the Washington Post frontpage found the Douglas High School incident leading with a banner headline about a lack of new developments. Early in the articles are how this shooting compares with other shootings. It is the worst high-school shooting ever and the second-worst school shooting. Our press discusses it like it’s a sports event, new data on a leaderboard to inspire the ambitions of future rampage killers.
The headline of the hour is that we don’t yet know why Cruz decided to commit a shooting rampage, as if we can expect there to be a singular, clear reason a man goes amuck. His past behavior suggests he was already a prime candidate for suicide / rampage, waiting for a terrorist recruiter, say with an agenda such as making a white-supremacist statement, or an anti-abortion statement or maybe even an Islamist* one. But I’ve observed before ideological crusades are invariably incidental to what drives rampage killers (or suicide bombers, or lone-wolf assassins), and we really don’t need to give time-of-day to the specifics of the assailant’s battle cry, often spoon-fed to the guy by a skilled handler.
Generally, rampage killers are like suicides: They’ve led a sucky life and have hit a seemingly irrecoverable low and just want their own suffering to stop. Ours is a society in which we give few fucks about other peoples’ suffering and call such people cucks and snowflakes and crybabies. So why not take out a dozen or so unsympathetic bastards? This is the world we live in. These are the names we’re given. (Thanks, Genesis.)
Typically, those interested in the motives behind our killers are, rather, looking to affirm their own agendas. Once a monster is revealed, and people are desperate once again to understand and prevent such horror, it’s easy to find some aspect of the assailant’s life and fixate on that, whether it’s violent video games, or Satanic rock-&-roll or hobbyist interest in guns or whatever. We amplify it large, until someone is saying Dance Dance Revolution is turning our kids into killers.
And personally, I’m annoyed that it never comes down to any of the concerns I believe might push someone (e.g. might push me) over the edge: The cruelty with which we treat
our employees kids neighbors fellow netizens everyone; The profound inequality in our society and the obstinance with which we deny it or only recognize part of the equation; The massacres quietly executed by the state in the name of national security; The antagonism our government, its departments and its agents express toward the public; the pronounced suffering of others we justify as necessary for our own well being. Heck, the daily embarrassing antics of Our Dear President that have made the US a joke on the world stage, and has embossed large the absurdity of our species.
The US has become the no fucks given state, and the occasional rampage killer gone amuck is one of the natural byproducts of our embrace of such a culture. There are plenty of things we could do towards reducing the incidents. I’ve recommended before we could take mental health seriously. We can give these raging suicides actual alternatives. But that involves actually caring, and for now we appear to be super committed to not doing any of that.
* Islamism (as best as I can grok it) is the goal of creating and expanding an Islamic state, something that frightens the crap out of us westerners, even when we can simultaneously believe spreading our own culture is a good thing. Here in the states we have American Exceptionalism, what is standard indoctrination fodder in US education systems. And yet it looks scary and pretentious to non-Americans or, really, to anyone who thinks about it for too long.
Most Islamists (by far) seek to expand the reach of Islam by seeking to serve their respective communities and serve as exemplary neighbors. We westerners may identify this tactic most with the Great Commission: Be a cool dude and when someone thinks you’re awesome, tell them it’s only because Jesus is your co-pilot. Here in the United States we associate American patriotism with gung-ho attitude and bringing extra meat for the barbecue. Islamists are typically looking to be good people, serve the community, and then blaming Islam for why they’re so nice.
But then there are the violent ones. Violent Islamists are uncommon and regarded as radical and extremist by ordinary Muslims. But since the 9/11 attacks (which was, according to their architect, a strike of retribution rather than an effort to extol the virtues of Islam) the people of the United States have been commonly wary of Muslims in general, and have presumed all Islamists to be radical and extremist.