What It’s Not About
(Warning: This piece runs over 3,700 words. If you do not feel you can read it all, I urge you to read as much as you can, plus the intro and conclusions.)
I’m finding it difficult to wrap my head around the insanity I see on the news and in the world. I‘m saddened by the recent massacres in Paris and San Bernardino. These two events can be clearly blamed on extremism. Many innocent people will now suffer in ways I’m sure we all can imagine, but not just the victims of the attacks and their families. In a recent post I saw, there was one picture of the Klu Klux Klan burning a cross and another of IS zealots dressed in black, there faces covered, posing with rifles. Though I must ask if these people are so righteous, why do they hide their faces? Underneath the post, it said “few would claim that the first picture represented all Christians, so why would anyone think the second picture represented all Muslims.” It seemed so logical, something everyone could understand. Then, I realized there are many people who understand, but neither know nor care.
These people need someone to blame for the problems in their lives and in their country. Though you should see throughout the bulk of my list of people committing mass murder, that such murderers tend to target work-places and schools. But as our world has grown more violent, the disenfranchised look for others to blame. Who better than foreigners? Those who feel powerless or are unwilling to take responsibility for what is happening in their lives need scapegoats because, they have less control of their lives than they believe they should. They lash out to alleviate their anger, depression and fear. Meanwhile, the flames of hatred are fanned by opportunistic politicians who care more about themselves than they do about their country or the people who live and die here. Extremism is a world-wide problem, but I want to focus here at home, in the United States of America. We have a problem that some of our citizens will not admit or accept that we need to change.
Many who read this will immediately think I’m wrong, know I’m wrong, but I hope to persuade them otherwise. I don’t really expect to succeed, but I feel I must try. Here is a partial list of the horrors, claiming multiple victims, involving guns that have happened in the United States alone in the previous 31 years, per a compilation created by L.A Times staff and originally posted in 2012. (I reviewed facts on CNN, the Guardian, Wikipedia, NBC and ABC.) This list will not include Timothy McVeigh, John Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, aka the Unibomber, 9/11 or the Boston Marathon Bombers. It will also not include single gun deaths, even those committed by the police. Let us begin.
1984, in a California McDonalds, a 41-year-old, white male unemployed security guard shot and killed 21 people and wounded 19 more. It’s not about McDonalds, fast-food or other fast-food chains.
1986, a 44-year-old white male, part-time postal employee inspired the phrase Going Postal when he went to his Oklahoma workplace where he shot and killed 14 people and wounded 6 more, before killing himself with a shot to the head. It’s not about the post office.
1989, in California, a 25-year-old white male, police described as a troubled drifter, turned a high-powered assault rifle on a crowded elementary school playground and shot and killed five children and wounded 29 more, before killing himself. It’s not about elementary schools, playgrounds or school children.
1990, a 42-year-old black male in Florida walked into a General Motors’ Acceptance Corporation office and killed seven employees, one customer and wounded four others, before killing himself. He had previously killed s man and woman in a separate incident. Total dead: 11. It’s not about General Motors or offices.
We’ve barely begun and I’m already dazed. Here come the next 25 years.
1991, in Texas, a 35-year-old white, unemployed merchant marine, drove his truck into a Luby’s Cafeteria and began shooting indiscriminately with an automatic pistol. Final butcher’s bill is 22 dead and 20 wounded. The gunman is later found dead in the restroom, by his own hand. It’s not about Luby’s or cafeterias.
1991, A graduate student from China, at the University of Iowa, Shoots and kills four and critically wounds two more. He then takes his own life. It’s not about China, the University of Iowa or graduate students.
1992, in a California high school, a 20-year-old white male, unemployed computer assembler, shot and killed his former teacher, three students and wounded ten others. He surrendered after holding 85 hostage for 8 ½ hours. He’s currently on death row in San Quentin Prison. It’s not about high schools, computers or teachers.
1993, in a Northern California high rise, a 55-year-old Italian-American man shot and killed eight people and wounded six in a 34th floor law office and adjoining floors, before killing himself. The gunman used three semi-automatic pistols and had a list of targets, none of whom were killed or wounded. It’s not about high rises or law offices in general.
On a personal note, I was in this building on the day before this happened. Way too close for comfort.
This is becoming tedious, so I will try to condense my descriptions as much as possible when I can. Take it as read, all of the incidents listed involved gun violence, therefore I will not always include a description. I’m also, as you may have noticed, not listing the names of the murderers. I’m sure if you are interested, you’ll track down the actual stories. Hell, I don’t know, some of you might already have newspaper clippings on your wall.
