Sunday, July 03, 2016

Body Count

Okay. I understand that there is a reason why I should be shocked and saddened by the news of forty-nine people dying in a hail of gunfire. I don't completely understand why it makes a difference if they were killed by a homophobe or a jihadist. I don't know if it will matter in a month or a year, but understanding the motivations behind anyone's killing makes it easier to take. Or something like that. Which is why we are regularly treated to profiles of gunmen, or suspected gunmen. Or terrorists. Or dangerous characters of any stripe. I confess that all the books and articles I have read over the past sixteen years have led me only the tiniest measure closer to comprehending what brought Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold to shoot up Columbine High School. The initial suggestions of video games and Marilyn Manson have fallen by the wayside, but these factors sit on a shelf with all the nature and nurture that will fit. There is a science connected to this. We call those who are proficient in the art "profilers." They do the good kind of profiling: the kind that saves lives. The problem being that there is always the one that slithers through the net. This is the refrain we hear so often: "We never would have expected Randy McRandom to be the kind of guy who would shoot up a school/bar/movie theater/church."
That is because they are outliers. They are the ones who sit on the edge of the graph and can't quite be tracked until it is too late. Then there are the ones who don't show up on any database because there are just too many people out there who might have a reason to blow up an airport terminal. The three suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Turkey this past week were from Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Uzbekistan. What they were doing at the Istanbul airport is now a matter of record. They were not on holiday. They were on a mission. They were there to bring death and destruction to their target. We wait and expect that there will be a clean, clear line linking these three to a known terrorist organization that will claim responsibility for the lives they took and the innocents they wounded. Now we understand. It was terror they were after, and they delivered.
Just down the map a country or two we find Iraq, where US warplanes killed two hundred fifty ISIS fighters in an airstrike last Wednesday. In simple human terms, we managed to more than double the casualties in one strategic blast than the airport bombers and nightclub shooter managed in their most recent flurries.
I know. Our airstrikes were different. We only kill the bad guys. Enemy combatants. We are blowing up soldiers in the desert, not in crowded airports or discotheques. That is because we are the good guys. See what I mean? Crystal clear.

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