Whatever else anyone wants to say about yesterday’s shooting spree by Navy veteran Aaron Alexis in Washington yesterday, the event was as American as apple pie.
Information somehow deemed of relevance to his killing of 12 people, ranges from the ridiculous — he was having difficulty finding parking spaces (which is not to minimize the frustration that can cause) — to the ridiculously obscure — he had “an abiding interest in Buddhism and Thai culture”.
And why, pray tell, did a New York Times reporter give greater prominence to Alexis’ interest in Buddhism, than to his PTSD?
[A construction manager] said he was in New York during the Sept. 11 attacks, and described to a detective “how those events had disturbed him,” according to the detective’s report. His father told investigators that Mr. Alexis had problems associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, and had been an “active participant” in rescue attempts on Sept. 11.
A 9/11 survivor with PTSD — that might be of more relevance than the parking situation or the interest in Buddhism.
Above all, the most blindingly obvious fact about the case is that whatever gave rise to the troubles inside Alexis’ mind — and I don’t think we need the findings of any investigation to conclude that he did indeed have a troubled mind — the vehicle that translated his cognitive state into a physical reality was a gun.
In other countries there are just as many people with just as deeply troubled minds, but outside America it’s much less common that the bridge between extreme emotions and the world is a lethal weapon.
Killing people is the way some Americans talk. Guns give them a voice. The message is banal — bang, you’re dead — yet it’s America’s mantra from Washington to Hollywood.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center Chief Medical Officer Janis Orlowski made this plea for an end to gun violence:
“Let’s get rid of this. This is not America. This is not Washington D.C. This is not good. So we have got to work to get rid of this.”
But this is America and it is Washington DC. Nothing can change without confronting reality and there is no question that gun violence is part of the American way of life.
Moreover, the gun in the hand of the individual mirrors the violent power of the nation.
Michael Vlahos writes:
We are Americans, and Americans are by definition, exceptional, because we are chosen. No one else: Not ancien monarchs and sultans, not Victorian prime ministers and les présidents, can go forth among humanity today and lay waste to the wicked. Only we Americans are entitled to do so, declaring all the while the unimpeachable righteousness of what we do.
But behind this love of violent power and this insistence on being exceptional, is a shadow — a gnawing sense of inferiority: that minus its guns and minus its exceptionalism America might be looked down upon.
At heart, America is troubled by an abiding fear of the world.