1993 – NY. 37-year-old Jamaican Immigrant, using a semi-automatic pistol; kills six passengers and wounds 19 others on a Long Island Rail Road commuter train. It’s not about Long Island, commuter trains or commuters.
1998 – AR, two white boys, 11- and 13-years-old, lured their middle-school classmates and teachers outside with a false fire alarm and killed four students and a teacher and wounded ten other students. It’s not about boys or middle schools.
1999 – CO, two white male high school students entered their school and killed 13 and wounded 24, before killing themselves. It’s not about high schools or students.
1999 – GA, a 44-year-old white male day trader entered two investment offices. He killed nine and wounded twelve, killing himself after a six-hour manhunt. It’s not about day traders or investment offices.
1999 – TX, a 44-year-old white male entered the sanctuary of a Baptist chapel with a 9 mm semiautomatic pistol. He killed seven and wounded seven, four of the dead teenagers. He took his own life. It’s not about Baptists or chapels.
1990 – HI, a 40-year-old Hawaiian Xerox repairman uses a 9-mm semiautomatic handgun to kill seven of his coworkers. It’s not about Hawaii, copy machines or repairmen.
Have you noticed any pattern yet?
2000 – MA, a 42-year-old white male software tester, kills seven coworkers at an internet consulting firm, using a shotgun, semiautomatic rifle and a semiautomatic pistol. He claimed in court that God allowed him to gain the soul he had been born without by travelling back in time to kill Hitler and the last six Nazis. It’s not about software testing, the internet or Nazis.
2001 – CA, a 15-year-old white male high school student fatally shoots two classmates and wounds 13 others. It’s still not about high school.
2002 – AZ, a 41-year-old, Hispanic-American male, brought five pistols, three semiautomatic and two 357 magnum, to the University of Arizona Nursing School, where he killed 3 of his professors before taking his own life. It’s not about Universities or nursing.
2003 –MS, a 42-year-old white male production assembler at Lockheed Martin entered the defense plant and killed five and wounded nine before killing himself with a shotgun. It’s not about Lockheed Martin or defense plants (I think).
2005 – MI, a16-year-old, Ojibwe male killed nine and wounded seven on the Redlake Indian Reservation. I would like to say it’s not about reservation life, but I’m not sure that is true.
Must I go on?
2006 – CA a 45-year-old white female, formal postal worker, killed six people 2at a mail-processing plant. It’s still not about the post office.
2006 – PA, a 32-year-old white male milk truck driver, who had confessed to his wife of molesting young relatives 20 years prior and his dreams of doing so again, took a small arsenal into a one-room Amish school house where he killed five girls and wounded five girls before killing himself. The girls were between six and 13 years of age. It’s not about the Amish, one-room schools or little girls, though it is about mental illness.
2007 – UT, an 18-year-old, white male Bosnian refugee, opened fire at a local mall, killing five and wounding four. Though a Muslim, excerpts from an FBI report say “Available information indicates that only the shooter (name redacted by author) was involved in the shooting attack, that he did not commit the shooting as an act of jihad or a terrorist act, that no other person recruited the shooter (name redacted by author) to commit the attack or trained him to commit the attack, and that there are not others associated with the shooter (name redacted by author) to plan similar attacks.” So, it’s not about terrorism and, knowing several Bosnians personally, it’s not about Bosnians.
There are still 22 to go before I get to San Bernardino.
2007 – VA, 23-year-old South Korean male, who had lived in the U. S. since he was 8, killed 32 and wounded 17 at a Virginia Tech. Reports were that he’d been bullied when young and had turned into a troubled loner and bully. It might be about bullying. It’s not about Virginia, Virginia Tech, technical schools or South Koreans
2007 – NE, 19-year-old white male opened fire on the third floor of a the Westroads Mall, Von Maur department store, killing eight and wounding four before killing himself. He committed these murders using a commercially produced copy of an AKM semiautomatic rifle he had stolen from his step-father’s house. He brought two 30-round magazines. It’s not about Westroads Mall, Von Maur’s, department stores or shopping malls.
2008 – IL, 27-year-old white male, from the stage of a Northern Illinois University lecture hall, opened fire on a class in progress, described variously as a geology or oceanography class. Using a shotgun and semiautomatic pistols, he killed five and wounded 17 before killing himself. It’s not about geology. oceanography, NIU or universities.
2009 – NY, 41-year-old naturalized American citizen from Vietnam killed 13 and wounded 4 in an immigration center. It’s not about immigration centers.
2009 – TX, 39-year-old American-born man of Palestinian heritage killed 13 and wounded 32 at Ft. Hood. Because of his background and religion, many people will believe this was an act of terrorism, though the FBI and the U.S. Army determined that not to be the case.* By all accounts he was sensitive and highly disturbed by the accounts of the returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. He was about a month away from being deployed to Afghanistan. This may have been about personal terror, but, It’s not about terrorism.*
2010 – AL, 45-year-old white female, a biology professor at the University of Alabama, pulled a 9mm pistol from her purse during a routine staff meeting and killed three and wounded three of her colleagues. It’s not about biology, University of Alabama or staff meetings.
2010 – CT, 34-year-old African American male opened fire at Hartford Distributors, killing eight people and wounding two, before killing himself. It’s not about distributors.
2011 – AZ, 22-year-old white male shoots and kills 6 and wounds 13 others in a Safeway supermarket parking lot rally. The youngest victim is a 9-year-old girl. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. It’s not about Safeway, supermarkets, parking lots or rallies.
That was number 30 in my growing list and I have had to step away and come back to this several times, because it’s just too depressing. I plan to go doggedly on, but must call attention to obvious correlations. I haven’t gone into detail or given detailed background (it’s all available if you wish to find it), mental illness, disenfranchisement and feelings of powerlessness dominate. 17 more to go, since I am only telling about a select group in the United States through 2015.
Neck deep in the Big Bloody and all the fools say push on.
2011 – CA, 41-year-old white male walked into Salon Meritage, where his ex-wife worked, and opened fire. He killed eight, including a man sitting in a truck outside and critically wounded one. Diagnosed with PTSD. It’s not about Salon Meritage, hair salons or men waiting in trucks.
2012 – CA, 43-year-old naturalized American citizen from South Korea, who had lived in the United States from a young age, entered a classroom at Oikos Christian University. He killed 7 and wounded 3 with a .45 automatic. He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. It’s not about Oikos, Christian Universities or naturalized Americans.
2012 – CO, 24-year-old white male enters a Century movie theater and kills 12 and wounds 70 others. Though there had been red flags concerning mental illness, all of his guns were purchased legally. Multiple rounds and other paraphernalia was purchased on the internet. It may be about violence portrayed in films. It’s not about Century or other movie theaters or chains.
2012 – WI, 40-year-old white male, associated with White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups, at a Sikh Temple, killed six and wounded four before killing himself. The oldest victim was 84. All the guns were obtained legally. This was ruled an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime. It’s not about Sikhs or their temples, except, perhaps that they may have been confused with other religious groups.
2012 – MN, 36-year-old white male, upon being fired by Accent Signs Systems drew a legal 9mm semiautomatic pistol and killed six and wounded two. The company specialized in signs that complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s ironic that it doesn’t cover the mental disabilities with which the murderer had been diagnosed. It’s not about Accent Signs, sign companies or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
2012 – WI, 45-year-old African American male and former Marine entered Azana Salon and Spa, workplace of his estranged wife. He killed her, two others and wounded four before killing himself. He had a history of spousal abuse. It’s not about Azana Salon and Spa, salons or spas.
2012 – CN, 20-year-old white male kills his mother before going to an elementary school, where he killed 20 children and six adults, both teachers and staff members using his mother’s semiautomatic rifle He killed himself at the scene of his crime. It’s not about elementary schools, children, teachers or staff.
Though I hate to I think I must mention the truthers related to this heinous act, one of whom was recently fired from a University and one who will appear again later in OR.
2013 – CA, 23-year-white male killed his father and brother, set fire to the family home before forcing a woman, at gunpoint, to drive him to the Santa Monica College campus. Using a semiautomatic rifle he machined himself, he fired at vehicles in route and upon arrival at the campus. He killed five in total and wounded four. It’s not about Santa Monica College or colleges in general.
2013 – DC, 34-year-old African American naval contractor suffering from delusions entered the naval yard and shot 12 and wounded three in a running gun battle. It’s not about the Navy.
2014 – TX, 34-year-old Puerto Rican born enlisted soldier killed three, wounded 12 and ultimately killed himself at Ft. Hood, scene of the 2009 massacre. It’s not about the Army.
2014 – CA, 22-year-old white male stabbed three men to death before going on a shooting spree near the University of California, Santa Barbara. He shot and killed 3, wounded seven and struck seven more with his vehicle before taking his own life. He left ample proof on the internet of his twisted world and state of mind. It’s not about the UCSB or colleges.
2015 – SC, 21-year-old white male killed nine and wounded three at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, after praying with them. His expressed purpose was to start a race war. These murders were clearly motivated by intolerance, hatred and ignorance. It’s not about Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church or religion.
2015 – TN, a 24-year-old man purportedly born in Kuwait, but who grew up in Tennessee, killed five and wounded three at military recruitment centers, before being killed. A devout Muslim who was seen as a good kid from a good family growing up and through college, may have murdered service-people as a terrorist act, but no ties to other terrorist groups have been established. It’s not about recruitment centers.
2015 – VA, 41-year-old African American male killed a reporter and photojournalist on live television, wounding the interviewee, who survived. The murderer had been fired from station where the two victims worked. In one of the documents detailing his reasoning and motivation, he said he “was all f***ed up in the head.” It’s not about television reporters, photojournalists or TV news in general.
2015 – OR, 26-year-old mixed race male killed nine people and wounded nine at Umpqua Community College, before killing himself. He was later described as hate-filled, have long-suffered from mental illness. He owned 14 guns, all of them obtained legally. It’s not about Umpqua or community colleges.
It should be noted that the sheriff who headed the investigation into this shooting, refused to share the murderers name. He said that would give the murderer publicity he had probably craved. However, this sheriff had also posted a video to his Facebook page, purporting to show that the horror of Sandy hook was a hoax. Perhaps he didn’t want to break the actor’s cover. If one was a hoax, well probably this one was as well.
That’s not what I believe, but I had trouble not thinking it.
2015 – CO, 57-year-old white male killed three and wounded nine at a Planned Parenthood Clinic. To me, this is domestic terrorism, but I’m sure there are people who will see him as a hero. This is about intolerance and people believing that only what they believe is blessed by God. That works well when it is your religious belief, but not when it is someone else’s. Each of the three people who had their lives aborted, were the parent of two children. How can anyone be opposed to the abortion of an unborn life, not be opposed to the abortion of an active life. This is clearly extremism. It’s not righteousness or redress or is it any more justified or right than any of the stories I have shared. It’s not about Planned Parenthood.
2015 – CA, 28-year-old United States born make and his wife 29-year-old Pakistan born female who had become a permanent resident, killed 14 people and wounded 21 at a workplace holiday party. This is being investigated as terrorism, but the couple are viewed as possibly self-radicalized. The jury is still out. They clearly were as hate-filled and intolerant as the Planned Parenthood shooter. This is clearly extremism. It’s not righteousness or redress or is it any more justified or right than any of the stories I have shared. It’s not about workplaces or parties
So, what, you wonder, was the point of all this? Any of these details can be readily found online. Of the 47 horrors I recounted, 45 of them involved men. Though the last included a women, only two individual women show up in this type of crime. Of that group, 28 were white, ranging in age from 11 to 57. Six were African Americans, one was mixed race, one was Hawaiian, one Puerto Rican, one Hispanic American, one Italian American and seven had foreign backgrounds. Six were foreign-born, including the wife in San Bernardino. Only three could be considered foreign nationals, despite place of birth. 16 killed themselves after their murders. If only they could have started with themselves.
Yet, here’s the rub, each of these murderers were from families that had immigrated to the United States, except one. The 16-year-old Ojibwe male is the only non-immigrant. And that’s only an aside to tweak those who have a problem with immigrants. Immigrants are not the problem. Religions, ours or those of others, are not the problem, in and of themselves. Gun laws are not the problem. Even guns, as a class are not the problem. Most of the stories above involved anger and frustration of people who had mental problems, noted or unproven. There is nothing remotely sane about killing people with weapons design to kill people. (We need to address our approach to mental health.)
Yet, every time such an incident occurs, gun sales rise significantly. I haven’t done the research, but I imagine the guns sold are those designed to kill people. Most of the guns involved in these murders were legally obtained. That is not to say we should eliminate background checks, but realize they are insufficient. We should limit or eliminate any further purchase of guns designed only to kill people. There are more than enough in this country for someone who is committed to murder others to find. Will this happen? Not bloody likely.
I think ultimately this comes down to corporate greed. The almighty dollar is more important than the citizens of the United States. Many large corporations have established off-shore headquarters to avoid paying a fair share in taxes. Jobs have been outsourced because foreign labor is cheaper and unregulated. While they denigrate and blame immigrants for the problems of the middle class and the poor, they have no qualms about exploiting both groups. Such corporations and any individuals who fall into this category should be penalized. They should be required to pay exorbitant tariffs on any goods manufactured overseas, that they bring into this country. We should bring jobs home, wherever possible, and pay livable wages. I don’t imagine this would bankrupt any of these people, it would simply mean they’d make less profit.
There are too many guns in the United States to believe such murders will cease, despite what we see in the example of other, so-called, first-world nations. However, if we limit the greed inherent in our system, we might eliminate some of the murders committed out of frustration and pain. As for our xenophobia and zealotry, I think only maturity as a species will mitigate that. I hope we survive that long.
Published earlier on the Daily KOS